DOW pans Droste property plans for driveway, house |

DOW pans Droste property plans for driveway, house

The district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife believes there would be “significant impacts to wildlife” from a two-mile-long driveway and a 15,000-square-foot house proposed by the Droste family.

“Development of the road, homesite, as well as the other future development sites on the ridge will have significant and negative impacts to wildlife, which may result in serious wildlife loss over time,” DOW Manager Kevin Wright said in response to the application for the Droste Ranch Road and the Droste Ranch homesite. The property is on the south side of the ridge between the Owl Creek and Brush Creek valleys outside of Snowmass Village.

“The homesite and driveway are located within winter range, winter concentration area and severe winter range,” Wright said. Those designations refer to deer and elk seasonal migration routes.

Pitkin County regulations do not allow development in severe winter range.

“The area for the driveway and homesite is intensively used by deer and elk, as indicated by the amount of browsing of the vegetation,” Wright continued. “The south-facing slopes are critical during hard winter as there is less snow accumulation and forage is made more available.”

The Droste application concedes that the homesite is in winter range but suggests that mitigation would minimize any impacts. Wright dismissed those claims.

“The application states that `no significant impacts to wildlife is expected’ and `development of surrounding lands is not thought to have impacted winter range carrying capacity for the local elk herd,'” he said. “I’m unsure where that concept came from, as it is much more complex. I do believe there will be significant impacts to wildlife. [With] development within severe winter range and winter concentration areas, direct loss of some of that habitat will occur, which will impact the local wildlife populations.”

Wright’s comments were made public in anticipation of Tuesday’s public hearing on the Droste applications. However, the hearing will be continued as Lance Clarke, the county planner assigned to serve as hearing officer for the applications, has recused himself from the case.

Peter Droste, who manages his family’s holdings of nearly 1,000 acres, has threatened to sue the county if his applications are denied.

In a new twist to an already contentious case, the DOW’s Wright believes that the wrong land, at least in terms of wildlife protection, was set aside with conservation easements.

“The portion of the ranch, which was preserved in conservation easement, was in fact the area the DOW had recommended be the area for development, instead of the upper reaches of the ridge, which was not preserved and contains the most sensitive areas for wildlife,” Wright wrote in his Nov. 29 memo. “In fact, the DOW was left out of the negotiations for the easement, and Randy Cote, past district wildlife manager, was not asked for his opinions on the established easement.

“The more important areas of the ranch for wildlife are, in fact, the ones proposed for development.”

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