Golden Bair Ranch
by Jim Daus
Golden Bair Ranch offered a unique opportunity to protect the western gateway to Eagle County and the critical viewshed of the Glenwood Canyon along the Colorado River. In a single day, more than 15,000 travelers along Interstate 70 enjoy the commanding views of the ranch’s mountain meadows, sweeping stands of aspen and oak, and evergreen slopes that extend up to the canyon rim and into the backcountry. Those who take time to pull off at the Bair Ranch rest-stop find a beautiful setting with picnic tables, overlooks for visitors to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Colorado River, and accessibility to the Glenwood Canyon bike path. Interpretive signage highlights the cultural and historic significance of Bair Ranch. These views, coupled with diverse ecosystems on the ranch, its wildlife and its importance to the Colorado River watershed lead Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar to name it as one of the ten “crown jewels” of remaining open space in the State.
The Golden Bair Ranch conservation project would not have been possible without EVLT’s major funding partner, Eagle County Open Space, and numerous private donors.
A family’s love of the land
Almost completely surrounded by Forest Service and BLM land, the 4,830 acre Golden Bair Ranch has been a working sheep ranch since the early 1900’s. It was one of the first large sheep ranches in the area. Today, it is one of the last.
Like so many other area ranches, particularly along major transportation corridors, it was highly developable. Indeed, it is one of the last major undeveloped properties between Vail and Glenwood Springs.
Mindful of this ranching heritage and wishing to protect the ranch forever from potential development, the Bairs approached the Eagle Valley Land Trust and The Conservation Fund in 2001 with an idea. After significant family discussions, they stepped forward with a proposal to sell a 4,318-acre conservation easement over most of the ranch and fee title to a separate 512-acre parcel along the Colorado River.
In this resort-dominated area of Colorado where ranches are rapidly being purchased for development, the conservation easement will protect the Bair Ranch from rural subdivision and development. It will protect an inspiring viewshed along I-70. It will forever preserve an important wildlife habitat and watershed. It will enable the Bair family to continue its historic sheep ranching operation. And, it will assist the management capabilities on adjacent public lands.