Colorado Headwaters Land Trust celebrates 20 years |

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust celebrates 20 years

Courtesy of Colorado Headwaters Land Trust
Photo © Susan O. Herpel
© Susan O Herpel |

GRANBY — Colorado Headwaters Land Trust celebrates 20 years of preserving and stewarding open lands within the headwaters of the Colorado River for vistas, wildlife, agriculture and water, in partnership with landowners and for the benefit of all.

Incorporated as the Grand County Land Conservancy in the summer of 1995, the land trust became Grand County’s first and only nonprofit land conservation organization. The goal was simple: to work with landowners to voluntarily protect their land to help ensure that Grand County’s spectacular landscapes of the Colorado River and its headwaters tributaries endure forever. Now, 20 years and 60 conservation easements later, 7,423 acres of spectacular scenic views, wetlands, ranches and wildlife habitat have been protected.

In 2000 the name was changed to Middle Park Land Trust to avoid confusion that the land trust was a government entity, and in 2013 the name was changed for a final time to Colorado Headwaters Land Trust.

“We wanted a name that would reflect our mission, our geographic focus, and the fact that the Colorado River, including many of its headwaters tributaries such as the Fraser River, begin in and flow through Grand County,” said Executive Director Carse Pustmueller. “From its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand County, the Colorado River becomes the lifeblood of the southwest as it flows through seven states on its way to the Gulf of California.”

The land trust’s primary land protection tool is the conservation easement, a voluntary binding legal document between the landowner and the land trust that identifies the conservation values that qualify a property for conservation purposes and permanently protects those values by restricting development, subdivision and other non-compatible uses.

As Colorado Headwaters Land Trust matures into its 20s, it is making great strides on its two main projects: the Fraser River and Colorado River Initiatives. The land trust’s goal with these initiatives is to acquire purchased or donated conservation easements along the Colorado and Fraser Rivers that protect land and, when possible, tie water rights to the land in perpetuity.

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust recently acquired a conservation easement on the historic 662-acre McElroy Ranch, located south of Kremmling at the confluence of the Colorado River, Muddy Creek and the Blue River. The easement allows the McElroy family to continue to own and ranch the land they have owned and stewarded for four generations. Funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Gates Family Foundation was used to purchase (at bargain sale prices) a conservation easement on 548 acres of the ranch in 2014. In 2013, the McElroy family donated a conservation easement on the ranch’s remaining 114 acres.

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust also holds several conservation easements along the Fraser River, including a critical 80-acre easement at the entrance to Fraser River Canyon that includes a good stretch of the Fraser River.

“These properties will be protected in perpetuity, keeping the best of our open spaces open for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in or visits Grand County,” said Pustmueller.

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust is a state-certified land trust and is currently near the end of a long process to become nationally accredited through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission (LTAC), an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. The land trust will submit its full application in early September.

“This year we have the staffing, the level of excellence and the confidence to pursue accreditation,” said Pustmueller. “The accreditation process has been one of our top priorities for 2015 and it has definitely strengthened our organization.”

The Commission invites public input on pending applications; comments must relate to how the land trust complies with national quality standards. To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit or email your comment to Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Anyone interested in learning more about the land trust can visit or contact Carse Pustmueller at 970-887-1177.

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