GOCO awards San Isabel $525,000 to protect Fremont County ranch

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Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded San Isabel Land Protection Trust $525,000 to help protect the 2,687-acre Taylor-Oswald Ranch in Fremont County.

The grant is part of GOCO’s open-space grant program, which funds private and public land conservation projects that give outdoor recreationists a place to play (or simply enjoy the view), protect wildlife habitat, safeguard the state’s water supply and watersheds, and sustain local agriculture. 

San Isabel, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will protect the Taylor-Oswald Ranch, a working ranch next to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness in Fremont County. Placing a conservation easement on the property will permanently protect its significant wildlife corridors, water resources and scenic vistas from U.S. 50. The property also connects to other protected lands.

Steve Oswald and his wife, Nancy, live on the ranch, which has been in Nancy’s family for more than 70 years. After 12 years ranching in British Columbia, they returned to the family ranch in 1991. Their innovative grazing and forestry programs, direct marketing of grass-fed beef and low-tech riparian restoration projects increase the sustainability of their operation while also demonstrating that conservation, including easements, helps ensure long-term viability of agricultural operations throughout Colorado.

Larry Vickerman, San Isabel’s board president, said, “We are very excited to be a part of the Taylor-Oswald conservation easement. The ranch provides an excellent example of regenerative management that we can all learn from and aspire to.”

The ranch encompasses 122 acres of productive irrigated meadows and native wetlands, 26 miles of Arkansas River tributaries, and a wide variety of elevations and vegetative types providing habitat for bird species of concern, such as bald eagle, ferruginous hawk, willow flycatcher, prairie falcon and others. Other wildlife also call the property home with both summer and winter concentration areas for elk and mule deer, as well as important habitats for pronghorn, wild turkey, mountain lion, black bear and bobcat.

The ranch provides high quality return flows to the Arkansas River due to the sustainable and regenerative ranching practices used. It provides a crucial wildlife corridor that links the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the Arkansas River and adjoins other protected ranches and thousands of acres of public lands. This added acreage will build on an ongoing effort to protect the area’s wildlife habitat, scenic vistas and waterways.

Wade Shelton, senior project manager with The Trust for Public Land, said, “The Trust for Public Land is thrilled to be working with the Oswald family, GOCO, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, and USDA-NRCS to preserve such an incredible ranch. Our hope is that this project not only preserves the critical resources of the Taylor-Oswald Ranch, but that it also helps catalyze similar conservation projects at a time of unprecedented growth in the Upper Arkansas Valley, so we don't lose the very things that make the valley an attractive place to live and visit.”

Erik Glenn, executive director of Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, said, “CCALT partners with landowners across the state who are committed to conserving their land and family heritage for the benefit of all Coloradans. The family that stewards the Taylor-Oswald Ranch exemplifies the conservation ethic that has long defined Colorado’s agricultural community. CCALT is thrilled to partner with this family, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, the Trust for Public Land, NRCS, and GOCO on the conservation of this beautiful and productive Colorado ranch.”

To date, GOCO has invested more than $4.2 million in projects in Fremont County and conserved more than 140 acres there. GOCO invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. Its independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,200 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

San Isabel Land Protection, a nationally accredited 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, works with landowners to protect and care for land and water in Huerfano, Custer, Fremont and Pueblo counties. To learn more or to donate to this important work, go to sanisbel.org.

Janet Smith

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  • “Open space does not keep our cities apart; it holds our country together.”

    – Claricy Rusk, fourth-generation rancher