Journalism students from Mancos High School got out of their chairs and onto horseback to learn about conservation easements and local history recently.
Rim Rock Outfitters teamed up with the Montezuma Land Conservancy to provide a horse tour of agricultural properties in the Mancos area that are preserved under perpetual easements.
The Mancos Ranch Ride first toured the Giles Cabin, a homestead built in 1875 as part of the Menefee Ranch. It’s considered the oldest cabin in the Mancos Valley, and is protected under a conservation easement on the Reddert Ranch.
“The old outhouse got the student’s attention, with the bench seats in a row and no privacy,” said property owner Ryan Brown. “The Giles cabin was in connection with the old mining town of Parrot City in the La Platas.”
While the students get fitted for horses, journalism teacher Emilie Benke explained the project.
“Students were assigned to write articles on local history from local people, citing sources and conducting interviews,” she said. “In a way, we were asking them ‘What will you leave behind?’”
The eight students toured three conservation easements totalling 850 acres on the West Fork of the Mancos River.
“The easements are part of the Mancos Valley Program area where we have protected two dozen properties totalling 5,000 acres of agricultural land and open space in partnership with local landowners,” said MLC executive director Jon Liebowitz.
The focus of the tour was to give students a bigger picture on water management, farming and drought. Students heard from ranchers, water officials and historians. They seemed impressed that the settlers used horses and simple tools rather than machinery to farm.
“I like getting to see how they lived in that small cabin,” said student Hayden Kocourek. “They used a two-person saw, not power tools, to cut wood and build stuff.”
Cade Hayes is studying water rights of the Mancos Valley.
“I’m interviewing people who have been here a long time and remember the droughts,” she said.
The tour inspected the Mancos Flume and contemplated remnants of a pumphouse used to supply a Civilian Conservation Corp work camp from the early 1900s.
Old railroad grades were visited and a few surviving telegraph poles were shown “from before there were telephones and iPhones,” said outfitter Lynne Lewis.
“A new generation is arriving that don’t know the history of the valley,” she said. “Taking a horse tour in fall is a beautiful way to experience history.”
MLC is embarking on an outdoor-based public education project highlighting how easements preserve local history and agriculture tradition.
“For people to care about open space and agriculture, they need to experience it at a young age,” Liebowitz said. “You’re not going to grow up into an adult caring about land if you don’t live and breathe it as a kid.”
For more information on the program, contact the Montezuma County Land Conservancy at (970) 565-1664.