MOFFAT — The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) is announced on Jan. 22 the completion of another conservation project in the San Luis Valley. The 2,300-acre Saguache Creek Ranch outside of Moffat is now conserved.
The project was made possible with leadership from landowners Dale and Andrea Gerstberger and with support from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a program administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The Gerstbergers purchased Saguache Creek Ranch in 2014 after moving from Kansas to Colorado. As fourth-generation ranchers, Dale and Andrea didn’t waste any time re-establishing their agricultural operation in the Centennial State. Today, the lush hay meadows on Saguache Creek Ranch support their cow-calf operation.
The family was introduced to conservation easements through their neighbor John Werner. His property borders the Gerstberger’s ranch, and Werner has been a supporter of CCALT since conserving his property in 2014.
With the addition of Saguache Creek Ranch, there is now a contiguous block of conserved land along the eastern boundary of Werner’s property and an additional 2.3 miles of Saguache Creek, and 3.5 miles of the North Branch of Saguache Creek conserved in the San Luis Valley.
“The Saguache Creek corridor is an inspiring conservation success story, with nearly the whole stretch of river perpetually conserved from where it flows off public lands, through the town of Saguache, and now for several miles south of town as it merges with the North Branch. This landscape-scale conservation outcome would most certainly not be the success it is today without tremendous support from partners like GOCO and the USFWS, which have invested heavily in the area over the past 25 years,” said Brad Cory, CCALT conservation manager.
With over 1,840 acres of dense wetlands, Saguache Creek Ranch is a rarity in Colorado, where wetlands cover only 2% of the state. The ranch is prime habitat for Sandhill Cranes, a state species of special concern.
Ducks Unlimited has identified the San Luis Valley as the most important breeding area in the state for migratory birds, including Sandhill Cranes, which migrate annually through the area in the spring and fall.
Additionally, the ranch offers habitat for big game species such as elk and pronghorn, which utilize the lower elevation ranchland on the valley floor as winter range.
“Congratulations to the project partners for this impressive milestone in the San Luis Valley conservation movement,” said Chris Castilian, GOCO executive director. “And our sincere gratitude to Dale and Andrea Gerstberger for their generosity of spirit in thinking long-term about Colorado’s lands, people, and wildlife.”
The Gerstbergers turned to conservation due to mounting threat from development and increasing financial pressures related to the current drought and their recent purchase of the property. Conservation of the property will alleviate some of those pressures and allow the Gerstberger family to continue their long ranching tradition. Conservation will also ensure that the scenic views and wildlife habitat associated with the ranch will remain pristine.