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  • Introduction & Importance of this Guide
  • Preservation, Conservation & Land Ethic   
  • Purpose & Goals of the Guide
  • Partner Contributions
  • Disclaimers
  • Other Handy Resources

Introduction & Importance of this Guide

Middle Park is one of the three high mountain basins in the Colorado Rockies. Located between North Park and South Park, the valleys of Middle Park include much of Grand County and the Lower Blue River basin of Summit County. Middle Park is at the headwaters of the Colorado River, one of our nation’s most important rivers. Because the valleys of Middle Park are surrounded by mountains, it is often nicknamed “Island in the Rockies,” as first described by Robert C Black in his book by the same title.

Both Grand and Summit Counties were settled by ranchers looking to put their hearts and souls into managing the land for production agriculture. In 1965, when the population of Middle Park numbered just 6,200, the total inventory of cattle in Grand and Summit Counties was nearly 30,000 head. Hay production in that same year totaled almost 61,000 tons on 39,000 acres. In 2017, with our combined population reaching 45,600, Grand and Summit ranchers had just over 18,000 head of cattle and produced about 47,000 tons of hay on 32,000 acres. These statistics illustrate the ongoing trend in Middle Park of larger acreage ranches being subdivided and converted into smaller acreage single-family homes and “ranchettes” owned by a mix of full-time residents and part-time second homeowners.

Despite this transition from larger acreage properties to smaller ones, natural resources and conservation-related concerns on these lands remain; thus, the need for continued education on proper land management and rural living concepts persists.

Preservation, Conservation & Land Ethic      

Preservation, as advocated by John Muir, cherishes nature solely for its beauty and intrinsic value. Under preservation ethic nature is to be protected from humans and maintained as a pristine state where man is but a visitor who does not interfere with natural processes and leaves no trace behind once gone (think National Parks).

Conversely, Conservation, as promoted by Gifford Pinchot, acknowledges humans as a part of the landscape and promotes the use of Earth’s resources for food, shelter, industry, recreation, and other purposes. Conservation balances the protection of natural resources with sustainable/wise use by humans (think National Forest/BLM). To conserve is to protect against damage, loss, waste, neglect, and overexploitation. 

In speaking of the moral responsibility humans have to nature (known as the Land Ethic), Aldo Leopold said it best, “The role of Homo sapiens should be changed from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”  In other words, conservation should be a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature — if we help the land, the land will help us. 

Purpose & Goals of the Guide

Living in rural mountain communities promises both challenges and rewards. We hope, by reading this guide, you will:

a) Better understand the limitations and opportunities of living in the mountains;

b) Set achievable goals for your property and lifestyle;

c) Grasp conservation-minded principles and acknowledge the importance of conserving our precious natural resources for future generations.

Partner Contributions

This guide was compiled by the Middle Park Conservation District (MPCD), but many organizations and individuals made contributions and reviewed the content prior to publishing. Though the complete list is too long to include here, MPCD wishes to thank everyone who helped with the creation of this guide. Some of Middle Park Conservation District’s closest partners include the following agencies and organizations. 


The content of this guide was initially compiled by the Middle Park Conservation District in February 2020 for Educational Purposes ONLY. The 2nd edition was published in December 2021, and this 3rd edition was updated again in April 2022. We have attempted to cite the best available information from various sources and professionals. Because no two parcels of land are the same, it is always recommended that you seek independent advice before implementing new management practices.

The laws and statutes discussed in this guide are not inclusive of all applicable statutes and case law. Our intent is to provide the basic provisions of the law, thereby helping you minimize conflict and deal with problems as they arise. Furthermore, as Colorado becomes increasingly urbanized, there is a chance that legislation and case law could change. Be sure to check for updated case law and legislation before taking any drastic actions related to Colorado laws and statutes.

The Middle Park Conservation District (MPCD) does not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by MPCD. MPCD is also an equal opportunity provider, lender, and employer.

Other Handy Resources

CSU/NRCS Small Acreage Management (SAM)

We hope that the information detailed in this guide will meet most of your needs. However, we recognize that not all Natural Resource concepts can possibly be discussed in one guide. Thus, we hope you can also benefit from one of the next best resources…Colorado State University Extension and NRCS’s Small Acreage Management website. This resource is a trusted source for information and educational materials on sustainable land management. Visit

CSU Extension Publications

With a mission of “providing trusted, practical education to help you solve problems, develop skills and build a better future”, Colorado State University Extension also has an extensive library of publications/factsheets on all kinds of topics.  THEY ARE DEFINITELY WORTH THE READ!

Local CSU Extension Offices

NRCS ‘SWAPAE+H’ Resource Concern Factsheets

NRCS has a list of the 47 resource concerns it utilizes during the conservation planning process.  These resource concerns are divided into seven main categories: SWAPAE + H  (Soil, Water, Air, Plants, Animals, Energy + Humans).  We will cover some, but not all, of   these resource concerns in this document.  To read all of them, visit

The Grand & Summit NRCS Office is located in the same building as MPCD in Kremmling. 970-724-3456, ext 3


References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 75

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