A South Valley Icon, the Alpen-Glow Ranch is Conserved

The ranching tradition remains the heart of Yampa Valley because individual ranches like Alpen-Glow Ranch preserve agricultural operations, open lands, and wildlife habitat in areas with intense development pressure.

For Immediate Release

Media contact: Karina Puikkonen, karina@ccalt.org, 720.557.8277

December 20, 2023

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Today, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) announced the completion of a 52-acre conservation easement on the Alpen-Glow Ranch near Steamboat Springs with the help of Routt County’s Purchase of Development Rights Program. This easement adds to 97-acres already conserved in 2000 under previous ownership. The now 149-acre easement is part of a growing block of public and privately conserved lands protecting agricultural and conservation values in a part of Routt County under intense development pressure.

Less than 10 miles from Steamboat Springs in the South Valley, Alpen-Glow Ranch includes irrigated meadow and dryland pastures along a 1000-foot stretch of the Yampa River. Residential development pressure is high in the vicinity, with small neighborhoods already built within a few miles of the ranch. Alpen-Glow Ranch shares a boundary and is adjacent to two larger CCALT conservation easements totaling over 4,500 acres. It is among many agricultural lands visible to tourists and residents coming down from Rabbit Ear’s Pass. The striking views of open spaces, fields, and grasslands will be there forever because of this growing patchwork of conserved properties.

“The Alpen-Glow Property already held a special place in my heart as I will never forget first visiting Steamboat Springs as a thirteen-year-old and looking out on the valley floor while descending Rabbit Ears Pass,” said Scott Wappes, CCALT project manager and GIS manager. “It is humbling to know the same experience I had will be shared by others for generations to come. It has been an honor to work with and get to know Bill Gay throughout the conservation easement process, as he has dedicated his life to ranching and conservation.”

In the 1980s, William (Bill) Gay started a working lands conservation program for the Trust for Public Lands in California which became a model around the nation for agricultural land trusts, including CCALT. He valued the open lands and agricultural production thousands of Colorado tourists come to see in Steamboat Springs. He purchased four parcels of the JMB Ranch in 2015, parts of which were already under a conservation easement. Gay renamed the property to Alpen-Glow Ranch, and he has ensured the 149 contiguous acres under his stewardship are conserved forever.

“We are fortunate in Routt County to have progressive voters that support the Purchase of Development Rights program, allowing many conservation easements to be purchased to protect open space, wildlife, and the views that are important to Steamboat as a tourist destination” Bill Gay said. “Agriculture is a very difficult business to make profitable and for people to stay in agriculture. I think if you own property you will have to come up with creative solutions to conserve it, protect the water rights, and find alternative sources of income. The (Alpen-Glow Ranch) has an ideal location right along Highway 131 to show that conservation can work.”

Gay has diversified his operations on the Alpen-Glow Ranch. He utilizes sustainable agricultural practices that alternate hay production and cattle grazing annually as seasons permit. This ensures the meadows remain more productive through the natural addition of organic matter, nutrients, and seed without the need to use fertilizer so close to the Yampa River. He has also set aside a portion of the Alpen-Glow Ranch as a rest stop for bicyclists on Colorado Highway 131 with help and funding from Routt County Riders. Gay is working towards enhancing the fishery on the property, with the goal of creating accessible fishing for people with disabilities.

Successful conservation efforts in this part of Routt County play a vital role in contributing to the $46 million dollars agriculture provides the County’s economy annually. In a merger with the Yampa Valley Land Trust in 2019, CCALT inherited over 55,000 acres from 79 properties in Northwest Colorado, including the Alpen-Glow Ranch’s original easement. Protecting this additional acreage supports the Steamboat Springs ranching community, helping to ensure residents can continue to work these lands and travelers can continue to enjoy the view.

Routt County’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program provided funding for this conservation easement.

About the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust
Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) is a nonprofit land conservation organization whose mission is to “…conserve Colorado’s western heritage and working landscapes for the benefit of future generations.” CCALT currently holds over 70,000 acres in conservation easement in Routt County and has partnered with hundreds of ranching families in the protection of more than 770,000 acres statewide.

The Routt County PDR Program purchases development rights from willing landowners to permanently protect land from development. The program has completed over 50 conservation projects totaling more than 40,000 acres conserved.