Agreement could set pace for revegetation plans

San Isabel Land Protection Trust, in partnership with the Coaldale Alliance, is working to complete a precedent-setting agreement in the Upper Arkansas River Basin to ensure good stewardship of the CB Ranch following dry-up.

The goal is to control dust, erosion and noxious weeds now that irrigation has stopped on the 195-acre property in Fremont County. Security Water District, just south of Colorado Springs, purchased the property in 2013 to get the ranch's water rights.

San Isabel and the alliance have been working to ensure that a final state Water Court decree includes a revegetation plan that goes beyond the state's normal requirements and is enforced through a legally binding agreement. The land trust would hold a covenant and monitor the property after the Water Court issues its decree allowing the water rights transfer. San Isabel and the Coaldale community want to make sure Security lives up to its obligations for revegetating the historically agricultural property, which lies in the heart of Coaldale.

Preventing erosion and the spread of noxious weeds on the CB Ranch will benefit nearby agricultural and other property. And it upholds San Isabel's mission to protect working ranches, agricultural and forest lands, water resources, wildlife habitat and scenic open spaces. San Isabel joined the Coaldale Alliance as objectors in the case.

San Isabel has been working for more than three years with the Coaldale Alliance, a group created to give Coaldale area residents a voice in the debate over Security's water rights transfer and to reduce the impacts of Security's decision to dry up the CB Ranch.

Terry Andrews, a Coaldale resident and board member, said, "It is so important to the Coaldale community to have wildlife grazing on this land – elk and deer, as well as all manner of birds and small mammals. The open space itself provides all of us – whether it's folks living in Coaldale or passing by on U.S. 50 – a visual and auditory respite from the hustle and bustle of more built areas. We feel a connection with the space and its critters. Weeds will not do.

"San Isabel has been a wonderful partner and leader in our effort to save this very special land," she continued. "The Coaldale Alliance has depended on the land trust for important resources and information, support that has been critical in addressing the issues with Security and the Water Court. Besides all that, San Isabel has been just plain fun to work with, mentoring our efforts and providing the kind of support that made it all possible."

Larry Vickerman, president of San Isabel's board of directors, said, "The Coaldale community has stepped up in a very difficult and complicated situation to make their voices heard. Our partnership amplified their voices. San Isabel sees the dry-up of productive agricultural lands as a critical issue in our region. We are committed to making sure the negative impacts of the loss of irrigated land are minimized. The CB Ranch revegetation covenant keeps us at the table and gives us tools to achieve that goal."

The revegetation covenant is just one of the ways San Isabel has worked to maintain a healthy landscape for the Coaldale area. In 2017, the Gates Family Foundation awarded San Isabel $210,000 toward an attempted purchase of water rights and a conservation easement on the Maverick Ranch, located along the Arkansas River five miles downstream from Salida. The aim was to secure the water rights from the Maverick Ranch and transfer them 15 miles downstream to re-water the CB Ranch to keep it in agricultural use.

While San Isabel would still like to see that happen, the revegetation covenant ensures the land trust will play a role in protecting the health of the landscape. And it ensures that enforcing the revegetation requirements will be in the hands of people who care about the land and will watch out for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Smith

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  • "My family put 720 acres under conservation easement in 2009. We did it to protect the integrity of the property and to help secure the water rights to the irrigated hay land in perpetuity. In this age of agricultural and economic uncertainty, conservation easements are the thing to do."

    – Larry Vickerman, executive director, Denver Botanic Gardens, Chatfield