Seize the opportunity |

Seize the opportunity

Dear Editor:

I am a field biologist who lives near the Sutey Ranch and who knows the Wexner-Two Shoes ranches by virtue of having done the annual monitoring of the existing conservation easements on Mr. Wexner’s holdings. In the process of doing this work, I have also become familiar with the BLM land strip that Mr. Wexner wishes to acquire in the exchange.

I am in support of the Sutey Land Exchange because of the unique and diverse ecological values it contains. While both the BLM parcel and the Sutey Ranch contain important wildlife habitat for deer, wild turkey and bear, the Sutey property contains a full composite of winter range habitats for elk (winter range, severe winter range and winter concentration areas). These habitat types are where elk can find food and cover during severe winters and are increasingly in short supply because of homesite construction and ski area development in these areas. While the Sutey Ranch is not in Pitkin County, securing winter range habitat for elk that has heightened conservation value presents an opportunity for Pitkin County to mitigate the impacts to elk winter range habitats from past development practices and approvals in Pitkin County.

More than 200 elk use the Sutey Ranch during the winter. This exchange will provide more than 500 additional acres of protected open space that will help prevent the fate that has befallen the upper valley’s Burnt Mountain elk herd where development has diminished their winter range by 40 percent and migration corridor to a tenth of its historic size.

The Sutey Ranch also contains the rare Harrington’s penstemon. This flower is found in only 30 locations in Colorado, and protecting the habitat where it occurs presents another opportunity for Pitkin County to help preserve an important component of Colorado’s natural heritage.

In my professional opinion, the Sutey Ranch has extraordinary conservation attributes and I urge Pitkin County to seize this opportunity to mitigate impacts from development, even if the mitigation area is outside Pitkin County. Through this land exchange, 1,781 acres of land will be protected through public and private ownership: truly a win for Colorado’s natural heritage!

Dawn Barton


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