This picturesque ranch contains three miles of the Colorado River and 1.5 miles of Muddy Creek. It sits within the Upper Colorado River Special Recreation Management Area and is visible from the Colorado River Headwaters National Scenic and Historic Byway. The irrigated hay meadows, riparian corridors and wetlands provide habitat for a variety of species, including the bald eagle and the northern leopard frog, both Colorado Species of Concern. The property also provides range for the greater sage-grouse, a declining species that is dependent on voluntary conservation efforts like this one.

“The conservation easement was an important tool for our family, and maybe for other ranching families, who face tough estate situations. The sale of this easement allowed us to hold our ranch and our family together.”

—Chris McElroy Sammons, Manager, McElroy Ranch

Protecting A Legacy

In 2014, The Conservation Fund and the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust completed an effort with the McElroy family to protect the 662-acre ranch through a conservation easement, a voluntary agreement by the landowner to permanently limit the types of activities that can take place on the land. This protects the environmentally-sensitive areas while allowing the family to continue owning and operating the property as a working ranch.

The McElroy family donated a conservation easement on 114 acres of the ranch. Funding to purchase the conservation easement on the remaining 548 acres came from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Gates Family Foundation.

Why This Project Matters

The mighty Colorado River, which supplies water to millions across the southwestern United States and Mexico, has its origin in Grand County, Colorado, in the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Demands on the Colorado River and its tributaries in Grand County are at an all-time high, putting this fragile ecosystem at risk. Protecting McElroy Ranch and its abundant water rights helps improve the health of the Upper Colorado River and its environs. It also helps support the robust agricultural community and economy that the state is known for and ensures that McElroy Ranch will continue working for many generations to come.

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Press Release
Places We Work: Colorado