392-Acre Pridemore Ranch Conserved

Another critical piece of Colorado ranching history has been permanently preserved, The Trust for Public Land and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) announced.

Located along the Collegiate Peaks Scenic & Historic Byway along Highway 291 before one reaches Salida, the nearly 400-acre Pridemore Ranch has been in ranching since the late 19th Century. The ranch has played an important role in the agricultural, ecological, and scenic heritage of the Upper Arkansas Valley for over a century, with the Pridemore family purchasing the ranch and its water rights nearly a decade ago with the goal of enhancing the ranch’s agricultural productivity. The Pridemores also began exploring conservation as an option to help support their long-term plans for the ranch.

“The Trust for Public Land has been working with the Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC) and CCALT for over 14 years to help give working landowners conservation options to help them achieve their financial goals, and to protect the working lands and water rights that are the lifeblood to agriculture and public recreation in the Upper Arkansas Valley,” said Wade Shelton, TPL Senior Project Manager. “By working together, we’re achieving far more than we’d ever be able to accomplish working on our own, so we don’t lose the very things that make the Upper Arkansas Valley such a special place.”

The Trust for Public Land purchased the development rights to the entire ranch, ensuring the Pridemore Family can continue to own and work the land, while ensuring that its land and water rights will never be developed. Furthermore, the preservation of the ranch will complement the public fishing access along the Arkansas River provided by the Pridemore’s via a public fishing lease with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

“Over the past 10 years our family has worked extremely hard to care for and improve the ranch with the hope that we can make it a part of our family’s long-term legacy,” said Chelsea Pridemore. “Thanks to our work with The Trust for Public Land and CCALT, we can now be confident that the ranch will be and passed on to our children and grandchildren, all while still making the Upper Arkansas Valley such an incredible place.”

In recent years, Chaffee County has grown in popularity as a tourist destination and location for second homes, placing a strain on the working lands and water resources that help make the Valley such an attractive place to live and visit. The Pridemore family worked with The Trust for Public Land and CCALT to permanently protect the entire ranch and ensure that they may continue to work the land well into the future. Over the course of the project, both organizations identified an opportunity to work together with the CCC to secure funding for a series of projects along the Arkansas River as part of the “Heart of the Rockies Initiative” to preserve four ranches totaling more than 2,400 acres to protect water resources and diverse landscapes surrounding the Arkansas River. The Pridemore Ranch is the second of these conservation projects to close, with two additional projects in the works.

CCALT will hold the conservation easement preserving the property in perpetuity, ensuring that this incredible agricultural, ecological, and scenic resource stays that way for future generations.

“In the heart of Chaffee County, the Pridemore family works day in and day out to ensure agriculture remains viable into the future. Casey, Chelsea Jo, and their family are committed to conserving this historic ranch, as well as growing their agricultural operation. Conserving the Pridemore Ranch builds on the growing working lands conservation legacy of Chaffee County,” said Erik Glenn, CCALT Executive Director.

The Trust for Public Land secured funding from the Lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to purchase the conservation easement covering the property. Both GOCO and NRCS have been critical funding partners to The Trust for Public Land and CCALT as they have worked to protect working agricultural land and water rights throughout the valley these past 14 years. Additionally, the “Heart of the Rockies Initiative” secured the very first grants awarded by Chaffee County’s new “Common Ground” local funding source for conservation efforts throughout the County.

“A resilient agricultural economy and the protection of working lands emerged as important community values during the Envision Chaffee County process,” said Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt. “Landscape-scale challenges require a can-do spirit, long-game vision, and a willingness to invest in our values. The Pridemore family and Chaffee Common Ground have done exactly that with this project, and the community will benefit for generations.”

The project will have a conservation impact beyond Chaffee County and the Upper Arkansas Valley. Chelsea and Casey Pridemore are working with The Trust for Public Land and CCALT to preserve another ranch near Saguache in the San Luis Valley. This second project will preserve critical surface irrigation and water storage rights, complementing decades of work to preserve working lands and water rights throughout the San Luis Valley by The Trust for Public Land, CCALT, GOCO, NRCS, and many other conservation organizations and public agencies.

“We are proud to support the partnership that permanently protected Pridemore Ranch and celebrate the many entities and individuals working to preserve the cherished, agricultural landscape of the Arkansas River Valley,” said GOCO Executive Director Jackie Miller. “Local residents, Coloradans traveling by, and wildlife passing through reap the many benefits of collaborative land conservation in this region. And so will future generations.”

“The Pridemore Ranch is home to five threatened and endangered species, more than six migratory ‘birds of conservation concern,’ over 14 ‘species of greater conservation need,’ and is located within an area of ‘biodiversity significance,’” shares Clint Evans, NRCS state conservationist in Colorado. “That, coupled with the landowner’s conservation ethic, makes the Pridemore Ranch perfect for NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.”

To date, nearly 4,000 acres of productive agricultural land and water rights have been protected in Chaffee County.

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About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

About The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) is a nonprofit land conservation organization whose mission is to “…protect Colorado’s agricultural land, heritage and families for future generations by conserving working rural landscapes.”

About Great Outdoors Colorado

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s 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 5,400 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

About the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to help agricultural producers and others care for the land. The Agency prioritizes conservation planning and uses conservation programs in the Farm Bill to implement most of its efforts including the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program which is designed to protect the agricultural viability, grazing uses and related conservation values of prime agricultural land by limiting nonagricultural uses of that land.