Klinglesmiths are kings of the ranch

Lowell and LoAnn Klinglesmith from Meeker were named 2012 Wildlife Landowners of the Year by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Preserving wildlife habitat on private land is key to the future of imperiled species such as Greater sage-grouse, two of which are shown flying across a pasture in northwest Colorado near Meeker.

A multi-generational ranching family from Meeker that balances livestock management with wildlife resources has been selected the 2012 Wildlife Landowners of the Year by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lowell and LoAnn Klinglesmith, together with their youngest son, Lenny, and his wife Jackie, run the 13,000-acre LK Ranch south of Meeker in the middle of what’s considered some of the most important big-game habitat in the state.

Over the past 10 years, as the ranch expanded, the family placed most of the land under conservation easement and implemented an integrated wildlife habitat and livestock management program.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is proud to honor this family who has consistently placed wildlife resources as a priority along with their livestock operation,” said Ken Morgan, private lands program manager for Parks and Wildlife. “The Klinglesmiths know from experience that maintaining the health of the land is vital to the long-term sustainability of their ranch.”

The Klinglesmiths, who were recognized for their award during the National Western Stock Show, offer high-quality guided and public hunts on the ranch while managing the land to support big game, non-game and imperiled species such as the Greater sage-grouse.

“This truly is a symbiotic relationship that helps ranching, wildlife and the public,” said Ron Velarde, Northwest Region manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “When we can get landowners who want to work with us to protect habitat and migration routes, who work well with the local CPW staff and open their lands to the public, it’s the sort of relationship that makes all of the work worthwhile.”

The LK Ranch includes a mosaic of vegetative communities, from irrigated hay and sage to mountain shrubs, aspen and conifers rolling up from an elevation of 6,400 feet to 8,200 feet at the border with the White River National Forest.

A key aspect of the Klinglesmiths’ ranching operation is the commitment to short-term, high-intensity rotational grazing designed to improve the quality of forage for wildlife and reduce impacts to riparian areas.

The family also actively manipulated sage, shrubs, aspen and conifer stands to promote new growth to support wildlife.

Although significant numbers of elk, mule deer and black bear live year-round on the ranch, the property also serves as a critical migration pathway for some of the state’s largest mule deer and elk herds between their summer and winter range.

The Klinglesmiths not only manage their ranch with wildlife in mind, they serve the ranching community in northwest Colorado. Lenny Klinglesmith represents livestock growers on the White River Habitat Partnership Program Committee.

“The Klinglesmiths are the epitome of the rural, hard-working cattle rancher, and they serve as tremendous role models in northwestern Colorado,” Meeker District wildlife manager Bailey Franklin said.

Game damage problems can be managed by controlling elk numbers, a difficult task when elk avoid hunters by finding refuge on large blocks of private land.

To help get the harvest needed to manage elk herds and at the same time manage game damage, the LK Ranch hosts more than 25 public mule deer and elk hunters each year, and in 2009 and 2010 the Klinglesmiths donated 15 guided and unguided hunts to the public.

The Klinglesmiths also have supported Parks and Wildlife in its mule deer research projects, allowing year-round access to state researchers.

In addition, the ranch is located within the largest remaining patch of occupied Greater sage-grouse range in the Meeker area.

The role of private land in managing Colorado’s wildlife can not be understated.

Although Colorado has 23 million acres of public lands, four of every 10 acres in the state are privately owned. Those private lands are critical to maintaining populations of mule deer, pronghorn, elk, sage-grouse, prairie falcons and a host of grassland species.

Additionally, private water rights, held in reservoirs and released into streams, supports both warm- and cold-water sport fishing across the state.

Other finalists for 2012 were Stan Young and Jenny Arpke of Mack and Jan Coury and Dave Nelson of the Buckhorn Ranch in Gunnison.

“Farming and ranching families have a connection to the landscape that many of us have lost,” Morgan said. “They know that sound soil, water and vegetative management practices that benefit their agricultural operations also benefits wildlife. The health of the land is not an abstract concept to them, and that’s worth celebrating.”


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