We are pleased to announce the 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 Wendy McDermott, executive director for Central Colorado Conservancy. “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 Hwy 285 and the Monument.”
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 an 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. They have won numerous awards including: 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.
“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,” stated Jay Wilson, Rawhide Creek Ranch Manager. “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% 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.”
“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 Clint Evans, NRCS State Conservationist in Colorado. “The Rawhide Creek Ranch is an important agricultural landscape because it hosts open space and lies within and 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 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 Adelaide Leavens, President of the Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation, 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 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 come to completion with the protection of approximately 2,400 total acres through conservation easements.