AVLT secures major state grant to move forward on preservation of Carbondale-area working ranch | PostIndependent.com

AVLT secures major state grant to move forward on preservation of Carbondale-area working ranch

An aerial view of the 141-acre Coffman Ranch east of Carbondale. The land is on track to be preserved as a working ranch through a conservation easement.
Courtesy Aspen Valley Land Trust

Land conservation advocates took a big step toward preserving a 141-acre Carbondale-area ranch this week with the award of a $2.5 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant.

The Aspen Valley Land Trust has launched an $8.5 million campaign to purchase and conserve the Coffman Ranch, which sits between the Catherine Store Road and the Roaring Fork River about 3 miles east of Carbondale.

This historic working ranch has been owned and maintained as a working ranch for 65 years by Rex and Jo Coffman.

“This plan with AVLT is like a dream come true for us,” the Coffmans said of the planned purchase in a statement included in an AVLT news release announcing the GOCO Special Opportunity Open Space Grant.

Of the total fundraising goal, $6.5 million is for the land purchase, accounting for a $1 million land value donation from the Coffmans. The remainder would go toward other costs associated with the conservation project, AVLT Executive Director Suzanne Stephens said.

The GOCO grant will go a long way to complete the project, she said.

“This is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Carbondale area,” Stephens said. “This first big chunk of money gives us a lot of great momentum to move forward.”

Pitkin County is considering a grant amount in the same range as the GOCO grant, and other funding entities could potentially include Garfield County, where the ranch is located, and the town of Carbondale.

“We are working to line up all of our major partners to cover the land purchase and project costs,” Stephens said of plans to provide public access for a fishing easement, and potential agriculture and other educational opportunities.

The ranch features three-quarters of a mile of Roaring Fork River frontage, in addition to productive agricultural land, active wildlife habitat, unique riparian areas and wetlands.

“Local ecologists have recognized the ranch, and especially the unique riparian areas, as some of the most important undeveloped land along the lower Roaring Fork River,” according to the AVLT release.

The land supports important habitat for deer, bald eagles, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, turkeys, owls, osprey and rare plants. A threatened wild orchid can be found there.

“Conservation of this land for its biodiversity and its connection to local agriculture would secure a valuable asset and vital natural resources for the whole community,” Stephens said. “We are all so grateful to have the opportunity to work with Rex and Jo on this inspiring project, and are so grateful to GOCO for helping us take this significant step forward.”

The Coffmans have long desired to preserve the ranch, with the goal of ensuring it is always protected from development.

Stephens noted that AVLT secured a small conservation easement on one corner of the ranch in 2003, and is finally circling back to help preserve the entire parcel

“That it would be thoughtfully stewarded will mean a lot to everyone involved,” Stephens said. “But this is by no means a done deal, and we have a lot of work to do and money to raise over the next year to make it happen.”

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky commented during a meeting between commissioners and Carbondale town board member Tuesday that he’s not typically a fan of conservation easements, “but this is a good plan,” he said.

“It will be good to see it stay in ranching,” Jankovsky said, also pointing to the potential for river access as a benefit to the community.

The nonprofit Aspen Valley Land Trust has been working for more than 50 years to conserve various ranch and environmentally sensitive land parcels throughout the Roaring Fork and middle Colorado River valleys.

Just last month, the organization completed a 160-acre easement at Spring Park Reservoir, at the base of Basalt Mountain, and last year a near 1,900-acre conservation easement was created on the McBride Ranch in the Capitol Creek valley.


Editor’s note: This story has been revised from the original version to include a breakout of the land purchase cost, and correcting the acreage involved with the McBride Ranch easement.

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