A land deal in southern Colorado has added another chapter to the tumultuous history of the Taylor Ranch. In the final days of July, owner Zachary Taylor sold the final 54,000 acres of the ranch to Western Properties Investors for $13 million.


The ranch has been embroiled in a bitter land dispute since 1960, when Jack Taylor bought the 77,500-acre ranch and closed it off to San Luis Valley locals who claim ancestral rights to the land and its water. To local Hispanics, the ranch is known as La Sierra. The Land Rights Council of San Luis, Colo., is in the midst of a long-simmering legal battle to ensure that valley residents are allowed to graze cattle and hunt on the mountain.


Arnold Valdez, the San Luis County planner, says the new owners' plans aren't known for certain. Lou Pai of the Jaroso Creek Ranch, who bought the first parcel of the ranch two years ago for more than $9 million, now owns the entirety.


"The fear now is that the new owners are going to subdivide," Valdez said.


"We're bracing ourselves for the next wave of development. We're under no illusion that the land will remain undeveloped or as wilderness."


Colorado Gov. Roy Romer's Land Grant Commission came close to purchasing the same 54,000 acres from Taylor in 1997. But the state gave up when Taylor held out for more than the state's $12 million offer.


*Dustin Solberg