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Lewis Ranch Conservation Easement Forever Protects More of Chaffee County

Near the end of 2023, the Conservancy completed a conservation easement on the Lewis Ranch. The agreement permanently protects the 191-acre ranch along US Hwy 50, roughly three miles northwest of Poncha Springs.


“We are thrilled with the completion of the Lewis Ranch conservation easement. The ranch is incredibly scenic with panoramic views of the Collegiate Peaks, the Mosquito Range, and the Arkansas River Valley,” said Wendy McDermott, executive director for Central Colorado Conservancy. “Conservation Easements are one of our main tools for protecting wide open vistas and wildlife habitat and for keeping working lands working.”

 

The Lewis Ranch is a working cattle ranch with irrigated meadows and native woodlands across a rolling terrain. The ranch provides habitat for several wildlife species from songbirds to raptors, small mammals to big game, and reptiles to fish, all of which are significant contributors to the biodiversity of the region. The Lewis Ranch provides critical range for mule deer, elk and moose. It also provides winter forage range for bald eagles, migratory habitat for greater sandhill crane, and breeding habitat for a state species of concern, the northern leopard frog.


The Lewis Ranch is owned and operated by Brice and Kate Lewis. While the end produce for the

ranch is grass fed, grass finished beef, Brice will tell you their goal is to raise good grass. The better the grass production, the better the beef production.


It takes careful planning, stewardship and consideration to grow good grass in the arid environment of central Colorado. The Lewises participate in multiple programs that allow them to implement management tools like rotational grazing using virtual fence and other practices that improve the health of the soils on their ranch. Healthy soils improve water infiltration, reduce erosion, and increase species diversity and habitat


The Lewises participated in the Community Conservation Connection where they placed a non-perpetual Agricultural Conservation Agreement on the property, which was administered by Central Colorado Conservancy with funding from Chaffee Common Ground. The Community Conservation Connection program, currently a 5-year pilot program, helps keep area ranches intact and can serve as a stepping stone to a perpetual conservation easement. The Community Conservation Connection agreement process, while less rigorous, is similar to the perpetual conservation easement process. The program allows participants to experience the process, build relationships with the Conservancy team, and learn about additional programs that support agriculture in our community while protecting the ranch from development. The Lewises are the first Community Conservation Connection program participants to choose to place a conservation easement on their ranch while enrolled in the program.

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