The Bureau of Land Management on Friday announced its decision to approve the Sutey Ranch land exchange, which would add the 557-acre ranch to the BLM’s adjacent Red Hill Recreation Area north of Carbondale.
In turn, the BLM would exchange three parcels totaling 1,268 acres that are surrounded by private land in the Prince Creek area southeast of Carbondale to Leslie and Abigail Wexner, owners of the Two Shoes Ranch.
The public also would receive 112 acres along Prince Creek Road adjacent to the Crown area, which is popular with mountain bikers and is used to access existing public roads and trails managed by the BLM.
“The Sutey exchange provides a substantial public benefit by conserving lands for wildlife, providing opportunities for recreation and consolidating land ownership,” Steve Bennett, field manager of the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt, said in a statement.
Formalization of the deal, which also involves the exchange of about 200 acres of BLM and in southwest Eagle County to Horse Mountain Habitat LLC, is pending a 45-day protest period.
The sometimes controversial exchange is the result of a proposal brought to the BLM by the Western Land Group, but it also has received broad public support.
Pitkin County commissioners and several private residents had objected to the exchange, mostly because of the difference in acreage that the BLM would be giving up compared with what it would receive. The proposal was revised several times to try to appease those concerns.
Under the exchange, the public would acquire the 557-acre Sutey Ranch adjacent to the popular Red Hill area in southeast Garfield County, including the historic water rights from the ranch.
The parcels being transferred to the Two Shoes Ranch are to be placed in conservation easements under the deal, preventing development from occurring on those lands.
The Wexners also have agreed to contribute $1.1 million — $100,000 to cover the BLM’s cost to develop a management plan for the newly acquired parcels and $1 million for their long-term management.
The land exchange is not complete until the close of the protest period and until any protests received are resolved. Protests are to be received by Aug. 4.
The notice of decision, the final environmental assessment, maps of parcels, legal descriptions, land appraisals and how to file a protest are available at www.blm.gov/co/crvfo.