From homestead to conservation model


The bottomland on the Yampa River between Craig and Steamboat Springs was prime homesteading property when Abrahm Fiske claimed his share in 1881.

Former Texas Ranger J.B. Dawson also saw the land's potential when he purchased the Fiske homestead, along with several other neighboring sites and formed the Dawson Ranch in 1903.

The Victor American Mining Company acquired the ranch in 1915, and they hired Farrington Carpenter to run the ranch for them in 1929.

Carpenter was a natural choice, having worked as a ranch hand for Dawson on the property in earlier years.

Still known as the Dawson Ranch in 1945, Carpenter finally purchased the property for his own. He operated the ranch until his death in 1980.

Carpenter, a graduate of Princeton University in 1909 and Harvard Law School in 1912, was one of the Yampa Valley's most prominent citizens by the time he purchased the Dawson Ranch.

Ferry Carpenter's love affair with the West and the cattle industry began when he was 13, after his mother sent him to a ranch in New Mexico for health reasons.

On the day he turned 21, he homesteaded a quarter section in the Elkhead area.

He and partner Jack White had filed on 320 acres of land about 10 miles north of Hayden in 1907.

Two years later, with the purchase of 25 purebred Herefords, he and White began a ranching operation that lasted for 15 years.

After serving as a private in World War I, Carpenter increased his land holdings to 2,300 acres and built his registered Hereford herd to 500 head.

He had acted as the town of Hayden's first attorney and had established the first consolidated rural school in Routt County in 1914 and the county's first high school in Hayden in 1920. He also led the efforts to build the county's first hospital.

From 1912 to 1934 Carpenter was the attorney for the Routt County Cattlemen's Assoc--iation.

He was district attorney for Routt, Moffat and Grand counties from 1928 until 1932.

His ranching and agricultural interests led Carpenter to be appointed as the first director of the U.S. Grazing Service by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934.

The grazing service, now known as the Bureau of Land Management, would benefit from Carpenters implementation of the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, an act that still guides the administration of western rangelands today.

At the end of his first year in office, Carpenter returned $60,000 of his $140,000 budget to the U.S. Treasury, while exceeding expectations for the new agency.

His success in getting both cattle and sheep men to serve on advisory boards has been cited as one of the greatest achievements in the history of the West.

Fired a number of times by interior secretary Harold Ickes, Carpenter's job was always restored by Congressman Ed Taylor or the White House.

Four years after accepting the job, Carpenter submitted his resignation in 1938.

While crossbreeding was leading cattle around the country to become shorter and more show-type, Carpenter kept his herd of Herefords purebred.

A prominent cattleman, Carpenter helped establish the Beef Improvement Federation, and developed performance testing for cattle.

In 1980, Carpenter was inducted into the Hereford Breeders Hall of Fame for his contributions to the industry.

Today, the Carpenter Ranch is owned by the Nature Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organization, and leased to the Jazwick family.

The 906-acre Carpenter Ranch produces beef cattle and hay, and contains a unique riparian habitat along the Yampa River.

The conservancy also holds conservation easements on the 430-acre Monger Ranch downstream from the Carpenter ranch, as well as the 750-acre Hereford Haven Ranch, also downstream.

Wolf Mountain and Merrill Ranch agreements put the acreage under conservation control near 6,000 acres with 10 miles of river frontage.

More than 90 bird species, including greater sandhill cranes, blue herons and bald eagles, have been documented on the ranch.

The ranch hosts agricultural meetings and conservation seminars, as well as year-round field trips for school children.

The Carpenter Ranch is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from May 15 to Sept. 1.

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