Ben Duke and red angus cows in a field

A Well-known Colorado Community Leader Conserves his Family’s Fire Rock Ranch

Ben Duke and his family are well-respected Coloradans who

work to make Colorado a better place. now they are

doing that for their own property.


Media contact: Karina Puikkonen,, 720.557.8277

March 12, 2024

ELIZABETH, Colo. – Today, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust announced the completion of a new conservation easement with the Duke family that conserves the 42-acre Fire Rock Ranch in Elbert County. Ben Duke has been a state leader in education, nonprofit development, and agriculture for over 45 years, while also managing the family’s small Red Angus cattle operation.

“Completing the conservation easement on the Fire Rock Ranch in Elbert County could not have been possible without the unwavering dedication and passion of the Duke family. Ben and Laurie Duke, alongside their children Benjy and Rettie, have long been champions of agriculture and the conservation of our natural resources,” said CCALT Executive Director Erik Glenn. “Through their commitment to conservation, the Duke family exemplifies the spirit of service and the critical role private landowners play in advancing the conservation of working lands across the West. Their legacy is one that will benefit generations to come, ensuring that Colorado remains a magnificent place to live, work, and visit.”

Fire Rock Ranch is located near the Town of Elizabeth, just 55 miles southeast of the Denver Metropolitan area. The property is characterized by prairie grasslands, an irrigated hay meadow, ponderosa pine woodlands, and a half-mile stretch along Running Creek. In 2021, the Duke family assessed ways to mitigate erosion along the creek and explored ways to complete a wetland project, which led them to conserving the entire property with CCALT. After a 100-year flood occurred along the Running Creek floodplain in June 2023, completing the conservation easement became even more important to the Duke family.

Running Creek floodplain post-flood. Photo credit: Courtney Bennett
Photo credit: Dawn Reeder

The Duke family purchased the parcel they named Fire Rock Ranch in 1987, when a larger ranch was divided into smaller parcels. As a viable cow-calf operation, the ranch relies on neighboring land the Dukes lease for grazing, significant in an area with heavy residential development pressure. Under the conservation easement, the property itself will not be subdivided, and residential development will be limited, to preserve the habitat integrity, agricultural productivity, and scenic beauty. The ranch is an important addition to the growing network of conserved private lands in Elbert County. CCALT holds over 53,000 acres of conservation easements in Elbert County, where residential subdivision pressure on agricultural and rural lands continues to rise.

“Rural landscapes define Colorado. With the CCALT Easement on Fire Rock Ranch, we are preserving important agricultural lands and, maybe even more important, vital habitats for wildlife in an area that is facing unprecedented development pressure,” Ben Duke said. “Western Elbert County is in the path of growth, and we want to know that the land and water will remain in agriculture and that the wildlife always will have a refuge; this easement ensures both.”

In addition to conserving their land and water from development, the Dukes also plan to complete stream channel restoration on Running Creek with the help of Ducks Unlimited, a leader in wetlands restoration across North America.

Headline photo: Dawn Reeder

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 over 400 families to conserve more than 775,000 acres to date statewide.