We are writing this letter simply to go on record with Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley and a few other brave and articulate souls such as Paul Andersen, Anne Rickenbaugh, Hawk Greenway, John Bender and Bill Jochems. We are especially grateful to Owsley for standing on ethical, long-view principles, and we are deeply disappointed in the rest of the Pitkin County commissioners.
This whole Wexner land-swap scheme is so transparently shallow and self-serving and just plain wrong to do a two-for-one swap of public land so that the super-uber-rich can simply come in and buy up properties in the Crystal Valley and then use them as bargaining chips to get what they wanted all along: to amass and consolidate their holdings at the base of Mount Sopris.
The money they are offering for management and planning, etc., is a drop in the bucket for the long-term effects of this swap. County Manager Jon Peacock commented that he was surprised there wasn't more public feedback. We are absolutely sure it is not for lack of interest or concern.
You might notice that it is always Wexners' "representatives" at the endless meetings. Also, the newspaper notes that the "county agreement resulted from closed-door negotiations between the Wexners' representatives and the county commissioners."
The rest of us don't have paid representatives to send to these meetings; we only have our vote and free speech and a responsibility to do everything we can to protect public land. The county announced its initial approval of the swap on Dec. 19. Did anyone wonder about the timing, a week before Christmas, when we were dealing with extra holiday activities and working our tails off to survive in this economy?
Also, awhile back, the Bureau of Land Management noted in a public land-exchange feasibility analysis that "most of the funding for processing this exchange will be provided by the proponents." What are the limits of what money can buy? Can these billionaires come in and just keep having their way with our public lands?
Diane Kenney and John McCormick