Land trust’s bid to preserve Missouri Heights ranch falls short |

Land trust’s bid to preserve Missouri Heights ranch falls short

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Valley Land Trust’s bid to purchase and preserve 1,330 acres on a ranch in Missouri Heights fell short when the contract on the land expired last week.

The trust had a contract on a major purchase of the Laurence Ranch, 12 miles southeast of Glenwood Springs, but Colorado’s drought dried up the plans for the land.

A private buyer planned to purchase the land from AVLT and use a small piece as a ranch headquarters, while using the rest as a cattle ranch and placing a conservation easement on it to prevent development. But because of water rights issues and a heightened sense of conservation due to the drought, the buyer balked at the deal.

“We’re crushed,” said Martha Cochran, executive director of the land trust. “Everyone was disappointed ? we agreed it was a package that would have been a great conservation project, but it didn’t work out like we hoped.”

Cochran said the parcel has been designated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife as including potential lynx habitat. The non-developed land already serves as habitat for elk, as well as mule deer and bears.

The potential buyer wanted to use the area as a cattle ranch in the summer only and would have been limited to a certain number of cows under a very specific grazing management plan.

As a thin silver lining, the AVLT was able to conserve 380 acres on the lower portion of the ranch. The land trust initially purchased 480 acres and sold it to the Snowmass Land Co., a development firm that agreed to put a conservation easement on 380 acres and develop up to 26 luxury home lots on the remaining 100 acres.

AVLT board of directors chairman Michael McVoy has described conserving the 380 acres without the upper parcel as a “lukewarm success.” He wasn’t available to comment for this article.

“With just the one part, it’s not such a great conservation project,” Cochran said. “Wouldn’t you want everything?”

She said the AVLT would love to find a new buyer for the upper parcel, but the future is uncertain for that piece of land. The parcel is under management of a family trust, which complicates the selling process because of court procedures. The family was forced to sell the land for estate settlement.

“We’ll be watching and hoping that we can still put something together,” she said. “But as of now, we’re not in the game.”

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