From the Vault: Preserving Nature |

From the Vault: Preserving Nature

compiled by the Aspen Historical Society
One b/w image of James H. Smith standing by the Roaring Fork River at Stillwater in the North Star Preserve in the Aspen Times, June 30, 1977 - pg. 2B. Smith sold the property for open space.
Chris Cassatt

“Can we buy what’s left of the valley?” questioned The Aspen Times on June 30, 1977. “Negotiations over the purchase of 166 acres of James Smith’s Northstar Ranch just east of Aspen have established a pattern that members of the Pitkin County Parks Association (PCPA) say could open the way for a vast increase in public land holdings in the county. If several technical problems can be resolved, according to city-county planner Bill Kane, the Nature Conservancy will purchase the Smith property Sept. 5. The Nature Conservancy, a national organization dedicated to the preservation of unique parcels of land, would then hold title to the Smith property until governmental funding and public purchase could be arranged, according to Kane. PCPA spokesman Raymond Auger says the Smith negotiations have been the ‘classic case’ in what is hoped will be a major program of public land acquisition, because the PCPA served as an independent referee or broker between the landowner and governmental agencies. The PCPA was able to negotiate from a neutral and confidential point of view without the bias of government, he says. PCPA President Bruce Oliphant says, ‘We are able to conduct such negotiations more confidentially and more effectively than government.’ The hope for the future, Auger says, is that the PCPA will be able to function in similar fashion in other instances and negotiate an organized series of land purchases that will preserve the rural character of the upper Roaring Fork Valley.” The photograph above (taken by Chris Cassatt) shows James Smith standing on his Northstar Ranch in 1977.

This photo and more can be found in the Aspen Historical Society archives at