Washington, D.C., September 28, 2007—“The Elk River Valley is a very special place—an active ranching valley with incredible views and pristine rivers,” says Ralph Grossi, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “Because of the commitment of a handful of ranchers in the valley it will stay that way forever.”
It all started with the initiative of a single family and the protection of their ranch. In the early 1990s, the Fetcher family placed a permanent conservation easement on their 1,250-acre ranch with the help of American Farmland Trust. Agricultural easements allow a producer to permanently sell the development rights to their property while they retain ownership of the land. In return for keeping their land available for agriculture in perpetuity, the producer may receive tax deductions or financial benefits. “It’s a great family and estate planning tool,” says Grossi, “But there are also great conservation and public benefits to easements.”
Then other ranchers became interested, putting easements on their property, and working to form the Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust that helps Colorado ranchers and farmers protect their lands for future generations. “Once the Fetchers placed an easement on their ranch, others followed suit,” says Bob Wagner, AFT’s director of field programs. “Mary Mosher, the Stranahans, the Sauders, Moon Valley Ranch… all of a sudden individual actions had combined to protect a critical mass of this wonderful valley.”
Today, the Elk River Valley’s ranchers and farmers work actively to implement good conservation and agricultural production practices that keep the land healthy. Their conservation and ranching success is based on many different groups working together—agriculture, conservation, environmental, private and public. For instance, local leaders worked together to form policies conducive to support agriculture in Routt County, and enacted a compact to limit development to areas that would not harm agriculture or inhibit scenic views.
That’s one reason AFT’s board of directors will hold their upcoming meeting at The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado, hosted by board member and ranch-owner Steve Stranahan and his wife Ann. While there, the board will visit projects AFT has undertaken and visit other properties that AFT has helped preserve.
“Working farmland provides for food, fiber and bio-energy production, and is a source of clean water, wildlife habitat, scenic views and clean air,” says Grossi, “The public should thank the ranchers in the valley for preserving this agricultural and natural resource treasure for generations to come.”
**Editors may also be interested in AFT’s Rocky Mountain Agricultural Landowners Guide
that provides information and options available to help landowners preserve their land
improve its productivity.
American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.