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Seeking a compromise

Dear Editor:

We attended the town meeting in Carbondale on March 2 to hear new alternatives being advanced by Pitkin County and the Wexners regarding the Two Shoes/Sutey Ranch land exchange. We were pleased to learn that the Wexners have worked closely with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), the Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) and others to craft a compromise proposal that affords even greater benefits to the public and wildlife than the original proposal.

The Wexners are now offering to: 1) donate a $1.1 million endowment to BLM for planning and management of the Sutey Ranch once BLM acquires it; 2) surrender already approved development rights and home sites back to Pitkin County along the Highway 133 and the West Elk scenic by-way; and 3) place permanent conservation easements on additional areas of their ranch to protect a key bighorn sheep herd.

CDOW officials stated that the new Wexner plan is more beneficial to wildlife than the Pitkin County Plan which would bring new human activity onto the north flanks of Mt. Sopris and seriously harm wildlife. We wholeheartedly concur with CDOW’s analysis, and hope that it will prompt Pitkin County to re-evaluate its position and endorse the new compromise proposal. The wildlife gains from this exchange are tremendous, and protecting the Sutey Ranch in public ownership will be a huge plus for our valley.

While Pitkin County is correct in wanting to safeguard public land in our area, their acre-for-acre approach to this particular exchange is unwarranted. It is not just the number of acres exchanged that matters, but rather, the value of those acres in terms of benefits to wildlife, recreation and biological diversity. The BLM acres being surrendered in this exchange have relatively low biological value, little public access, and will be protected by a permanent conservation easement. Indeed, all acres in this entire exchange will forever remain in open space … and will be withdrawn from oil and gas development … and be off limits to any residential development.

The above considerations led us to endorse the earlier exchange proposal, and are why we now endorse it even more enthusiastically. We thank Pitkin County for pressing hard for additional improvements in the exchange. However, this matter has been debated for a year, and we now respectfully request Pitkin County to join Garfield and Eagle Counties, the town of Carbondale, and numerous conservation organizations in supporting the revised exchange proposal. It is simply too important to our valley for this to be delayed further.

Bob Millette

conservation chair, Roaring Fork Sierra Club Group


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