The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) recently announced a partnership with the Dunham family to permanently preserve Dunham Ranches, a 1,581-acre property near Meeker flanked by the White River and Coal Creek.
Two newly enacted conservation easements, announced in January, ensure that the Dunham Ranches will permanently remain open and productive – adding another large and historic land tract to the growing acres of conserved landscape surrounding Meeker and Colorado’s larger Highway 13 corridor.
Generational Stewards of the Land
Property owners Bill and Diane Dunham have deep roots in the region. Bill Dunham’s grandparents established their farming and ranching operation on the Coal Creek property in the early 1900s, while Diane Dunham’s family acquired the White River property in 1942. Today, Bill and Diane’s son, Rodney Dunham, and grandson, Ty Dunham, manage the family ranching operations. Julie Sturman, Bill and Diane’s daughter, is also a part-owner of the property and shares the family’s vision for the future of the ranch.
“Our great-grandmother admonished us to ‘take care of the land and the land will take care of you.’ We are proud to enable fourth and fifth generations and beyond to tend to this land that we love,” Sturman said in a statement announcing the conservation agreement.
The Coal Creek property’s sagebrush steppe, shrublands and grasslands provide ideal habitat for the greater sage-grouse, a land-dwelling bird whose numbers are diminishing in the West, as well as critical winter habitat for elk and mule deer. Similarly, the ranch’s White River property – well-known to locals for its picturesque, irrigated hay meadows along the drive into Meeker – also includes significant wetlands and cottonwood woodlands that provide an inviting habitat for a variety of native wildlife.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided funding for one of the conservation easements, which will conserve portions of both the Coal Creek and White River properties and also ensure that the land’s senior irrigation water rights continue to be used for their decreed agricultural purposes.
The family’s commitment to environmental stewardship runs deep. Bill Dunham served as a former White River district water commissioner, while his son, Rodney Dunham, held a 20-year career with the Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Materials Center in Meeker. Both men worked extensively with the NRCS to develop stock water storage and delivery on the Coal Creek property.
“The installation of a conservation easement onto Dunham Ranches benefits water quantity, plant productivity, livestock production and wildlife habitat in northwestern Colorado,” said Clint Evans, Colorado’s NRCS state conservationist. “It is particularly important to greater sage-grouse habitat and a number of species prioritized by the state of Colorado.”
“The Dunhams’ commitment to conservation builds on a legacy of conservation throughout the area,” added John Gioia, CCALT Director of transactions. “The conservation easements on Dunham Ranches will support the Dunhams’ current and long-term plans for the ranch and will ensure it remains a ranch forever.”
About the Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) established the Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) in 1995, thereby creating the first land trust formed by a state livestock association. CCALT partners with Colorado landowners to protect productive agricultural land and conserve the state’s natural resources.
About the National Resources Conservation Service
The National Resources Conservation Service is a division of the USDA that supports efforts to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and protect natural resources through voluntary conservation programs on private lands.