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Minimizing Conflict 2

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  • Free Roaming Pets
  • Colorado Fence Law
  • Right to Farm
  • Respect Private Property Rights
  • Property Easements
  • For other Minimizing Conflict Topics, go to Minimizing Conflict 1

The largest landowner in Middle Park is the Federal Government. In fact, over two-thirds of the land in Middle Park is owned by the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, or the Bureau of Land Management. The next largest group of landowners is “Agriculture and Forest Ag Owners.” Accordingly, one or more of your neighbors is likely to be a rancher or Uncle Sam.

Conflict between non-agrarian and agrarian landowners is nothing new, but its prominence is increasing due to the growing number of urban people moving to the high country and sharing the natural resources with the ranching community. Conflicts arise from real and perceived differences between groups. A better understanding of the reasons behind these conflicts may aid new and old residents in becoming better neighbors.

Free Roaming Pets

Free roaming pets are a threat to livestock and wildlife. When dogs chase livestock, they put undue stress on stock. This stress can result in decreased weight gain and physical injury. Because livestock chased by free roaming pets may become high-strung and difficult to control, it causes direct and negative impacts on ranch profitability. Ranchers have the right to protect their livestock and can legally destroy animals threatening their stock. Colorado Revised Statutes 35-43-126 states “Any dog found running, worrying, or injuring sheep, cattle, or other livestock may be killed, and the owner or harborer of such dog shall be liable for all damages done by it.”

Cats are also a danger! You might think your sweet little puffball wouldn’t hurt a fly, but domestic cats can really take a toll on wild bird populations.

Colorado Fence Law

“Good fences make good neighbors.” In its early years of statehood, Colorado enacted the “CO Fence Law” or “Open Range Law,” which is still in effect today. The Colorado Fence Law addresses key items like: a) the definition of a lawful fence, b) who is responsible for construction and maintenance of lawful fence, and c) who can claim damages for trespass.

Agriculture producers needing to repair or replace fences damaged by wildlife may apply for fencing vouchers and funds through CPW’s Habitat Partnership Program (HPP). Middle Park HPP (CPW)  |  970-725-6200

Construction and Maintenance of “Lawful Fence”

Under Colorado law (CRS 35-46), when agriculture landowners share a property line, it is the duty of each landowner to maintain half of the existing fence or share equally in the construction of a new fence that divides two agriculture properties. Contacting adjacent landowners and working out fence maintenance will aid both landowners in preventing unwanted livestock from wandering.

NOTE: The statute only requires landowners to meet the standard definition of a lawful fence (see definition below). If one of the landowners wants to build the fence to a higher standard than a lawful fence, that landowner is responsible for the additional costs. It is good practice to have written documentation of all agreements before purchasing any fencing materials.

A “lawful fence” is a well-constructed, three barbed wire fence with substantial posts set at a distance of approximately twenty feet apart, and sufficient to turn in ordinary horses and cattle, with all gates equally as good as the fence, or any other fence of like efficiency. In working toward a resolution in disputes of livestock grazing, the first determination is if a “Lawful Fence” was in place and properly maintained.

Livestock Trespass

The Colorado Fence Law benefits livestock owners by putting the responsibility on NON-AG LANDOWNERS to FENCE OUT unwanted stock. A rancher cannot willfully place livestock on another person’s property where a lawful fence is maintained. However, Colorado is an “Open Range” or “Fence Out” state. This means that domestic livestock may roam onto your property if you haven’t constructed a lawful fence. Nothing will make you more upset than your neighbor’s cow eating your flowers! “Livestock”, as classified under the CO Fence Law, includes horses, cattle, mules, asses, goats, sheep, swine, bison/buffalo, and cattalo (cross between cattle and bison/buffalo).

Right to Farm and Ranch

Ranching, farming, and all manners of agricultural activities within Grand and Summit Counties are integral elements of both county’s history, economy, landscape, lifestyle, and culture. Given their importance, agriculture lands and operations are worthy of recognition and protection.

Colorado is a “Right-to-Farm” state. Landowners, residents, and visitors must be prepared to accept the activities, sights, sounds, and smells of Grand and Summit County’s agricultural operations as a normal and necessary aspect of living in an area with a strong rural character and a healthy ranching sector. Furthermore, state law and county policies provide that ranching, farming, or other agricultural activities/operations shall not be considered nuisances so long as they are operated in conformance with the law and in a non-negligent manner. ALL landowners, whether ranch or residence, have certain obligations under state law and county ordinances to maintain fences and irrigation ditches, control noxious weeds, keep livestock and pets under control, use property in accordance with zoning, and more.

Getting into Ag Production?  Read the “Ag Production” section of this book or visit 

Respect Private Property Rights and Privacy — KNOW WHERE YOU ARE!

Many people are unaware of private property boundaries when they first arrive to Middle Park. Unintended trespass often occurs because of preconceived notions about open ranges in the West and the large percentage of federally owned land in Grand and Summit Counties. Nevertheless, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to know whose land you are on, even if it is not fenced. To remedy this situation, get to know your neighbors, obtain a county map that clearly shows public lands and roads, and “ASK FIRST” before entering private property. TRESPASS IS A PROSECUTABLE OFFENSE (see Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S) 18-4-504(1) & 18-4-201(3).)


