by Mike Lederhause – Eagle County Conservation District
Eagle County Conservation District Recognizes Conservationist of the Year
The true environmentalists are the farmers and ranchers that work the land and know the value of caring for the land and environment. They are the stewards that watch over and protect the land that they use.
The Luark family took up a homestead on Sunnyside Divide north of Burns in 1923 and built the lodge that still stands in 1929. In March of 1941 the Wilbur Luark family moved down to the ranch just north of Burns where Wilbur and his wife Jessie raised 3 sons and a daughter including Mike.
Conservation and care for the land runs in the family. In 1983 Wilbur was honored as the Outstanding Conservationist of the year by the Eagle County Soil Conservation District and the second place Conservationist for the State by the Colorado Association of Soil Conservation Districts. He was also selected by the Colorado River Valley Watershed Association as the Outstanding Conservationist. Wilbur’s son Pat and his family now operate the home ranch and were honored as Outstanding Conservationist for 1993 by the Eagle County Conservation District.
Mike Luark attended Eagle Valley High school where he was an honored as a State Farmer by the Future Farmers of America. As an adult he took over operation of the Luark Land Company ranch 8 miles Northeast of Dotsero along the Colorado River in 1977, where he continues to apply the values and practices he learned as a youth to the land. Ann Luark grew up near Hood River, Oregon noted as the pear capitol for the fruit raised there. It was there that she became interested in honey bees.
In 2001 Mike and Ann were recognized by both the Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Riparian Association for stewardship of their grazing parcels and efforts in restoring Horse Creek which is part of their allotment. Thanks to their efforts several species of wildlife, birds and vegetation have returned to a once barren landscape.
Today the Eagle County Conservation District recognizes Mike and Ann for their continued stewardship of their ranch. The ranch is highly visible from the Colorado River Road and the first glance reveals the level, well cared for fields of alfalfa which border the Colorado River and the neat appearance of the ranch. They have planted varieties that produce exceptionally well on their ranch along with taking steps to maximize the efficient use and conservation of their irrigation water. They have installed a combination of pivot sprinkler and gated pipe irrigation to irrigate their land. Doing so reduces the runoff and silting of the river and the overall amount of water needed to grow a crop. To improve the riparian area along the river they first installed livestock troughs, then have installed over 6,000 feet of fence to keep cattle off the river bank and this year they will be planting over 150 trees along the river.
Mike and Ann also manage a large colony of honey bees that pollinate almonds in California, fruit in the Palisade area and the various crops in Eagle and Routt Counties which completes the cycle of life for the various plants. The excess honey and wax is recovered and sold locally.
Eagle County is fortunate to have Mike and Ann caring for the land and environment along with providing appealing open space.