During the fall of 2003, 5,440 acres of the 10,000-acre Meadow Ranch near Center, Colorado were protected via conservation easement, including water rights, making it the largest conservation easement held by Ducks Unlimited in Colorado. The Ranch is part of the Greater Russell Lakes/Mishak Lakes complex, consisting of the 4,000-acre Russell Lakes State Wildlife Area and The Nature Conservancy's 2,000-acre Mishak Lakes Preserve. Recognized as some of the highest quality wet meadow on private land in the San Luis Valley, this easement and the restorations on the property are a tremendous victory for conservation in Colorado.
Philanthropist and conservationist, Fred Bosselman and his ranch manager, Mark Smith, were instrumental in facilitating this impressive easement and a number of wet meadow restoration projects on the Ranch. DU emphasizes the value of 'working landscapes, like the Meadow Ranch. Strong livestock grazing practices allow for economic viability of the ranch operation and provide ancillary benefits of high quality wildlife. Along with restoration projects, DU also funded and delivered a number of irrigation infrastructure projects on the Ranch, including the restoration of 14 miles of irrigation ditches have improved forage for livestock and increased wildlife value.
The Meadow Ranch supports high numbers of mallards, teal, pintail, Canada geese, American avocet, black-necked stilts, greater sandhill crane, Wilson's phalarope, elk, deer, pronghorn and a variety of other wildlife species. Many thanks to the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Great Outdoors Colorado Trust for providing funding ($370,000) for the purchase of this easement, and to the Bosselman Family and Mark Smith for this outstanding partnership in conservation.