As the Colorado West Land Trust nears a long-term goal of preserving 1,000 acres of farmland in Palisade, a new 22-acre conservation easement of peach and apricot orchards is moving the needle that much closer.

Rob and Clare Talbott of C&R Farms have previously conserved 59 acres of orchards through the land trust, and Director of Conservation Ilana Moir said she was happy to hear the Talbotts wanted to do it again.

The land trust has conserved approximately 800 acres of Palisade farmland through conservation easements since 2009. Conservation easements are an arrangement in which landowners agree not to subdivide their property and the land trust agrees to hold it in perpetuity. In Palisade, it means those 800 acres will only be used for farming.

"That area is the only area in the Grand Valley that consistently produces good fruit, so it's really important," Moir said. "The winds that come through De Beque Canyon in the spring keep the frost from settling on the peach buds, and the area around Palisade has prime, unique soil that's excellent for growing fruit trees. They have excellent water rights, so they can invest in long-term crops."

Colorado West Executive Director Rob Bleiberg said preserving Palisade's agriculture industry is key for the future success of the Grand Valley.

"We have been focused on the fruitlands of Palisade since our founding in 1980, and for the simple reason that the orchards and vineyards are an incredible asset for our community and an economic driver," Bleiberg said. "They define Palisade."

The Talbotts started farming in 1979 and have long understood the need to preserve the farmlands of Palisade, said Rob Talbott.

"Our family believes it's important to preserve farming for future generations," he said. "There is a lot of pressure on orchards to subdivide their land so homes can be built. Once these homes are built, the small orchard on the property can't sustain the cost of the home, therefore putting the property out of reach of young farmers to purchase the property as an initial investment or an existing young farmer to expand. We want future generations who want to make farming their livelihood to have the ability to afford to do so."

Colorado West Land Trust, which formed in November as a consolidation of the Mesa Land Trust and Black Canyon Regional Land Trust, also recently conserved 242 acres along the San Juan Skyway between Ridgway and Ouray and 400 acres long U.S. Highway 92 near the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

"We think landscapes like that are so important to conserve, especially when you look at population projections for Colorado," Bleiberg said."As we have more and more pressure on our lands, it's really critical we protect the special places that add to our quality of life and underpin our economy and make western Colorado a great place to call home."

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