Sour grapes over Wexner land exchange
The dust has settled, although we haven’t had nearly enough snow yet, and the well-discussed land exchange between the Wexner family and the BLM moved a little closer to conclusion with the vote of the Pitkin County commissioners to approve of the proposed exchange.
Franz Froelicher’s letter in The Aspen Times on Saturday was published on the same page as a cartoon of the National Rifle Association looking at itself as the problem in its own rifle scope. The symbolism was too great. The well-funded Open Space and Trails board with Franz and Dale Will might want to ponder looking into that scope.
Clearly Franz was not in favor of the exchange. His complete lack of knowledge about cattle and bighorn sheep is evident in his claim that cattle and bighorn sheep overlap 100 percent in forage needs. I have spent most of my life moving cattle around on the very property discussed and owned and operated a professional guide and outfitting business for 10 years in Pitkin County, and very rarely did I ever find the two species together!
The Wexner ranch is no Wildcat property. It has long been used as a productive piece of ground, nurtured by generations of families that choose to make their living off its soils. The current owners support livestock grazing and use rest rotation and Alan Savory’s intensive grazing to actively manage the property to its highest and best use. Meadows are irrigated by hand, weeds are sprayed, areas of the ranch are seeded, and animals are used to tromp in the seed in remote areas. There is an entire team of local employees, many with generations of agricultural experience, who work hard every day to try and make the ranch a better place for the owners, the livestock and the wildlife.
Wildlife, sustainability, access and precedent are the meat of Franz’s letter.
Wildlife: Without private property in large blocks, very little wildlife would be left in Pitkin County. Let’s thank all the ranchers and property owners in the Roaring Fork Valley who grow grass and provide sanctuary and areas for wildlife to flourish, all at their own considerable expense. The herds of deer and elk that graze summer and winter often are found on private property.
Sustainability: The ability to feed ourselves as a community, a state and a nation come to mind when Franz mentions sustainability. The Wexner ranch produces cattle, which are part of the larger picture of our ability to feed ourselves as a nation. As a member of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, I urge you to look into where our food comes from and the many challenges that face ranchers and farmers throughout the United States. When we lose the ability to feed ourselves, we are in trouble.
Access: The 1,200-acre exchange property does not block people from the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area, which is 245,000 acres, not 4 million as quoted by Franz. The exchange property basically sat surrounded on three sides by private property, and the BLM representatives had to get permission to easily access their own property. Few people had legal access to the property.
Precedent: Franz is entitled to his opinion to never take away public land from the public. In this case, Pitkin County officials have seen the benefits of the exchange outweighing the negatives.
Clearly Franz and his associates Dale and the open space board need to look deeply into their own problem, which happens to be that they have more taxpayer money than they know what to do with.
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