John and Kristin Gunn have always loved Colorado. Although from Kansas, the couple had summered in Teller County for over two decades. John, a lifetime fisherman, and Kristin, an avid hiker, fell in love with the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the Shelf Road area.
When they purchased Wilson Creek Ranch along Shelf Road in Teller and Fremont counties they knew it was special and needed to be preserved. As a prominent leg of The Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway, Shelf Road offers rugged and inspiring views as it follows Fourmile Creek. Wilson Creek Ranch includes scenic open spaces, agricultural opportunities and natural habitats for mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bears, turkeys and brown trout.
“In my mind, it was a piece of real estate that needed to be protected,” explained John. He worked with Palmer Land Trust to complete an initial conservation easement on the 2,212-acre property that ensures the property will be conserved forever. “There are just some areas that need to be left alone, areas that are beautiful and unique.”
Ute Valley Gateway Open Space
Colorado Springs hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers have long enjoyed the Gateway portion of Ute Valley Open Space. However, when Hewlett-Packard put the Gateway parcel up for sale, the much beloved open space was suddenly vulnerable to development. Initial plans for the land called for the construction of 162 homes and 12 commercial units.
Through a partnership with conservation groups, public supporters, funders, and the City of Colorado Springs, Palmer Land Trust secured a conservation easement on the property, guaranteeing that it will remain undeveloped and open to the public forever. The conservation project increased the park by 200 acres, a rare opportunity for a park located in the heart of Colorado Springs.
At 25,000 acres--or just larger than the size of Manhattan--BX Ranch represents one of the greatest conservation accomplishments in recent Pueblo County history. Historically, the BX Ranch has been one of the largest working cattle ranches in the region. More recently, however, the ranch was the proposed site of a nuclear power plant. Due to unexpected timing with the Fukishima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the BX Ranch was given a second chance at remaining a cattle ranch.
Through collaboration with critical partners and funders, Palmer Land Trust was able to place a conservation easement on the BX Ranch, and ensure that the property is preserved as natural ranchland forever. Furthermore, the project partners are working with the owners of BX Ranch to improve the ecological conditions of the ranch and the ranching operation.
Chapman Ranch is nestled along scenic Shelf Road, which is part of the Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway. This portion of the Byway, with its majestic views and stunning scenery, has been threatened by development that impedes the naturally scenic vistas.
The Chapman Family has been farming and ranching on the property--which is one of the largest working cattle ranches in the area--for over 90 years. In an effort to preserve the farming and ranching operation and their way of life, while also conserving the awe-inspiring viewsheds and rich natural wildlife habitats, they decided to put a series of conservation easements on their land. The easement also tied the water rights for their hay fields (which sustain their cattle operation) to the land, prohibiting any future sale of the water separate from the land.
Speaking of their most recent easement with Palmer Land Trust, Chapman Ranch Headquarters, Jim Chapman says, “This area has the most to offer as far as agriculture, and the easement has allowed us to complete major improvements to our irrigation system. . . . The easement also provided a cash infusion that will keep the ranch sustainable for generations to come.”