Surrounded by dogs, bikers, developers

  • TRYING TO ADAPT: Jim Snyder

    Peter Chilson photo
  • Western cattle numbers chart

    Diane Sylvain
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories.

RIFLE, Colo. - Jim Snyder wants to give a piece of his mind to every driver hurtling down Interstate 70 past his ranch seven miles east of this town. He wants to tell them that they are driving over what was some of his best pasture until the summer of 1970. That's when workers steamrolled 60-some acres of the ranch and opened the highway. The government paid him for the land, but it was no compensation. The highway so upset Snyder's mother that she suffered a stroke days after it opened.

"The land, that's our insurance, our retirement," says Snyder, a former high school physical education teacher who once served on the Garfield County Planning Commission. His parents, now deceased, started the 1,100-acre ranch in the 1920s, but when I-70 came, they sold their 300 mother cows and turned the ranch into a small feedlot, a cheaper way to stay in business. Snyder ran cows on another 2,000 acres of private leases, but in the last five years he lost them as the owners sold to developers. As for his land, "We've had big money offers, but I can't do it."

The Colorado Department of Agriculture says the state loses 10 acres of agricultural land an hour. That's 90,000 acres a year, according to a 1996 report that cites "a steady drip-drip of farmland and ranchland converted to housing, shopping malls, roads and other uses." Rifle's population, now 6,300, has doubled since 1982 and the town adds 45 new homes a year, a rate planners believe will begin picking up very soon.

At the ranch, statistics make noise. Diesel trucks and sport utility vehicles rumble over four lanes of concrete. On a Friday afternoon, standing beside a tractor as two bald eagles float over his pasture along the Colorado River, Snyder is a little angry. "The joggers and the dogs and the bicyclers and the bird-watchers drive us nuts," he says. "They don't respect private property and everyone has a dang dog that spooks my cows. It's one heck of a mess."

Mike Walk, a state brand inspector, just ended 12 years in the Eagle District, home of Vail ski resort 84 miles east of Rifle up I-70. When he started in 1985, he counted 12,000 cattle. In his last year, in 1987, he counted 3,000. "They buy ranches and cut "em up into golf courses or home sites," he says. "It's like a damned cancer."

Rifle officials talk about diversifying the economy; Snyder is two steps ahead. After the highway took his best land, he started the feedlot and took the high-school teaching job. Now, he and one of his two sons cater to hunters, taking them into the backcountry on horseback. The ranch is solvent, and Snyder, who is 52, doesn't want to sell it. Still, his sons don't want to ranch, and each offer he gets for his land is higher than the one before. Snyder shakes his head. "Nothing makes people more crazy than land."

High Country News Classifieds
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    The Vice President for Landscape Conservation leads Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing on four program areas: federal public lands management; private lands...
  • NOVA SCOTIA OCEAN FRONT
    Camp or Build on 2+ acres in Guysborough. FSBO. $36,000 US firm. Laurie's phone: 585-226-2993 EST.
  • COMMUNITY FORESTER
    The Clearwater Resource Council located in Seeley Lake, Montana is seeking a full-time community forester with experience in both fuels mitigation and landscape restoration. Resumes...
  • GUNNISON BASIN ROUNDTABLE
    The Gunnison Basin Roundtable is currently accepting letters of interest for ten elected seats. Five of the elected members must have relevant experience in the...
  • PCTA TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISORS IN WASHINGTON'S NORTH CASCADES
    Seasonal Positions: June 17th to September 16th (14 weeks) - 3 positions to be filled The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Job Title: Membership Director Supervisor: Executive Director Salary: Up to $65,000/year DOE Benefits: Generous benefits package — health insurance, Simple IRA and unlimited...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS MANAGER
    Who we are: Since 1985, the Grand Canyon Trust has been a leading voice in regional conservation on the Colorado Plateau. From protecting the Grand...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Walker Basin Conservancy Reno & Yerington, NV Background The Walker Basin Conservancy (Conservancy) leads the effort to restore and maintain Walker Lake while...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland Vehicle for travel on or off road. Fully self contained. Less than 41,000 miles. Recently fully serviced Located in Redmond, OR $215'000.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    identifies suspect buried trash, tanks, drums &/or utilities and conducts custom-designed subsurface investigations that support post-damage litigation.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    They [Northern Plains] confound the common view that ordinary people are powerless in the face of industry. - Billings Gazette editorial The venerable Northern Plains...
  • SMALL FARM AT BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA, CALIF.
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Small home, 2 barns (one has an apartment), and more. Approx. two acres just in the City limits. Famously pure air...
  • TAOS HORNO ADVENTURES
    A Multicultural Culinary Memoir Informed by History and Horticulture. Richard and Annette Rubin. At nighthawkpress.com/titles and Amazon.