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
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.