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No downside to land swap

Dear Editor:

I have been following the Wexner-Sutey land exchange with great interest. I have visited the Wexner ranches and cannot imagine a better steward of the land. Three longtime ranching families in our valley actually manage the ranch, with magnificent results. This is not a land grab. Anyone who had a narrow strip of BLM land running smack-dab through the middle of their ranch would be attempting the exact same thing as the Wexners.

What bothers me most is that some exchange opponents ignore what’s best for the land, and slam the exchange just because the Wexners happen to be wealthy. As a letter earlier this week said, sometimes it is wealthy people who are best able to manage land to the ultimate benefit of both ranching and wildlife. The Two Shoes Ranch has critical bighorn sheep, elk and deer habitat, and the Wexners are proposing to protect it with a permanent conservation easement covering more than 4 square miles. In addition, they will give back 10 housing sites that Pitkin already approved, and which the Wexners inherited when they bought the Crystal Island Ranch. Those homesites and other building rights total 90,000 square feet, and most of them are on the flanks of Mount Sopris along the Highway 133 view-shed just south of Carbondale.

The Aspen Valley Land Trust, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Roaring Fork Audubon, Town of Carbondale and the County’s own Crystal River advisory Caucus, among others, strongly endorse the Wexner plan. Those folks know the land in question. The Crystal River Caucus, where the land is located, voted to support the exchange by a 36-6 vote. Why have advisory panels if we don’t listen to them?

In my opinion, there is an unfortunate sentiment among a few in our valley to oppose things proposed by the wealthy. We should keep in mind that second-home owners contribute positively to our valley in many important ways. I ask our commissioners to support the exchange and do what’s best for the land.

Tom Yoder

Basalt


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