A commitment to family and land builds on a legacy of conservation in Northwest Colorado
For Immediate Release
Media contact: Karina Puikkonen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 720.557.8277
January 3, 2024
MEEKER, Colo. – The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) announces the completion of a new conservation easement with the Neilson family that conserves 3,427 acres across three parcels on the Nick Theos Family Ranches. The Nick Theos Family Ranches conservation easement becomes the third largest easement CCALT holds in Rio Blanco County.
The Nick Theos Family Ranches are eight miles east of Meeker. The three parcels, owned by various family members, are part of a larger agricultural landscape facing increasing development pressure. The Neilson family includes the late Nick Theos’ daughter Renae, her husband Paul, and their three daughters: Kelcee Vroman, Taylor Neilson, and Morgan Pfeiffer. Together, they donated this conservation easement in full with transaction cost support from Keep it Colorado’s Transaction Cost Assistance Program, funded by Great Outdoors Colorado and The Nature Conservancy.
“The Theos family’s stewardship and dedication to conservation builds on a legacy of agricultural conservation throughout the White River valley and ensures that the spectacular agricultural, wildlife, and scenic values of this property will be forever conserved,” said John Gioia, Director of Transactions at CCALT. “We are proud to partner with this family in conserving their ranch that has been in operation for over a century.”
The conservation easement ensures that a significant portion of the family’s original ranch will be permanently protected. The Neilsons and their daughters own separate parcels but the family runs the entire property as one ranch. In addition to running the ranch, Renae serves as the Rio Blanco County Assessor, and Paul is a veterinarian and owner of The Vet Clinic in Meeker. Their daughters live out of state, but the family has continued their sheep operation on the same land for nearly a century.
Renae’s grandfather, Angelo Theos first arrived in America from Greece in the late 1908 as a mine worker in Utah. After going back to Greece, he returned to Colorado in 1926 and established a sheep ranch in Rio Blanco County with additional land and grazing allotments in Utah, eventually passing the operation on to his four children. His son Nick Theos received the portion of his father’s ranch on Sawmill Mountain and later purchased adjacent properties which are now in the conservation easement. After Nick’s passing in 2013, his daughters Renae and Connie continued running sheep and fulfilled their father’s wish in passing the ranch along to his granddaughters.
“My dad did not want to see the ranch developed and neither did my sister or I,” said Renae Neilson. “Putting the ranch into this easement so it will remain pristine, I believe, is the right thing to do. I am grateful that my family agreed with me, and that the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust was willing to work with us.”
“Our Grandfather (Papou) would be so proud to have this land protected through this easement,” said Kelcee Vroman, Taylor Neilson, and Morgan Pfeiffer in a joint statement. “He was a true steward of both the land and livestock. We know he is smiling down seeing that way of life continue.”
Nick Theos was also dedicated to and involved with supporting the livestock industry through participation in the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), Public Lands Council, and the Colorado Woolgrowers Association. With the completion of the conservation easement with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Neilsons will follow in Theos’ footsteps and become lifetime CCA members.
“One of dad’s greatest honors was when the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association made him a lifetime member,” said Renae Neilson.
Land ownership and management in the area is a mixture of large tracts of private properties and extensive public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Within 10 miles of the Nick Theos Family Ranches, CCALT holds easements on roughly 18,000 acres of private land. Federal and state lands, including the White River National Forest and Oak Ridge State Wildlife Area, occupy another 133,000 acres within that distance. This new conservation easement includes significant wildlife habitat that CPW identified as protecting critical species habitat for greater sage-grouse and Columbia sharp-tailed grouse, as well as fall and winter concentration areas for big-game species.
“Thank you to the Neilson family for their generosity and vision, for thinking about the future of Colorado’s land and outdoor heritage for generations to come,” said GOCO Executive Director Jackie Miller.
“We are honored to have been asked to support the Nick Theos Family Ranches with a grant through our transaction cost program partnership with Great Outdoors Colorado,” said Amy Beatie, executive director of Keep It Colorado. “Conserving these ranches not only protects wildlife habitat that’s needed for biodiversity and climate resilience, but also creates more connectivity with other existing conserved lands. This will preserve the integrity of those landscapes for all species that call the region home. We thank and applaud the Theos family for its vision and CCALT for its hard work and dedication.”
Headline photo credit: Kelcee Vroman
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 “…conserve Colorado’s western heritage and working landscapes for the benefit of future generations.” CCALT has worked with hundreds of ranch and farm families to conserve more than 770,000 acres statewide to date.
About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. TNC is tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. To learn more, visit: nature.org/Colorado
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 Keep it Colorado
KIC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to uniting, elevating and empowering Colorado’s conservation community to protect the lands and waters that define our state.