RMEF receives $1,576,300 GOCO grant to conserve portion of Buffalo Horn Ranch

The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded a $1,576,300 grant to Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) to conserve 12,684 acres of Buffalo Horn Ranch, located northwest of Meeker in Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties.

This grant is part of GOCO’s Special Opportunity Open Space grant program, which funds high-value conservation projects that seek funding beyond the $1 million maximum request amount set in GOCO’s ongoing Open Space grant program. These projects will help give outdoor recreationists places to play and enjoy scenic views, protect wildlife habitat, safeguard the state’s water supply and watersheds, and sustain local agriculture.  

Buffalo Horn Ranch spans 23,966 acres surrounded by thousands of acres of conserved private and public properties. This funding will support the first phase of conserving the property, permanently protecting 12,684 acres. After the first phase is completed, RMEF expects to begin a second phase, which will conserve the remaining acreage and protect the property in its entirety.

Conserving the ranch will protect vital habitat and migration corridors for Colorado’s largest elk herd, the White River elk herd, and for some of the state’s largest herds of mule deer and bighorn sheep. Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Shrubland, a habitat type listed as high priority by the Colorado Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, covers 6,753 acres, or more than half, of the property. In addition, the ranch supports habitat for various species of concern, including the greater sage-grouse, white-tailed prairie dog, bald eagle, and more. 

The 12,684-acre parcel features 69 miles of intermittent and perennial streams, including Deep Channel Creek, Price Creek, Strawberry Creek, and Twin Wash. The property also boasts 49 acres of open water habitat, which is home to a wide variety of waterfowl, birds, fish, amphibians, and mammals.

In addition to its ecological features, the property doubles as a working cattle ranch, which will continue operations after it is conserved. Portions of the ranch are also open for restricted hunting access through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Ranching for Wildlife program and through surrounding lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. 

To date, GOCO has invested more than $16.7 million in projects in Rio Blanco County and conserved more than 30,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported renovations at Meeker School District Stadium, the conservation of LK Ranch, and trail planning efforts in Rangely, among other projects. 

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

PRESS RELEASE | Special to the Herald Times