Yampa Valley citizens and visitors alike have long recognized the value of Routt County’s agricultural lands and natural areas. Agriculture represents a significant and relatively stable portion of the County’s economy, having an annual fiscal contribution of more than $24 million. The abundance of agricultural lands and natural areas in Routt County also plays a substantial role in attracting tourists and thus supporting the local recreational economy.
Natural areas also sustain the vital ecological communities that support wildlife, waterfowl, and fisheries. Many of the County’s natural areas contain important riparian areas that have been nationally recognized as being ecologically significant.
Realizing the importance of preserving these vital open lands, Routt County voters initially approved the creation of a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program in November of 1996, and reaffirmed their commitment to the program in November 2005 by voting to renew the effort with increased funding through 2025. PDR is a land protection tool in which a property’s development rights are purchased from willing landowners. In exchange, the landowner grants a perpetual conservation easement, or deed restriction on the property, thereby permanently protecting the land from development. The land may be sold or transferred, but the deed restriction remains in place.
The PDR Program provides landowners an economically attractive alternative to selling land for development by compensating them for the development rights on their land. Ownership of the property remains vested with the landowner, who can use and manage the property consistent with the terms of the conservation easement.