Two properties totaling nearly 475 acres have been placed under conservancy easements, ensuring limited development in areas around Turtle Lake and the La Plata River.
According to La Plata Open Space Conservancy, the local nonprofit that facilitates conservation easements, the land designation will “forever protect resources of great value to Southwest Colorado.”
The first property is along the La Plata River, on what is known locally as the “Dryside,” and is owned by Elaine and Gilbert Slade, both in their 80s. Their families have ranched the land for several generations.
“Years ago while serving in the military, Gilbert was called back home to help the family keep the ranch,” the conservancy said in a news release. “A story all too common in Colorado, what was once a much larger ranch had to be sold bit by bit to make ends meet.”
Now, the 439-acre conservation easement will ensure the land remains pastoral in nature, dedicated to agricultural use, thereby protecting 1.2 acres of the La Plata River, family ranch lands and wildlife habitat.
The other recently designated conservation easement is northwest of Durango near Turtle Lake, an area known as Hidden Valley.
Maggie and Bob Sauer decided to place their 33-acre property under a conservation easement, promising limited development on “one of the largest, undeveloped parcels remaining in the Turtle Lake area.”
“Just a couple miles from downtown, this area hosts diverse wildlife habitat and terrain, as well as contributes significantly to the scenery as local residents and visiting tourists access recreational opportunities at Hidden Valley, on Animas Mountain and along the Colorado Trail,” the news release said.
The area is also known as a critical corridor and winter habitat for elk.
The La Plata Open Space Conservancy said efforts to preserve open space around Turtle Lake/Hidden Valley began in 1992. Since then, 143 acres – including the new 33 acres – have been protected.