Don’t go for the Sopris squeeze | AspenTimes.com

Don’t go for the Sopris squeeze

Dear Editor:

All four of the candidates for the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners have been asked to weigh in on the proposed Wexner trade. Both Darryl Grob and John Wilkinson have elected to wait to decide until a study by the Bureau of Land Management is complete. Steve Child, as verified by a recent letter to the editor, has supported the trade. I am on record as opposing the trade, and please let me explain why.

I love to explore new areas in our wilderness, and I may be in a unique position. You see, I spent three days (two years ago) backpacking in the area and feel very strongly about the magnificent nature of this property. I was also privileged to tour the Wexner property before they owned it.

So, I see how the pieces to the puzzle go together. Some have described this as relatively useless land that is very infrequently utilized by the public. While the latter may be true, the former is not. Janet Urquhart reported on June 1 about a recent trip that she and two open space board members took, who verified the beauty of the property.

“Three different watersheds, pockets of meadows, and it’s all in the lap of Sopris,” one of the board members summarized.

This is the kind of land that we hope to obtain with our open space funds when we look around the county, and yet we already control it.

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So let me ask all of you two questions:

• If it is such worthless property, then why do the Wexners covet it so much?

• Why are they willing to go to such great lengths to acquire this land?

They have spent untold amounts of money on lawyers to try everything they can to get it for themselves. If they are successful they will control the access for miles of the lower lands of Sopris Mountain, and we all know if you control the base, you control the public lands above it. One only needs to look at the lands controlled by Ralph Lauren, on the way to Telluride, to see what can happen.

If you are concerned about wildlife, you can find numerous examples of the plight they have to endure when critical habitat is fenced in by “ranchers” who favor a five-strand, 48-inch barb wire fence to keep their “cattle” in. Fawns and calves cannot get under it and adults are often caught in it when they attempt to jump it in a winter weakened state. Bighorn sheep don’t even try. I am convinced that if this recent proposal does not happen, they will be back in some other manner to obtain this “underutilized” land.

So what happens if the current Thomas Lakes trail suffers a mudslide, or other geologic event? We will have, forever, limited our options to access Sopris Mountain. I for one will not consider this trade in any form if I am fortunate to be elected as one of your county commissioners.

John B. Young

Snowmass