4 GENERATIONS OF FAMILY RANCHING | RIO BLANCO COUNTY
The Cross L Ranch is located on the historic site of the Meeker Massacre, including the spot where Nathanial Meeker fell from a single gunshot, sparking the battle between U.S. soldiers and the Ute Indians.
Today, the Ranch is home to a family-owned commercial hay operation, as well as a large diversity of wildlife, including elk, mule deer, Sandhill cranes and bald eagles. Working with CCALT in 2014, owners John and Tawny Halandras created a conservation easement, protecting the property for future generations.
This important project was made possible thanks to Great Outdoors Colorado and Farm Bill dollars administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The land that John and Tawny recently protected through this conservation easement is not part of the historic Halandras family property, which is owned by “Uncle Chris Halandras” and is located near the Cross L. John and Tawny help Uncle Chris maintain the historic property – in addition to running their own busy operations – and their hope is to one day expand their ownership to include the historic property, connecting the parcels.
John, Tawny and their two young sons also take pride in the land’s historic importance. There is a metal marker in the field where Nathaniel Meeker was killed. Additionally, the family believes that they know where the Meeker home was located thanks to a thriving crop of asparagus that returns every year.
The White River is another significant feature of the Cross L Ranch. This river is one of the last free-flowing tributaries in Colorado and sustains the ranches that line its banks. Thanks to generations of respectful land stewardship provided by the local ranching community, the river provides important habitat for wildlife.
Perhaps most impressive is John and Tawny’s commitment to preserving the historic ranch, including significant efforts to restore it to a thriving, stunning, working ranch.
“The ranch’s previous owners had lost respect for the land,” explains CCALT’s Director of Conservation Carolyn Aspelin. “It had multiple run-down buildings and it was overgrazed and poorly maintained. When it came up for sale, John and Tawny sold their entire cattle herd and leveraged themselves deeply to buy it. Now, the Cross L has cattle, the water is running again, the irrigation is more efficient, all those old structures are down and they have one nice barn on the property.
Aspelin says that the easement has helped John and Tawny pay down their debt on the Cross L Ranch which will eventually help them take ownership of the historic Halandras property when Uncle Chris is ready to sell.
“John and Tawny have worked tirelessly to restore a working ranch on the Cross L while also preserving the land’s beauty and wildlife habitats,” said Aspelin. “This easement represents a gift for their sons and for all of Colorado in the preservation of a historic and stunning piece of Colorado property.”
“John is a third generation rancher in the White River Valley,” said Tawny. “His grandfather came to Ellis Island at the age of 15. Over his lifetime, what he accumulated he did through sweat, blood and tears. His sons continued this legacy, each operating and accumulating their own assets with the same drive, passion and love of their land and livestock. Now our sons are continuing that legacy.”