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Colorado buys 1,800 acres near Fairplay as playground for hunters, anglers, bird watchers, wildlife lovers

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has acquired Collard Ranch in Park County and will turn it into a state wildlife area, an acquisition Gov. Jared Polis hailed Friday as an “enormous opportunity” for hunters, anglers, bird watchers, wildlife lovers and photographers.

The 1,860-acre property located near Fairplay provides an important elk migration corridor, officials say, and offers five miles of good fishing habitat along Tarryall Creek.

“Within 60 miles of the Denver metro area, to be able to have a breathtaking, significant 1,800-acre property with hunting and fishing for Coloradans to enjoy is absolutely incredible,” Polis said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will open it as the Collard Ranch State Wildlife Area following the completion of infrastructure and accessibility projects.

The purchase was completed in partnership with the Western Rivers Conservancy and Great Outdoors Colorado. GOCO contributed $6.25 million from state lottery proceeds. Another $2 million came from CPW’s habitat-stamp program from fees raised through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

“The state is able to engage in this kind of meaningful public access enhancement and improvement because of the lottery and fees paid by hunters and anglers,” Polis said.

“Tarryall Creek is a special area to so many people in Colorado, with easy access for Park County residents and folks living on the Front Range,” said Allen Law, Interior West Project Manager for the Western Rivers Conservancy, in a news release. “We are proud to partner with CPW to forever protect this stretch of the creek, especially given its importance to a critical wildlife corridor and its iconic views of Kenosha Pass.”

The conservancy acquired Collard Ranch in December to preserve it for public access under CPW management.

“One of the South Platte River’s principal tributaries is Tarryall Creek, which flows from the 13,823-foot Mount Silverheels and is known for its excellent brown and rainbow trout fishing,” according to a post on the conservancy’s website. “Roughly 10 miles northeast of the town of Fairplay, Tarryall Creek flows through the 1,860-acre Collard Ranch, which sits immediately off of Highway 285. For five miles, the stream meanders through the ranch’s open grasslands in beautiful horseshoe bends, with 360-degree views of the Lost Park Wilderness, the Kenosha Mountains and the Mosquito Range.”

Sales of habitat stamps have helped CPW guarantee hunting and fishing access to more than 146 million acres of land since 2006 with 316,000 acres of important fish and wildlife habitat.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s acquisition of the Collard Ranch property marks a significant conservation success for our state,” CPW director Jeff Davis said in the release. “The purchase underscores CPW’s mission to preserve land for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Great Outdoors Colorado has invested $1.4 billion in Colorado Lottery proceeds since 1992 to help the state acquire and preserve land for public access. Through its Centennial Program, GOCO targets “once-in-a-generation” parcels.

“Western Rivers Conservancy and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have given us exactly that kind of opportunity with the Collard Ranch project,” GOCO executive director Jackie Miller said in the release, “and we are proud to help make it a reality for Colorado with our $6.25-million investment.”

According to the governor’s office, since Polis became governor, CPW has acquired 558,000 acres of new land for public access through fee titles, public access easements, and public access leases.

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