Some of the more common incidences of trespass occur when individuals are hunting, fishing, and/or boating. Hunters may accidentally cross a property line in search of deer or elk. They may shoot an animal on a property they have permission to be on but the animal crosses a property line before it dies. If wounded game goes onto private property, the person who wounded the game shall make a reasonable attempt to contact the landowner or person in charge of such land before pursuing the wounded game (see C.R.S. 33-6-116  and 33-6-119(1 b). Most landowners are usually accommodating if they believe the animal was legally shot.

Fishermen can also mistakenly cross property lines when fishing on rivers. Rivers do not always have fences or lines across them noting property boundaries; thus, fishermen walking up or down a stream in search of a “honey hole” may unknowingly cross onto another’s property (see C.R.S. 33-6-116)

Rafters, kayakers, and canoers risk trespassing if they stop and take a break on the bank. The water itself is a form of “no man’s land,” but the soil on the bottom of the river and the land at the river’s edge is owned by someone. It is very important to know where you are on the river and who owns the adjacent land. It could be public land (i.e. USFS or BLM), or it could be someone’s private property. 

Property Easements

Easements are interests in real property, land, and real estate. Easement holders possess the right to access (or use) another’s land. Once granted and recorded, easements typically (but not always) stay with the title holder’s property and are passed to subsequent buyers or transferees.

Easements are either “affirmative” or “negative.” An “affirmative” easement grants the easement holder the right to do something, like accessing or crossing an adjoining property. A “negative” easement allows the easement holder to PROHIBIT another party from doing something, like blocking a view or developing a parcel of land.

Property Easements Classifications

Easements in Gross

An “Easement in Gross” does not relate to the land or real estate but rather to an individual or entity. Here, the easement attaches to a specific person instead of to the property itself. The easement falls away as soon as the easement owner dies or stops using the easement. He/she cannot pass it to buyers, tenants, or beneficiaries under his/her will. An example of an Easement in Gross could be the rights of a specific person for pasture, fishing, and hunting. Utility easements are also common examples of Easements in Gross. Utility easements are granted to municipal and utility agencies for access to their infrastructure on private property. These easements are granted for underground and overhead electric, phone, sewer, water, gas, and cable lines.

Appurtenant Easements

An “Appurtenant Easement” is an easement that runs with the land. When the servient owner sells his/her property, the new owner will be subject to the easement (and the owner after that and the one after that and so on). If the dominant owner sells that property, then the benefit of the easement will transfer along with it.

Simply put, an Appurtenant Easement does not exist between two people but between two parcels of land in perpetuity. The easement automatically transfers to the new owner as soon as the land is sold. The law provides that if an easement does not state its specific type (gross or appurtenant), it is presumed to be appurtenant (tied to the land).

Types of Easements

Express Easements

An “Express Easement” is granted in a will or deed. Express easements are the most common type of easements. To be legally binding and valid, an “Express” easement must be documented in writing. These easements usually name the grantor and grantee and include the property description. Express easements get recorded at the County Clerk/Recorder Office.

Implied Easements

An “Implied Easement” is an easement that is (or was) implied by prior use of the property. It is not written down and is NOT located on the legal deed. Implied easements usually arise when property owners subdivide a parcel of land into more than one parcel, selling a portion of the divided parcels yet maintaining ownership of at least part of original parcel. An example would be where the property owner had access to a driveway across adjoining parcels. It is now “implied” that the owner of the second parcel also gets to use that easement because it existed prior to the division and separation of the land. Ditch easements are also implied easements (see the Water Rights section), and you will not find them on the legal deed. Irrigation ditch owners, whose ditches run through your property, have the implied right to access and maintain their ditches.

Easement By Necessity

An “Easement by Necessity” is often granted by state or federal courts when a landowner provides ample evidence that his/her property is currently landlocked and cannot otherwise be accessed without the easement.

Easements by Prescription

“Easements by Prescription” are very similar to the laws of “adverse possession.” An Easement by Prescription is given to a party or entity when they have used a property for a very long time and have effectively “adversely possessed” it. The time period is designated in state law and is currently set at 18 years (as of 2020). Typically, Easements by Prescription arise when an individual or entity continually uses a portion of the adjoining property. Easements by Prescription are why it is important to verify that boundary fence lines have been surveyed correctly. If survey lines are off and the fence has been built in the wrong location, then you (or your adjoining neighbors) could claim adverse possession of the land you (or they) thought was yours (or theirs) as long as the statutory period has lapsed. See Colorado Revised Statutes 38-41-101 and 38-41-108 for more details.

Agriculture and Conservation Easements

A Conservation Easement is a recorded, legal document between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization, such as a Land Trust. The Conservation Easement identifies the important conservation values of a property and “purchases” the development rights to that property (or a portion of the property). Conservation Easements permanently protect conservation values by restricting development, subdivision, and other non-compatible uses of the property. The land remains in private ownership, but the easement perpetually restricts certain activities on the property. The land can be sold or transferred, but it will always be subject to the terms of the Conservation Easement.

An Agricultural Easement is a type of conservation easement that is written with agricultural use as its top priority. Such an easement keeps the land in private ownership and available for agricultural use by permanently altering the property deed to: a) prevent or minimize subdivision, and b) limit construction to that of agricultural buildings and residential dwellings that support farming and ranching operations.

There are two Land Trusts in Middle Park: 1) Colorado Headwaters Land Trust in Grand County and 2) Colorado Open Lands - Land Trust in Summit County. Contact info in "Who You Gonna Call" on the right.


References: 1, 2, 8, 20, 21, 22, 23, 78


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