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North Fork Valley family places orchard in conservation easement

 Lee, Kathy, Kendal, Beau, and Ryan Bradley stand in their orchard.<br/>
Bradley Family
Lee, Kathy, Kendal, Beau, and Ryan Bradley stand in their orchard.

Looking to the future of agriculture, the Bradley family in Paonia, Colorado recently partnered with Colorado West Land Trust to protect roughly 55 acres of productive fruitland in eastern Delta County at their Black Bridge Winery and Orchard Valley Farms.

Conservation partnerships in the region help secure local food production, while providing opportunities for the next generation, as well as protecting habitat along the North Fork of the Gunnison River, and protecting scenic views in the North Fork region.

Ryan Bradley, who grew up on the farm purchased by his parents Lee and Kathy Bradley, developed his passion and vision for the future of the family farm at an early age.

In the 1980’s Lee, a school teacher, managed farms owned by a nearby mining company. When the mines eventually shut down, he and Kathy bought the orchard.

Located in the shadow of the West Elk Range, Black Bridge Winery, features orchards, vineyards, a winery, a farm market, and a wine-tasting room open to the public seasonally.

Nationally land trusts have conserved 61 million acres of private land across the nation which represents more than all of the national parks combined. Since 2010 Colorado has seen a 43% increase in land placed in conservation trusts.

According to Moir, conservation easements, which include roughly 3.4 million acres in Colorado, represent a huge commitment by land owners. Owners agree to not subdivide or develop the property, ever. Future buyers also agree to honor the conservation easement.

In exchange for the conservation easement, land owners find benefit in the form of tax credits from the state for keeping land out of development. For many farmers and ranchers the credits bring in money without selling off valuable assets.

Ryan Bradley says for land owners, like himself, there is a higher purpose than receiving state tax credits such as preserving the land for future generations and making sure there will always be adequate food production in the valley.

The Bradley family’s 55-acre conservation easement joins 27 other nearby conservation efforts totaling over 6,000 acres. For the Bradley family, preserving the land they love not only protects a piece of history but also secures a bright future for local food production and the next generation.

Lisa Young