State program spends $124,295 to preserve orchard in Palisade

More than 600 acres are now preserved in the Palisade buffer zone by the Mesa Land Trust.

Great Outdoors Colorado awarded the Mesa Land Trust $124,295 in Colorado Lottery funds to purchase a conservation easement on 12 acres of land, owned by Joel Horn, at 750 35 Road. The easement guarantees the land will never be developed. The purchase brings the total amount of land in the Palisade buffer zone, between Grand Junction and Palisade, preserved by the Mesa Land Trust to 640 acres.

“We are not buying the farm. We are just purchasing the development rights,” said Margie Latta, land protection specialist for the Mesa Land Trust.

The Horn Orchard, which produces apricots, cherries and apples, is less than a quarter-mile south of Interstate 70 and is visible from the highway. It fits neatly into the Palisade buffer zone, within two miles of 16 protected properties.

“It is a cost-effective way for us to do business and it leaves land owners on that land,” said Chris Leding, spokeswoman for GOCO.

The goal is to preserve not the agricultural land, but all the other community values attached to the land, such as scenic views, wildlife habitat and a buffer between communities, Leding said.

“We could not achieve our mission without preserving agricultural land,” Leding said. “He hasn’t given up the rights to his land, but he sure has given up his rights to develop.”

There are two buffer zones in the Grand Valley. One is between Palisade and Grand Junction; the other is between Fruita and Grand Junction. In the past eight years, GOCO has granted $3.42 million toward preserving land in the buffer zones.

The minimum acreage for land or easements to be purchased by the Mesa Land Trust is 12 acres in the Palisade buffer and 20 acres in the Fruita buffer, because of the difference in area needed for growing crops, Latta said.

In both buffer areas, the Mesa Land Trust has preserved 1,129 acres in the past eight years, Latta said.

“The municipalities and the public are getting huge benefits,” Latta said.

The grant to the Mesa Land Trust was one of six grants GOCO announced Monday for preservation of land in Western Colorado. The other five were:

• $750,000 — Swan Mountain Recreation Path, Sapphire section, Summit County.

• $667,501 — Gunnison Bridge to Bridge Trail, Gunnison.

• $505,400 — Animas River Greenway trail, Durango.

• $300,000 — Lawson Hill Bicycle/Pedestrian Underpass, San Miguel County.

• $218,000 — Bray Ranch (open space), San Miguel County.


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