By Maggie Hanna
Agricultural Land Trust
The Ripple Valley Ranch, and the wildlife habitat it provides, has been conserved in perpetuity.
When Sherman Wyman purchased the Ripple Valley Ranch in 2009, he quickly realized the value of this landscape.
A longtime hunting and fishing enthusiast, Wyman cares deeply about protecting wildlife habitat. From the beginning, it was important to him to protect the ranch’s critical big game migration corridor from encroaching development and fragmentation.
“As my legacy it’s been a lifelong goal to give back and restore the land and water that has given so much to me,” said Wyman.
The 410-acre Ripple Valley Ranch is located 18 miles south of the town of Pagosa Springs in rural Archuleta County. The ranch overlooks a 1-mile reach of the San Juan River and borders the Southern Ute Tribal trust lands.
The ranch’s irrigated hayfields produce an alfalfa mix hay crop. Wyman leaves the regrowth after the first cutting on the meadow for wildlife. The ranch is located in the center of a critical fall migration corridor and the wildlife depend on the forage. Annually, 10,000-15,000 head of deer migrate through the ranch on their way to winter grounds near the Navajo Reservoir. The elk, too, depend on the critical route south to remain intact. Elk use the property year-round, but are found there in greater numbers in the fall and winter. Up to 200 elk can be seen in the hayfields during winter months.
The San Juan River provides habitat as well, providing a perennial water source, cover for big game and a home for aquatic species such as the roundtail chub, a state species of concern, and the federally threatened Colorado pike minnow, two of 11 species of fish in this stretch of river. The riparian corridor is also habitat for riparian specialists, such as the federally listed western yellow-billed cuckoo and southwestern willow flycatcher. Wyman has invested significant resources into creating channel improvement projects, narrowing the river channel and creating more pool and riffle habitat.
“The Ripple Valley Ranch is an absolute gem in terms of wildlife habitat. The property showcases how agricultural landscapes allow people and wildlife to co-exist,” said Megan Knott, director of stewardship for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
The conservation of the Ripple Valley Ranch will continue to contribute to the future of Archuleta County thanks to Wyman’s passion for and commitment to the land.