Like many ranchers across the West, Craig Bair and his brother LeGrande were at a crossroads: meanwhile sprawling subdivisions were devouring the wide-open vistas that once defined the region’s heritage. Seeking relief from drought and soaring property taxes, the family debated for years whether to sell their historic sheep ranch to developers. The land—one of the last open areas visible from Interstate 70 west of Vail—was valued at more than $20 million.

The Bairs opted to stay and turned to the Fund to help them craft a solution that would protect the landscape and generate some much-needed cash to consolidate ownership within the family and keep the land working. In 2004, in partnership with Eagle Valley Land Trust, the Fund purchased a conservation easement on the 4,800-acre property, permanently protecting the ranch, its scenic vistas and wildlife habitat from development.

Private donations from more than 1,100 local residents were leveraged with assistance from Eagle County, the Bureau of Land Management, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Garfield County to complete the transaction.

In addition to enhancing public recreation opportunities along three miles of the Colorado River, the conservation agreement safeguards the entrance to Glenwood Canyon and provides migration corridors for mule deer, black bears and mountain lions. The land will remain a working ranch under ownership by the Bair family.

"As a third-generation ranching family in Colorado, we have been stewards of one of the most extraordinary natural areas in the world for more than 90 years. This ranch has sustained our family and defined our heritage. When I asked my children they said they would rather stay and keep up the tradition of hard work than sell and go someplace else, and this project allows us to do that. I hope this pioneering project helps other ranching families find a way to protect their way of life." 
— Craig Bair

Learn More 

Places We Protect: Working Lands
Our Work with the Bureau of Land Management
Partner with Us: State and Local Governments
Great Outdoors Colorado