Tuesday’s closing is last link in significant project
By Mark Reaman
One of the most significant land preservation actions in Colorado concluded Tuesday, April 10 with the closing of the last parcel of the Trampe Ranch property in Gunnison County. The final closing puts thousands of acres of prime ranchland stretching from Gunnison to Gothic into a conservation easement that is meant to keep the property free of development and focused on agriculture in perpetuity.
This multimillion-dollar deal was broken up into three parts totaling 4,377 acres. The first step took place in February 2017 when the 1,447-acre Trampe Home Ranch was preserved. That parcel, located near Gunnison, resulted in Gunnison sage grouse habitat being protected.
“This land has been the heart of our ranch for more than 100 years,” said Bill Trampe at the time. “The meadows and pastures are the resource base for ranch production, and also provide habitat for Gunnison sage grouse and other wildlife species. Conservation of our home place means this land is available forever for agriculture and for the birds.”
The second phase of the overall effort took place in October 2017 when 284 acres were preserved in the corridor between Gunnison and Crested Butte near Jack’s Cabin. And Tuesday’s 2,647-acre closing put land primarily located in the Upper East River Valley near Crested Butte into the conservation easement.
The Nature Conservancy is the holder of the Trampe Ranch conservation easement and the Trust for Pubic Land facilitated the transactions and led the public and private fundraising campaign.
In a press release from the Trust for Public Land, the action was described as monumental.
“The easements prevent subdivision and development of scenic ranchlands stretching for 30 miles in one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes,” the release stated. “These lands are essential to agriculture, with Trampe Ranch generating 20 percent of the Gunnison County’s agricultural economy. In addition, the conserved lands provide scenic views that attract tourists and visitors, include habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, and serve as research lands for scientists from the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.”
Donations to help pay for the project ranged from $1 to eight figures. Trampe Ranches donated 25 percent of the value of the conservation easement. Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) contributed $10 million toward the project, the largest single transaction grant in the organization’s history. “GOCO is proud to be one of the partners to help make this monumental land conservation effort possible, and our board of trustees and staff are eternally grateful to Bill Trampe for his vision, leadership, and generosity,” said GOCO executive director Chris Castilian.
Other partners included the Trust for Public Land, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Gunnison County, the 1% for Open Space program and the Crested Butte Land Trust. Many full-time and part-time residents of the valley also contributed to the campaign.
“We are very excited to see this critical step in the conservation of the East River Valley,” said Dr. Ian Billick, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. “Keeping the properties in ranching is one of the most important things we could do to leverage the nation’s large investment in the field research that helps us manage our water, air, and food.”
“Nothing is more important than the preservation of the natural state of Colorado and its heritage of ranching—especially in this day and age when there seems to be a valid threat to open spaces throughout the West,” said Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt. The town was an early contributor and ponied up $1 million for the project.
“The lands and waters of the Trampe Ranch play such an important role in defining the character and sense of place of one of Colorado’s last, great mountain valleys,” said Jim Petterson, the Trust for Public Land’s Southwest and Colorado director. “This project brought together a deep and broad partnership of individuals, governments and organizations, all allied around a shared commitment of helping local communities fulfill their visions for how they want to grow and what they want to preserve.”
The TPL summed up the transaction as the latest action in an ongoing effort in Gunnison County. “Efforts to protect ranchlands and open space in the Gunnison Valley began in the 1980s in an alliance between local land trusts, national conservation groups, funders like GOCO, local governments, and agricultural landowners, including Trampe Ranch owner Bill Trampe, who has been a leader in encouraging ranchers to conserve their land with easements,” the TPL stated. “With the completion of the most recent project, Trampe Ranch has about 6,000 acres under easement.”
While 4,377 acres were protected in these latest three closings, in sum total, the Trampe Ranch will have close to 6,000 protected acres from prior projects near Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery.