Beauty of the Simplest Kind – A Rancher’s Story
“The ranch has been so good to us we need to be good to it.” Bill Rooks, owner of Rafter 26 Ranch, is a strong believer in this quote and he continues to reinforce it to his son, Lee, as he carries on the tradition of the ranch. The Rooks put their lives into making the ranch work, “It has been good to us and has provided us a good life,” said Lee Rooks.
Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust played a very instrumental role in completing the conservation easement for Rafter 26 Ranch. Lee felt like Cattlemen’s first goal was to “help the rancher” and because of that, they were a great fit for the ranch’s needs. Working with Cattlemen’s was a very positive experience. Lee quoted a rancher from Montana who said, “Doing a conservation easement is like buying a horse – you spend time doing the research and getting it all in writing so you get everything you want.”
The family has been ranching since 1878. William and Elaine Rooks purchased Rafter 26 Ranch in 1962 which is located at the base of Mt. Princeton near Buena Vista, Colorado. They had three sons. Two have moved off the ranch but Lee stayed because of his love of the land. Bill, now 87, continues to do the books while Lee works the land. The ranch is a cattle and hay producing property which they sell by word of mouth only.
Lee currently lives only 100 yards away from the house he grew up in. There is beauty everywhere on the ranch from the simplest form as a bird singing to watching the seasons change. In the Fall, it’s the changing colors. In the Winter, the white snow capping Mt. Princeton. In the Spring, the miracle of life as new calves are born and in the Summer it’s watching the fields grow.
Lee has been learning about conservation easements since 1993. Back then the goal was to save money on taxes. That was not the reason why Lee and his dad wanted to do the conservation easement. In 1995, a developer had come to the ranch with a plan to develop roads and break the land up into 2 and 3 acre house sites. Lee distinctly remembers “getting sick to his stomach” when he saw what they wanted to do to their land. In 2010, the Rooks family placed a conservation easement on the property. The Rooks now have peace of mind in knowing that the things love and worked so hard for will remain forever the same.