Slash LD Ranch conserved in the San Luis Valley

Photo courtesy of the Pridemore family The Slash LD Ranch in Saguache County.

SAGUACHE COUNTY — The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) announces the completion of a new partnership with the Pridemore family that conserves 1,550 acres on the Slash LD Ranch in Saguache County.

Collaborations across land trusts and funding partners in the region supported the Pridemore’s goal to protect the Slash LD Ranch’s agricultural land, water, and wildlife habitat in perpetuity. This new conservation easement adds to the more than 34,000 acres already held by the trust in the county.

The new conservation easement on Slash LD Ranch, located north of the town of Villa Grove, includes two separate parcels of land less than one mile apart. Senior water rights associated with the property have been the target of water speculators hoping to move that water out of the San Luis Valley to the more populated Front Range. Since 2011, CCALT has worked with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT), and other conservation partners to secure the funding necessary to conserve the ranch, including its water rights, in perpetuity.

“Protecting the Slash LD Ranch builds on the monumental conservation work completed by CCALT and our partners in the northern San Luis Valley,” said Courtney Bennett, Senior Conservation Manager. “CCALT is grateful for TPL’s leadership on the transaction and for RiGHT’s work in securing critical funding. Most importantly, we are grateful to the Pridemores for their conservation legacy and their commitment to protecting agricultural land in the northern San Luis Valley.”

The Pridemore family bought the property in 2021 with the intent of conserving it under a conservation easement and maintaining the land for its agricultural uses, scenic values, and wildlife habitat. This is the family’s second conservation easement. They successfully worked with CCALT and TPL to preserve their family’s ranch on the Arkansas River outside of Salida in 2021. Under the Pridemore’s careful stewardship, the land has flourished, and the new conservation easement in Saguache County is now in place. Conserving the land and tying the water rights to the property is critical for the long-term viability of the agricultural operation and will help maintain the health of nearby public lands while preserving wildlife habitat and the rural character of the valley.  

“Conserving our ranch is important to us to keep our way of life going for our children and hopefully even further generations to come,” said Chelsea Pridemore. “Ensuring that the water can never be sold off and the land can never be divided is an attempt to keep the land in its original condition, greatly benefiting from the cattle we run. Our family of five has put blood, sweat and tears into building what we have, and we wanted a way to protect it and keep improving what we have built thus far.”

“Water is the lifeblood for the San Luis Valley, its farms and ranches and its local communities,” said Jim Petterson, Mountain West Region vice president for Trust for Public Land. “This project builds on a 20-year collaborative initiative designed to ensure that the water, wildlife and way of life in this corner of the Valley survives and thrives for generations to come. We celebrate the vision and commitment of the Pridemore family, and all the partners that brought this project to life.”

These collaborative efforts to-date have conserved over 21,000-acres of working land and their water rights along the Saguache Creek Corridor for 25 miles west of the Town of Saguache. The Slash LD Ranch conservation easement expands these efforts to the east and offers working landowners an alternative to selling land and water rights to developers and waters speculators, further illustrating that conservation can pay financial dividends as well.

Funding for the partial purchase of the conservation easement was provided by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Gates Family Foundation, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) with the support of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust.  The Pridemore’s donated the remaining value of the conservation easement, illustrating their commitment to both agriculture and conservation.