Land exchange a no-brainer
December 5, 2009
Why haven’t representatives of Pitkin County endorsed the Wexner-Sutey Ranch land exchange? The only reason that I have heard is because Wexner might make a bundle more than he should if he ever sells his ranches, including the exchanged public land. Based on what, and more importantly, who cares? The relevant, indeed the only, question is whether or not there are clear advantages to the public in the exchange. I have been on both properties and think this is overwhelmingly in the public good.
This should be a no-brainer. Every single acre of land involved in the exchange will forever be protected as open space, either by BLM ownership (Sutey Ranch) or by Wexner’s conservation easement.
The land being swapped is federal public land. None of it belongs to Pitkin County. The public does not care where the land lies in relation to the county borders or whether it’s in Pitkin or Garfield County. What is important is to do the best by the public and by the wildlife, particularly elk and deer winter range.
The exchange will close all the exchange lands to future oil and gas leasing and development. Currently both the Sutey Ranch and BLM land are not protected. This is crucial.
Major conservation/environmental organizations are strongly in favor of the exchange. Would they be if the exchange were not a good deal for the public? This includes the Wilderness Society, the Sonoran Institute, the Roaring Fork Sierra Club, the Aspen Valley Land Trust, the Audubon Society of the Roaring Fork, the Crystal River Environmental Association, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and The Aspen Times.
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If there are overwhelming reasons not to endorse the exchange I would like to know what they are.