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Cattlemen’s Days to honor Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy on July 14 during the final performance of this year’s PRCA Rodeo

GUNNISON, Colo. – The lives of ranchers aren’t easy. Early mornings and late nights tending to living beings.

Whether its haying season in the summer or cold, blustery days in the winter when the snow is two feet deep, the animals still need care. It’s a passion, really. It’s an understanding of what it takes to care for the animals and this land.

The Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy knows that. The non-profit organization acts on behalf of landowners in helping ranching families protect their lands with conservation easements.

“We have protected more than 36,000 acres of ranchland in the upper Gunnison basin since 1995,” said Stacy McPhail, the GRCL’s executive director. “We want to keep ranching part of our community despite the pressures that come from development.”

It’s vital to the Gunnison Valley. The community has a strong agricultural base, with ranching serving as its life-blood for many decades. The volunteers that organize the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration will honor the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy during its final performance of this year’s PRCA rodeo, Saturday, July 14, at the Fred Field Western Center.

“For all they have been doing over the past two decades for ranch families in the Gunnison Valley, we wanted to honor the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy,” said Kevin Coblentz, president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee. “Honoring them fits right in line with our Tough Enough to Wear Pink night on Thursday and our Patriot Night on Friday.

“We want to raise awareness for things that are important to this community.”

That is the case with the GRCL. The organization was founded in 1996 by Bill Trampe and Susan Lohr. Trampe is an area rancher, while Lohr is the former director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

Together they began looking for opportunities and services that a traditional land trust might offer to ranch families. With that, they realized the best way to protect local agriculture was to keep families on the land by raising funds necessary to purchase conservation easements.

The organization helps landowners assess their needs and future plans, find an appropriate land trust, obtain funding to pay for conservation easements and complete legal and technical aspects of the transaction. The GRCL also promotes awareness about ranching, while also encouraging policies that support ranching in Gunnison through its outreach program, Gunnison Valley Ranching.

“It helps keep the ranches here in the valley stable for future generations,” McPhail said. “We’re landowner advocates. We’re a really trusted source for landowners. Our board members are all part of the community. We help landowners get through the process and help find funding and resources.

“It’s important to the community because everyone who lives here enjoys the landscape. Keeping the lands intact is what the community has strived for. We’ve watched other mountain towns change and grow. We want to control, as a community, the benefits and the resources that it gives us. It gives us a community of longstanding citizens.”

Because of those roots, there is a strong correlation between the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy and Cattlemen’s Days. That’s why she and others associated with the organization are excited to be part of that final performance of the rodeo.

“With something as traditional as Cattlemen’s Days, it’s recognizes ranching but also that there is a future in ranching,” she said. “Honoring the 140 years of ranch families is an important thing to recognize. The future looks a lot brighter in what we call as caring for the land so that agriculture stays in the valley for the future.”


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