Land Protected for Canyons of the Ancients (CO)

CORTEZ, Colorado, 3/11/04 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the purchase of a critical 440-acre parcel within the boundaries of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. This land will be owned and managed by BLM to protect important cultural resources on the site and provide wildlife habitat and additional recreational opportunities for the public.

The acquired property contains ten important archeological sites according to a survey conducted by Fort Lewis College’s Anthropology Department. Constructed by the ancestral Puebloan peoples and dating from the periods 500 AD to 1150 AD, the cultural resources of the property include pithouse village sites, a pueblo, a granary and field house. This acquisition, located approximately seven miles west of Cortez, also protects Morrison Canyon and a mesa overlooking the adjacent Trail Canyon, which contains a perennial creek and is an important part of the McElmo Canyon watershed.

The 440-acre parcel is the last portion of the original 2,000-acre Trail Canyon Ranch that was owned and ranched by Reece and Leslie Ann Malles, and had been in family ownership for over 50 years. The landowners approached TPL and BLM last year about the potential of selling this final parcel into public ownership.

TPL’s acquisition of the property and subsequent conveyance to BLM has enabled the Malles to complete their goal of protecting the entire ranch for future generations. On an adjacent part of the ranch sold previously to private buyers, a conservation easement has been placed to protect an important Anasazi site, including one of only a dozen great kivas known to exist in southwestern Colorado, and work is underway to stabilize and restore a historic rock cabin and place conservation easements on other portions of the ranch.

“We have always strived to practice good stewardship of the land,” said Reece and Leslie Ann Malles. “We have learned that land can be well cared for in different ways, and we see this being implemented by all the new owners of Trail Canyon Ranch. We are very pleased that this last 440 acres found its place in the Canyons of the Ancients Monument where its unique resources will be valued and protected.”

“This Canyons of the Ancients landscape was extensively used by the ancient peoples and therefore contains extremely important history for Colorado and the Southwest. TPL is very pleased to have helped protect part of this heritage through the acquisition of this culturally rich property with the help of the Malles family.” said Doug Robotham, Director of TPL’s program in Colorado. “Working to protect a place like this with the landowner, the BLM, and the community is both gratifying and immensely important. It could not have been done without the support and leadership of Senator Campbell, who worked hard in Congress to secure the funding to make this project successful.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1965 to provide for protection of the nation’s important lands using a portion of receipts from offshore oil and gas leases, provided funding for the purchase. The Fund allows for selected land acquisitions by the federal land management agencies, such as BLM, through Congressional appropriations for the acquisition of lands from willing sellers.

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that funds BLM, played a key role in securing funding. He said, “The President and the Bureau of Land Management requested this funding and I’m pleased this land will be available for many generations to enjoy.”

The Canyons of the Ancients is the only Monument managed by BLM in Colorado, encompassing 164,000 acres of federal land in southwestern Colorado, and was designated as a Monument in 2000 by Presidential Proclamation to protect cultural and natural resources on a landscape scale. The Monument lands contain the highest density of archaeological sites in the United States. LouAnn Jacobson, Monument Manager, said “The Malles have been sensitive to the cultural resource values of their property for many years and we are pleased that they expressed interest in making this last piece of the Trail Canyon Ranch part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.”

This acquisition and protection of the property was supported by a number of respected organizations, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Crow Canyon Archeological Center, and the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College. According to Mark Varien of the Crow Canyon Archeological Center, “The Malles parcel is in one of the most densely settled parts of the Mesa Verde region, and the sites within that property are remarkably well preserved. They make an important new contribution to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.”

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.6 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $3 billion. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups and public agencies to protect over 72,000 acres of land since 1980.