Rawhide Creek Ranch near Nathrop preserved

Rawhide agreement completes Heart of the Arkansas project with protection of 2,400 acres through conservation easements

The Rawhide Creek Ranch near Nathrop is permanently protected through a conservation easement agreement between the landowner, a longtime local rancher, and Central Colorado Conservancy, a local land trust. The 737-acre ranch adjacent to Browns Canyon National Monument is preserved with funding support from Common Ground.

“Conservation Easements are one of our main tools for protecting wide open vistas, wildlife habitat and keeping working lands working,” said Wendy McDermott, executive director for Central Colorado Conservancy. “Rawhide Creek Ranch is a gorgeous, well-managed ranch nestled between the Centerville Ranch and Browns Canyon. Together, the Rawhide and Centerville conservation easements total 1,200 acres of contiguous, permanently protected land between Hwy 285 and the Monument.”

The ranch is located within a priority viewshed identified in the Chaffee County Heritage Area and the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway Management Plan, and is ranked as a high priority for conservation within the plan. It has an impressive pinyon-juniper woodland, scenic rock outcroppings, and a healthy montane grassland. It provides habitat for elk, mule deer, moose, pronghorn, black bear, and mountain lion as well as raptors, songbirds and several small mammals.

The Rawhide Creek Ranch and Tri Lazy W Ranch are owned and operated by Jay Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s cattle ranches are well-managed and have been in operation since the 1960s. They have won numerous awards, including Society of Range Management Excellence in Range Conservation 2008; Colorado State Land Board/DOW Permittee of the Year 2006; Upper Arkansas Conservation District; and Take Pride In America Award 2009.

“It was our family’s desire to leave a legacy in Chaffee County. There is no better way than to set aside land in a conservation easement,” stated Jay Wilson, Rawhide Creek Ranch Manager. “As a ranching family, we believe that we are stewards of the land. Knowing that this land will forever remain as it exists today accomplishes our goal.” 

The Rawhide Creek Ranch conservation easement was made possible with funding from Chaffee Common Ground, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Meta Alice Keith Bratten Foundation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and individual donations.

“Through the Envision process, we learned that 97% of residents support agricultural sustainability. Common Ground’s investments in conservation easements are in response to that clear support for our agricultural community and the value placed on the county’s iconic Colorado landscapes,” said County Commissioner Greg Felt, liaison to the Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee. “I respect and appreciate the foresight of these landowners, who are stewards of the lands that provide not only open view scapes and our rural character, but also important ecosystem services such as irrigated pasture and critical habitat for all kinds of wildlife.”

Rawhide Creek Ranch is part of the Heart of the Arkansas project, which includes the protection of the adjacent Centerville Ranch and nearby Arrowpoint Cattle Ranch and Pridemore Ranch. The Heart of the Arkansas project was announced by the Conservancy in 2019 and was a partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. With the completion of the Rawhide easement, the Heart of the Arkansas project has come to completion with the protection of approximately 2,400 total acres through conservation easements.