Pitkin County agrees to preserve Woody Creek ranchland for wildlife | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County agrees to preserve Woody Creek ranchland for wildlife

Pitkin County's commissioners voted to spend upward of $6 million on conservation easements for a 796 acres in Woody Creek.
Pitkin County/Courtesy image

Nearly 800 acres of conservation easements on Craig Ranch in Woody Creek will be protected from development, the Pitkin County commissioners decided Wednesday, with unanimous approval to spend more than $6 million to purchase the land.

The easements are wildlife-focused and will not allow public access to the land, along with preventing future construction of homes or roadways.

Michael and Jennifer Craig approached the county about the sale and received an appraisal for the easement at $9,075,000. They agreed to seek 30% of the compensation via state tax credits.

The price tag for the county is $6,352,500, with $10,000 budgeted for estimated transaction costs.

“A conservation easement purchase is nothing new to open space, but the landowner pursuing 30% of the CE value through tax credits is not common,” said Paul Holsinger, conservation easement and agriculture administrator for Pitkin County.

Commissioners expressed enthusiasm during the purchase’s first reading in December. That same enthusiasm was present in the boardroom on Wednesday. 

“(The Craigs) have raised the bar for altruism and conservation-minded people in the valley,” said Commissioner Greg Poschman, who noted he once lived in another part of Craig Ranch. 

Language in the easements explicitly prohibits new fencing along Woody Creek Road and requires a wildlife-friendly design if a fence is built on property lines, according to Holsinger. And, gates must be installed in fences at known crossings.

The property is a known habitat for elk herds and deer.

The Craig Ranch land held vested residential approvals for three large houses, but the purchase of the conservation easements eliminates two of those approvals. One building envelope on Lot 5 will remain, but it will be deed-restricted to protect the riparian zone. 

Holsinger said in the meeting that the Open Space & Trails Department suggested it to the Craigs, and the family jumped at the opportunity to further protect the land from development. 

Neither the conservation easements nor the deed restriction have a sunset date and will carry on in perpetuity.


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