Landowner Easement Protects 1,742 Acres of Elk Habitat

Landowner Easement Protects 1,742 Acres of Elk Habitat

Photo credit: Courtesy of the RMEF

Sometimes one small conservation project fueled by a single landowner has big implications for an entire ecosystem. Such is the case of the Pot Creek project in Colorado, a joint effort of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and a dedicated, conservation-minded landowner. Working together, the three entities created a conservation easement that permanently protects 1,742 acres of prime elk and greater sage grouse habitat in northwest Colorado, knitting together more than 238,000 acres of landscape for the benefit of wildlife.

According to Jennifer Doherty, Director of Lands at RMEF, the driving force behind the project was a generous landowner who wanted to protect his property while providing benefits for wildlife and access to public lands. The tract, nearly surrounded by public lands, is adjacent to the Diamond Breaks Wilderness Study Area and just a few miles from Dinosaur National Monument and Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge.

“This was a significant landscape project,” Doherty said. “Sometimes you hit the jackpot with the juxtaposition of private property with public land and accessibility. This project sits within a limited-draw hunt area for CPW that is a difficult place to access. The landowner was generous enough to include public access through his ranch to get to some of these places. This project improved access and opened some of this unit that before was difficult to access. The project itself is on 1,742 acres, but the access component brings the whole landscape and wildlife habitat together.” 

Besides providing important access to elk habitat, the tract also is key greater sage grouse habitat. Located in the Pot Creek and Dry Creek watersheds, tributaries of the Green River, the property lies within a 2-mile radius of leks in both Colorado and Utah, one of which contains more than 60 males. Protecting this property goes far to ensure that greater sage grouse habitat is not developed.