Alliance tackles plan to save key remaining open space |

Alliance tackles plan to save key remaining open space

The Roaring Crystal Alliance has initiated the creation of a regional plan for preservation of open space in the entire Roaring Fork Valley.

The alliance, a local environmental group, is funding the work, to be done by Rock Creek Studio and Robert Schultz Consulting, both of Carbondale. The plan will include a ranking of every undeveloped parcel of land between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, based on its importance as wildlife habitat, for agricultural uses, access to public lands and other such values.

The effort will result in a geographic information systems database with maps and data on all the undeveloped land in the valley. The alliance hopes the work will be used by public land agencies, agricultural interests, local and regional planners and existing open space agencies such as the Aspen Valley Land Trust and the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.

The group’s goal is to become proactive in land preservation, rather than reacting to each development plan as it’s introduced, explained alliance Vice President Susan Joy Hassol in a prepared statement.

“It’s exhausting trying to evaluate each development proposal,” said consultant Bob Schultz, who is active with the alliance. “By taking a look ahead of time, you can say `we want to preserve here, and here, and here.'”

Schultz said once the plan is complete, conservation of the most important parcels of land could be accomplished by a range of methods, including outright purchase or the purchase of conservation easements. For preservation of wildlife habitat, outright purchase is often best, he said, whereas for preservation of agricultural lands, a conservation easement might be ideal.

Funding for land preservation is available under certain circumstances from Great Outdoors Colorado, which gets funding from state lottery revenues, and from numerous nonprofits. Who will handle the actual administration of a valleywide preservation program has not yet been determined, Schultz said.

One step in the process will be consulting with local governments for guidance for the program. Good communication is important, he said, because the project would work across the jurisdictional lines of the eight governments in the valley.

“We also want to be open with landowners,” Schultz said, to make sure no misunderstandings or infringements occur. The planning will be an open process, he said, and anyone can call to inquire or comment. Schultz’s telephone number is 963-3670.

The alliance has a membership mailing list of about 160. Rock Creek Studio has created comprehensive plans for the towns of Basalt and Carbondale, and produced affordable housing regulations for Garfield County.

Schultz has worked on forest plans and public land policy issues for the U.S. Forest Service and is a consultant for the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority.

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