Preservation key in Sutey Ranch deal
June 23, 2012
Editor’s note: The following letter was recently sent to the Bureau of Land Management.
In commenting on the proposed Sutey Ranch land exchange. I wear two hats, first as a resident of Carbondale and Garfield County, and second as a longtime member of the Red Hill Council.
I have visited the Sutey Ranch several times and photographed it. As a resident of Carbondale and Garfield County, I value it highly above all else because it is one of the last remaining undeveloped homesteads on Missouri Heights. Other than the 20th-century frame house where the Sutey brothers lived out their lives and a few farm structures, the ranch remains in its original state as it appeared after the land was cleared of pinion-juniper forest and irrigation was brought in by a ditch from Cattle Creek.
It is of unique historical value and should be preserved as such in perpetuity so that future generations can learn about that particular period in the development of the arid West when public land was given away under the Homestead Act for settlers to improve. The cleared, planted and irrigated fields alone represent a huge capital investment of human and animal labor that is hard to imagine in this day and age when everything we do on the land is only accomplished with the aid of electricity and gas-powered machines.
It is my hope that the ranch will be acquired through the proposed exchange, that the promised funds will be used to carefully plan for its future preservation and, finally, that a manager will be hired to live on the ranch and manage it as it was managed historically as irrigated land for hay and for animals, both domestic and wild, to live on in perpetuity.
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Secondly, as a long-time member of the Red Hill Council, I would hope that the promised plan for the ranch might include the possibility of a simple public-access route through the property to the north side of the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area. Throughout its existence the Red Hill SRMA has had only one public access point and that it is on County Road 107. The council has thoroughly studied the feasibility of establishing another access point somewhere along the perimeter of the SRMA and determined that the Sutey Ranch would be the most suitable place for that second public access.
It is my sense that this would fit nicely with the future management of the ranch and that the permanent presence of a ranch manager would mean that this northern access point to the SRMA would actually be better managed than the current access point on County Road 107. My vision is for future Red Hill parking to be combined with ranch visitor parking somewhere near the entrance to the ranch and then for just a single trail to be designated as access to the Red Hill SRMA.
Finally, let me say honestly that my only concern in the matter of the proposed exchange is for the preservation of the Sutey Ranch as it exists today as a perfect example of an original homestead, whether it be in public or in private hands. I am grateful to those who have proposed, through an exchange of lands, to achieve the preservation and management of this precious original homestead.