Easement saves artifacts

  Conservation easements usually protect open space on private land (HCN, 2/28/00: Acre by acre: Can land trusts save the West's disappearing open space?), but a new easement in southwestern Colorado also protects what's underneath the land. In December, an agreement between landowner Don Dove and the Montezuma Land Conservancy preserved 110 acres of ancestral Puebloan ruins just south of Cortez. The easement permanently bans development on the property and specifies fines for anyone who disturbs the artifacts without a permit.


The easement is the first of its kind in Colorado, says Kevin Essington, executive director of the Montezuma conservancy. The ruins include numerous pueblos, a great kiva, and an unusual "tri-wall" structure with parallel horseshoe-shaped walls. The site, which is listed on the state historic register, was occupied from 805 A.D. or earlier to the mid-13th century. It is believed to be the longest-continuously occupied site in the area, except for nearby Mesa Verde, and Essington is happy to see it protected. "When you consider that the property is adjacent to the city of Cortez, the threat of its being developed was very real," he says.


Dove, who holds a master's degree in archaeology, is also pleased to have his land protected in perpetuity. He says that though some ruins have sustained damage from bulldozing and livestock-grazing, most of the underground resources are intact and have yet to be studied.


For more information, call the Montezuma Land Conservancy at 970/565-1664 or write to P.O. Box 1522, Cortez, CO 81321.

Copyright 2001 HCN and Gail Binkly