Conservationists cap 30-year preservation effort with protection of Banded Peak Ranch in southern Colorado |

Conservationists cap 30-year preservation effort with protection of Banded Peak Ranch in southern Colorado

Jason Blevins, Colorado Sun
Banded Peak Ranch in Colorado's southern San Juan Mountains has been protected with a conservation easement preventing any development. (Provided by John Fielder / The Conservation Fund)

With the conservation of the Banded Peak Ranch in the southern San Juan Mountains, a 30-year, $37 million effort concludes with the protection of 10 different ranches in the Navajo River Watershed. 

And with the Great American Outdoors Act promising full funding of $900 million a year in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, these large-scale conservation projects could be happening more frequently.

“And they could get done a lot quicker,” said The Conservation Fund’s Tom Macy, who began working with the federal Forest Legacy Program and local ranchers in headwaters of the Navajo River more than three decades ago. “This will enable us to take on much bigger landscape scale projects.”

The conservation easement on the 16,723-acre Banded Peak Ranch marks 65,000 acres of wilderness-surrounded ranches forever protected from development along the Little Navajo and East Fork of the San Juan rivers, both of which feed the Colorado River. The Navajo River Watershed provides drinking and irrigation water for 1 million people in New Mexico, including Albuquerque. 

Macy worked with the owners of the Navajo Headwaters Ranch and the Catspaw Ranch to secure conservation easements on the properties that are bordered on three sides by the South San Juan Wilderness southeast of Pagosa Springs. The easements have prevented development on private ranches in the upper and lower reaches of the Navajo River. The conservation work began in the late 1980s and involves the Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado Open Lands, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Trust, Great Outdoors Colorado and private donors like the Wyss Foundation. 

The Conservation Fund, the Colorado State Forest Service and the Forest Service have permanently protected more than 65,000 acres of ranches in the Navajo River Watershed. The conservation effort announced the final easement on its 10th ranch — the Banded Peak Ranch — in the watershed on Tuesday.

Bill Linfield / Special to the Daily |

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