Deal struck on Coal Basin land |

Deal struck on Coal Basin land

John Colson

After years of negotiations and concern, Pitkin County apparently has reached an agreement with the owners of a defunct coal mine near Redstone to turn over a critical last piece of land to the federal government.

Assistant County Attorney Debbie Quinn received the county commissioners’ approval Thursday to go ahead with the agreement.

The deal covers the last 265 acres of Mid-Continent Resources land in Coal Basin, essentially putting the parcel in a kind of holding category until it can be conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service, according to Adam Poe of Western Land Group in Denver.

Poe’s group is a real estate consulting firm that specializes in working out land swaps between private landowners and the federal government. The group has been working with Mid-Continent, Pitkin County and the Forest Service since 1994 to complete the conveyance of more than 6,000 acres of Coal Basin lands into public ownership.

Western Land Group, under the agreement, would receive an “exclusive listing” to sell the land piecemeal in connection with other land swaps around the region. Landowners in other parts of the region who need acreage to complete their own land-swap deals with the federal government can buy parts of the Mid-Continent lands for that purpose.

Poe said the only remaining private portion of the Coal Basin lands is a 160-acre parcel that was sold off before the swap negotiations began.

Quinn, reached at her home Thursday evening, said the land-swap deal is contingent on a settlement between Mid-Continent and the state over final reclamation plans for the Coal Basin lands. The company and the Colorado Division of Mines and Geology have squabbled in the past over the reclamation plan and how it was being conducted.

Glenwood Springs attorney Robert Delaney, a part-owner of Mid-Continent and the MidCon Realty Company, refused to say much about the settlement yesterday, explaining that a jointly prepared press release spelling out the details would be issued today. MidCon Realty bought the 265 acres from Mid-Continent and had indicated at one point that the land might be put up for sale to developers.

The land swap has been a goal of the county and the Forest Service since Mid-Continent ceased its coal-mining operations in 1991 and went bankrupt a year later. The company had operated for more than 40 years, pulling some 20 million tons of high-grade coal from a rich vein more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

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