Dry Creek Farms conservation agreement aimed at preserving ag legacy

Montrose Daily Press, May 28, 2024-

The Anderson family of Olathe, with Colorado West Land Trust, announce the successful conservation of Dry Creek Farms, a pivotal step in preserving the rich agricultural heritage and vital water resources of the Uncompahgre Valley.

The Anderson family are fourth-generation Uncompahgre Valley farmers and owners of Dry Creek Farms, which encompasses 345 acres of fertile agricultural land and natural habitat. The agreement underscores the Anderson’s commitment to sustainable land stewardship and CWLT’s mission to safeguard critical lands and water for future generations.

The Uncompahgre Valley holds a special place in Colorado’s landscape, renowned for its fertile soils, diverse ecosystems, and stunning vistas. This region, historically rooted in agriculture, faces growing development pressures and decreasing water availability, making conservation efforts like this easement crucial for maintaining the area’s rural heritage and water security.

“As I drive around the valley, I see subdivisions going in and houses. In fact, I am looking at one right now built right out in the middle of prime farmland,” said landowner Steve Anderson, “Conservation is a win-win. It’s a win for the individuals doing it monetarily and it’s a win for the valley in the long run for conserving farmland and our way of life.”

Preserving agricultural heritage and water resources

At the heart of the conservation easement are 250 acres of prime cropland, irrigated with water shares from the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, under agricultural operation since the 1900s. These fields, recognized as prime farmland and farmland of statewide importance, play a crucial role in sustaining local agriculture and food production. Crops including corn, beans, spelt, and hay are grown on a rotational basis and sheep graze the land in the winter months.

The partnership between CWLT and Steve Anderson underscores a shared commitment to preserving the agricultural legacy of the Uncompahgre Valley while conserving water ensuring it will remain on the farm. Anderson expressed his love for the land, explaining that even after farming his whole life, he still looks forward to working in the fields.

Safeguarding wildlife habitat

Beyond its agricultural significance, Dry Creek Farms is a haven for wildlife, boasting diverse habitats that support a myriad of species. The property’s semi-desert shrubland, scrubland, woodlands, and wet meadows provide critical food and shelter for game and non-game wildlife alike. Mule deer, a resident population on the property, find refuge in its winter and severe winter ranges, highlighting the importance of maintaining connectivity and habitat integrity in the face of habitat fragmentation.

Celebrating scenic beauty

The conservation easement on Dry Creek Farms not only protects vital resources but also celebrates the region’s scenic beauty. The property’s bucolic fields, visible from nearby public lands and county roads, offer a glimpse into the agricultural character that defines the Uncompahgre Valley. Preserving these scenic landscapes is not just an act of conservation but a testament to our collective responsibility to safeguard the intrinsic beauty of our rural environment.

“CWLT is committed to undertaking additional projects in the Uncompahgre Valley that protect the valley’s agricultural land and water resources, as they are fundamental to the success of farming in this area. This ongoing effort acknowledges the necessity of maintaining a critical mass of protected lands to sustain viable farming operations within the region,” said Nick Jacobson, conservation specialist with CWLT, “We express gratitude for the Anderson family’s collaboration, a testament to our collective resolve to keep the Uncompahgre Valley productive for generations to come.”

The establishment of the conservation easement on Dry Creek Farms comes at a critical juncture, amplifying the urgency of addressing farmland conversion and maintaining the integrity of rural landscapes. Water conservation is paramount in this effort, as it is vital for sustaining agricultural productivity and ecosystem health. Increasing development pressure on farmlands has underscored the need for collaborative conservation efforts, bringing public attention to the delicate balance between development and conservation in local communities.

CWLT extends its heartfelt gratitude to Steve and Patricia Anderson for their vision, dedication, and collaboration towards land and water conservation in the Uncompahgre Valley.

Colorado West Land Trust, a private, charitable nonprofit organization, has conserved more than 133,500 acres across six western Colorado counties (Delta, Gunnison, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel). Its mission is to protect and enhance agricultural land, wildlife habitat and scenic lands in western Colorado to benefit the community at large, enrich lives, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, and ensure our connection to land for generations to come. To learn more about CWLT’s work and to contribute to the organization’s efforts, visit https://cowestlandtrust.org/.

Julia Currier is Development and Communications coordinator for the Colorado West Land Trust. Read Montrose Daily Press Article Here.