Treasure in the West Elk Mountains

Photo by Dawn Reeder, Rare Earth Science, LLCIn 1912, Alec McLeod homesteaded a beautiful property on Black Mesa, high above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. A century later, his great-grandson, Tom McLeod, along with his sons, Custer and Levi, carry on the family heritage. They still own and operate Homestead Ranch, which lies along the West Elk & Historic Scenic Byway.

In 2011, the McLeod family protected the original 1,683-acre Homestead Ranch property with a conservation agreement that would forever protect the unmatched views and important habitat. Five years later the McLeods had the opportunity to purchase an adjoining 400 acres along Highway 92 near Hermit’s Rest, a popular rest stop and trailhead. In December 2017, the family worked with Colorado West Land Trust to conserve this additional acreage as well.

Guided big game hunts have been a part of the ranch since the 1930’s and the family continues that tradition, operating as an outfitter and trophy elk ranch. A portion of the property is managed as big game pastureland for the operation’s trophy elk herd.

The conservation agreement not only preserves that area’s ranching heritage and scenic views but also preserves important habitat, including sage brush meadows, aspen, and subalpine forests. This landscape provides habitat for elk, mule deer, big horn sheep, black bear and mountain lions. The property is also important habitat for raptors, migratory birds, small mammals and provides year-round habitat for bald eagles.

Conservation of Homestead Ranch gives Tom and his family peace of mind knowing that this historic property will remain an undeveloped part of this scenic landscape forever.   

 

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