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Rawhide Creek Ranch. Courtesy image.

Central Colorado Conservancy Announces New 737-acre Conservation Easement Near Nathrop

Late Thursday afternoon, Central Colorado Conservancy announced its completion of a conservation easement on the Rawhide Creek Ranch near Nathrop. The agreement permanently protects the nearly 737-acre ranch adjacent to Browns Canyon National Monument.

“Conservation easements are one of our main tools for protecting wide open vistas and wildlife habitat and for keeping working lands working,” said Central Colorado Conservancy Executive Director Wendy McDermott. “Rawhide Creek Ranch is a gorgeous, well-managed ranch nestled between the Centerville Ranch and Browns Canyon. Together, the Rawhide and Centerville conservation easements total 1,200 acres of contiguous, permanently protected land between U.S. 285 and the Monument.”

The view shed of the Rawhide Creek Ranch just east of U.S. 285 in Chaffee County. Courtesy image.

The ranch is located within a priority viewshed identified in the Chaffee County Heritage Area and the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway Management Plan, and is ranked as a high priority for conservation within the plan.

It has impressive pinyon-juniper woodland, scenic rock outcroppings, and a healthy montane grassland. It provides habitat for big game species including elk, mule deer, moose, pronghorn, black bear, and mountain lion as well as for raptors, songbirds, and several small mammals.

The Rawhide Creek Ranch and Tri Lazy W Ranch are owned and operated by Jay Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s cattle ranches are well-managed and have been in operation since the 1960s.

In fact, they have won numerous awards: Society of Range Management Excellence in Range Conservation 2008; Colorado State Land Board/DOW Permittee of the Year 2006; Upper Arkansas Conservation District; and Take Pride In America Award 2009.

The Rawhide Creek Ranch borders Browns Canyon National Monument. Courtesy image.

“It was our family’s desire to leave a legacy in Chaffee County. There is no better way than to set aside land in a conservation easement,” said Rawhide Creek Ranch Manager Jay Wilson. “As a ranching family, we believe that we are stewards of the land. Knowing that this land will forever remain as it exists today accomplishes our goal.”

The Rawhide Creek Ranch conservation easement was made possible with funding from Chaffee Common Ground, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and individual donations.

“Through the Envision process, we learned that 97 percent of residents support agricultural sustainability. Common Ground’s investments in conservation easements are in response to that clear support for our agricultural community and the value placed on the county’s iconic Colorado landscapes,” said County Commissioner Greg Felt, liaison to the Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee.

“I respect and appreciate the foresight of these landowners, who are stewards of the lands that provide not only open viewscapes and our rural character, but also important ecosystem services such as irrigated pasture and critical habitat for all kinds of wildlife,” he added.

“The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program allows the Natural Resources Conservation Service to partner with eligible entities like the Central Colorado Conservancy and others to protect viable agricultural lands from conversion to nonagricultural use,” said Colorado NRCS State Conservationist Clint Evans. “The Rawhide Creek Ranch is an important agricultural landscape because it hosts open space and lies within an area that hosts big game species including black bears, elk, moose, mountain lions, and more. It also hosts habitat for migratory songbirds, small mammals, and much more.”

“The Upper Arkansas Valley is one of Colorado’s most spectacular landscapes,” said GOCO Executive Director Jackie Miller. “We’re proud to support our partners in protecting Rawhide Creek Ranch to help ensure its heritage, beauty, and agricultural contributions into the future.”

“The Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation was quite pleased to provide financial support to Central Colorado Conservancy for their work on the Rawhide Ranch conservation easement,” said Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation President Adelaide Leavens, based in Fort Worth, TX. “We believe that everyone—locals, part-time residents and visitors alike—needs to lean in and provide support in Chaffee County to maintain our open spaces and view corridors.”

Rawhide Creek Ranch is part of what is being called the Heart of the Arkansas project, which includes the protection of the adjacent Centerville Ranch and nearby Arrowpoint Cattle Ranch and Pridemore Ranch. The Heart of the Arkansas project was announced by the Conservancy in 2019 and was a partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.

With the completion of the Rawhide easement, the Heart of the Arkansas project has now come to completion: it protects approximately 2,400 total acres through conservation easements.

The Central Colorado Conservancy is a nationally accredited land trust based in Salida, Colorado. Its mission is to protect the lands, waters and quality of life of Central Colorado as our communities face pressure and rapid growth. Through land easements, restoration efforts and connecting our communities to conservation, it preserves the places and quality of life we all love, for generations to come. Visit to learn more.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,600 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support.  For more information, go to

Chaffee Common Ground is a conservation funding program that came about due to a 2018 ballot measure. It was created when voters approved a 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund Common Ground, supporting locally based, collaborative programs and projects through a transparent grant process that leverages revenues to achieve the highest impact; strengthening forest health and reducing wildfire danger; conserving and supporting working agriculture and rural landscapes, and and managing the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.  For more information, visit