In late December 2014, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) worked with multiple partners to protect 16,000 acres of key sage grouse habitat on the Cross Mountain Ranch in Moffat County. Cross Mountain is one of the largest working ranches in Northwest Colorado.
Half of the funding for the conservation easement comes from the Sage Grouse Initiative, via Farm Bill dollars administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This project represents the single largest easement purchased under the Initiative.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, through funding provided by the lottery-supported Great Outdoors Colorado, is also a major funder of the easement. Governor John Hickenlooper has supported the project from its inception in 2011. The easement is part of a larger effort championed by the Governor, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, SGI, local conservation groups, and local landowners to conserve habitat for the grouse and preserve local economies.
“Thanks to the family of Cross Mountain Ranch and their neighboring ranch families, we’re seeing the power of voluntary conservation to keep the vast sagebrush lands intact where it matters most in our state and nationally,” Gov. Hickenlooper said.
Moffat County supports an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 sage grouse, the largest population remaining in Colorado. The largest elk populations in Colorado also rely on this breathtaking expanse of sagebrush and bunchgrasses, as do mule deer and pronghorn.
“The Cross Mountain Ranch easement connects three large family-run ranching operations that have been secured via conservation easements in the past two years, assuring that these lands will continue to produce food and fiber for our growing population and permanently remain undeveloped,” said Erik Glenn, CCALT Deputy Director.
The number one threat to sage grouse is the fragmenting and degradation of its habitat. Sage grouse are birds of large landscapes, often called an umbrella species, because of the more than 350 kinds of wildlife that share its range.
This important project would not have happened without the foresight and vision of Cross Mountain owners Ron and Kitty Boeddeker, who installed a deep conservation ethic and love for America’s rich western heritage in their family. Kitty stressed that her husband, the late Ron Boeddeker, often said that he was "simply a steward of the land and its legacy."
“For ranch families like mine and others out here, our future depends on keeping our lands together, something that’s harder and harder to do in today’s economy,” said Rex Tuttle, manager of Cross Mountain Ranch and owner of a nearby ranch, also under an easement. “The Cross Mountain easement is more than important financially, it’s about keeping an irreplaceable landscape together for future generations.”