Land inspired group to conserve Eagle County ranch |

Land inspired group to conserve Eagle County ranch

Chris Outcalt
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” In December of 2007, a group of eight friends bought a 1,000-acre piece of Eagle County, Colorado property known as the Colorado River Ranch for about $10 million. They needed the ranch land to include in a Gypsum-area development deal they were working on. But the deal fell through and as the owners learned more about the property, they slowly fell in love with it.

Now, that group ” which has swelled to 11 people and is called the River Ranch LLC ” is interested in selling the development rights and preserving the land as a working ranch.

“The more we thought about it, the more we wanted to investigate the opportunity to see if the conservation easement was what we wanted to do,” said John Lichtenegger, who is acting as the group’s spokesman.

The Ranch is located 12 miles north of Dotsero on the Colorado River Road. The River Ranch LLC is made up of property owners from Eagle and Fremont counties, Lichtenegger said.

“Several of our members are second generation and second-home owners ” there parents have places here,” Lichtenegger said. “The group pays about $100,000 a year in property taxes.”

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

The owners did consider chopping up the property into 35-acre ranchettes, but when it came time to make a decision they decided to take the preservation route, Lichtenegger said.

“After we had more and more of our partners spend some time at the ranch, they were leaning heavily to doing the conservation easement,” he said.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust is working with the River Ranch LLC on an application to use county open space money to pay for part of the conservation easement.

Weeks ago, the Land Trust submitted an application for $3 million of open space funding to pay for part of the $4.35 million easement on half the property. But in reviewing the request, members of the Open Space Advisory Committee suggested it would make more sense to preserve the entire ranch at once.

Officials are in the process of submitting a new application for what will likely be $5.5 or $6 million to help fund an easement on the entire property.

Lichtenegger, who was inspired to push for an easement on the ranch after taking a trip through New Mexico, said the group thinks it makes sense to preserve the property all at once.

He was driving to Albuquerque, N.M., to be deposed for court case and decided to drive through some places in the area he had visited earlier in his life.

“On this return trip I drove out of Taos up Taos Canyon and it was in my opinion trashed,” Lichtenegger said of the new development that had popped up since the last time he was there. “It was amazing to me to see what the difference was between something that was developed and something that was left totally alone.”

It was after that trip Lichtenegger started talking with his colleagues more seriously about preserving the ranch.

“I was able to get all 11 to agree to proceed with the conservation easement,” he said.

The Eagle County Open Space Advisory Committee is responsible for making recommendations to the county commissioners on how to spend the open space money. The commissioners have the final say on whether to pay for the easement. The open space fund is made up of a portion of property tax money.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

Support Local Journalism