A 940-acre land purchase by the Colorado Division of Wildlife will protect wildlife habitat, provide hunting access and assure the future of a public shooting range in Grand County. The purchase of the Grand View Ranch property was approved by the Colorado General Assembly's Capital Development Committee and finalized by the Colorado Wildlife Commission. The property opened for hunters in time for the current big game hunting seasons.
"While we always try to first protect land and maximize sportsmen's dollars through the use of conservation easements, buying this parcel outright made sense when we considered the benefits to wildlife, the benefits to hunters and the benefits to the shooting range," said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife.
The Grand View Ranch property is an important east-west migratory corridor for deer and elk and its sagebrush steppe also provides significant habitat for greater sage-grouse. The property also provides hunting access to thousands of acres of public land. The Grand View Ranch property had been envisioned as a high-end, residential development in the pristine Colorado high country. With more than a dozen multi-acre lots planned for the subdivision, wildlife officials worried that fragmentation could impair the ability of the land to provide critical winter range for nearby deer and elk herds. Greater sage-grouse, recently designated as warranted but precluded for Endangered Species protection by the federal government, are known to use the Grand View property during breeding activities. With the recent slowdown in high end real estate transactions, the property became available for purchase.
"This is absolutely a win-win situation," said Mike Crosby, district wildlife manager. "The development company needed to sell the property and we needed to find a way to protect it into the future."
In addition to the wildlife benefits of the property, the purchase eliminates the potential of residential encroachment around the Byers Canyon shooting range. The free, public shooting range, operated by the Division of Wildlife, is a popular target shooting destination with sportsmen from Middle Park and as far away as the Denver metro area. While the shooting range has statutory protection from noise complaints when people move into close proximity, the potential for this conflict has been avoided.
"From a safety and noise standpoint, this makes the future of the range more secure," Crosby added.
The purchase of the property at current appraised value was made possible through the use of funding from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp. The Habitat Stamp is a fee on hunting and fishing license purchases in Colorado. Authorized by the Colorado legislature and supported by wildlife conservation organizations, since its inception in 2006 the Habitat Stamp program has protected more than 90,000 acres of wildlife habitat around the state.
The Division of Wildlife will continue to provide revenue to Grand County and the West Grand 1-JT School District through the Division of Wildlife's Impact Assistance Grant Program. Similar to federal agencies that pay PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes), the Division of Wildlife makes payments, equivalent to property taxes, available to counties for land owned by the agency.
The Grand View Ranch property has become part of the larger Hot Sulphur Springs State Wildlife Area. Signs have been placed on the property to explain access for hunters and restrictions on off-road vehicle activities. To protect wintering wildlife off-road travel, including snowmobiles, is prohibited within wildlife area. Users should consult signs and regulations for property rules.