Developing Bair Ranch would sully canyon
June 1 is likely the last chance Eagle County and other Colorado citizens will have to save the scenic Bair Ranch from development.
That afternoon the Eagle County commissioners will consider, for the third time, the recommendation voted 9-1 by their own Open Space Committee to contribute $2 million toward the cost of the $5 million conservation easement.
Tabled over from May 11, in order to allow Commissioner Michael Gallagher, who is ill, to participate, the decision is strongly supported by federal agencies such as BLM, state agencies including the Division of Natural Resources and GOCO, with testimony, endorsements, major grants, and allocations, and by state and local nonprofit groups such as the Eagle Valley Land Trust, and individuals locally and nationally who have contributed thousands in private dollars to insure that the ranch is protected. Amazingly, only the Eagle County government has not joined in.
June 1 is their last chance to protect more than 4,800 acres, in size comparable to Vail’s ski area. Without Eagle County’s participation, the whole deal will collapse.
If the deal does go through, the eastern gateway to magnificent Glenwood Canyon will be protected and a 500-acre block, including 3 miles of Colorado River frontage between Dotsero and the canyon, would be purchased outright by BLM and be fully available to the public for water sports, fishing, wildlife viewing, birding and other activities.
The remainder or the acreage, the mountain parcel on the south side of I-70 at the mouth of the canyon, would continue under the conservation easement as a working sheep ranch and small-scale guest operation.
The alternatives to protection of this space are depressing and burdensome. Faced with the need to buy out his much older brother who lives in another state or see him sell his center portion of the ranch, Craig Bair will face some daunting decisions.
Without this center portion, a ranching operation is not viable. On the other hand, cashing in on the ranch’s development potential will make both brothers rich, but destroy the traditional beauty of the land forever.
The effects of such development for those of us who continue to live here would be even more devastating, as they would go far beyond the ranch itself. Surrounded almost entirely by public lands and watersheds, deterioration of the natural resource values on this private land will compromise also neighboring BLM land.
Wildlife will find traditional migration and foraging patterns disrupted, and waterways and riparian areas will be sullied by road, residence and golf course construction. Development within the canyon will also mar for humans the experience of beautiful Glenwood Canyon and put new demands for services on county taxpayers.
All Eagle County residents valuing preservation of this ranch in its current state need to let our commissioners know immediately, through phone calls, e-mails to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and letters, that they support this use of our open-space dollars. Then, on June 1, at 1:30 p.m., we need to be at the courthouse in Eagle for the commissioners’ meeting.
This is our last chance to save this beautiful and historic piece of Colorado for ourselves and for our children. Be there June 1!
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