Wildlife would be winner in these real estate deals | AspenTimes.com

Wildlife would be winner in these real estate deals

Wildlife – rather than Hollywood celebrities or deep-pocketeddevelopers – could reap the rewards of some of the biggest realestate deals shaping up in the Roaring Fork Valley. Proponents of three major projects that could preserve more than1,100 acres of prime wildlife habitat are scrambling to enlistphilosophical support before banging on doors for funding. Two projects would benefit the midvalley – one by preserving anobscure sanctuary that’s been likened to Aspen’s Northstar Preserve,and the other by securing a critical corridor for elk migratingbetween a state wildlife area and other public lands. The third project would preserve much of the entrance to SnowmassVillage as we know it today, plus secure habitat for the BurntMountain elk herd.Little known, big potential The least known of the three projects is a proposal to buy 73acres north and south of Highway 82 at Emma. Full details of theplan were unveiled for the first time Tuesday night at a BasaltTown Council meeting. The Basalt-based Roaring Fork Conservancy is working to buy propertyfrom three landowners. The contiguous parcels would permanentlysecure a land bridge between the Christine State Wildlife Areawest of Basalt with the Bureau of Land Management’s Light Hill,west of Old Snowmass. “It’s our belief that this land would provide a critical wildlifemigration corridor,” said Carlyle Kyzer, who is helping the Conservancyprepare grant applications. “This property also includes a beautifulwetland that not too many people know about.” The property being eyed is on both sides of Highway 82. Some ofit, including the wetlands, is between the highway and the RoaringFork River, upvalley from the old Emma store. The remainder is the agricultural lands just upvalley from theEmma School, at the base of Light Hill. The Conservancy is negotiating to acquire nearly 65 acres fromVivian Thomas Trimble; nearly seven acres from her sister, GwendolynThomas; and two acres from Owen Minney. The town of Basalt has agreed to support the project by contributingone acre of land in the vicinity.Rock Bottom, top returns Two well-known Aspen-based conservation groups are teaming upto try to get part of the Rock Bottom Ranch into public lands.The Aspen Valley Land Trust and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies are working to buy 80 acresof the Rock Bottom Ranch. That property is between the Roaring Fork Railroad corridor andthe Roaring Fork River at the end of the dead-ended Hook SpurLane. The property, covered with wetlands and cottonwood trees,provides prime habitat for everything from herons to elk, accordingto ACES director Tom Cardamone. The property could be as important a refuge for the midvalleyas Northstar Nature Preserve is for Aspen, said Cardamone. Heenvisions the same type of passive human use at Rock Bottom asNorthstar receives. “We’re finding herons on it everywhere,” noted Aspen Valley LandTrust executive director Reid Haughey. About 30 heron rookerieshave been spotted so far, according to Cardamone. ACES is scheduled to finalize a deal for the property in latespring. The nonprofit group is negotiating to buy the land fromCharlie Cole and his family. Once secured by ACES, conservation easements will be granted tothe Aspen Valley Land Trust, to preserve it as open space forperpetuity. Preserve Snowmass’ entrance The Droste land has long been coveted by public entities. The970 acres now eyed extends up the Brush Creek Valley from PioneerSprings Ranch on the south side of Brush Creek Road. It progressesup the hillside and down toward Owl Creek Road. That land has always been important for the Burnt Mountain elkherd’s migration, according to Bill Hegberg, project manager forthe potential open space purchase. It not only benefits wildlife, it also preserves a defining viewat the entrance to Snowmass Village. Snowmass Village voters approved a $7 million bond issue lastNovember to help purchase the property. An appraisal is beingperformed. Additional funds will be needed to acquire the parcel.All seek GoCo funding Proponents of all three projects will seek funds from Great OutdoorsColorado, the state organization that disperses state lotteryproceeds for outdoor projects. Snowmass Village and Pitkin County are seeking $3 million overthree years for the Droste property purchase, according to Hegberg.ACES will apply for $550,000 to help acquire Rock Bottom Ranch.That’s slightly more than one-quarter of the purchase price, whichhas been lowered considerably by the Cole family. The Conservancy is also seeking GoCo funds along with grants fromthe Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Wetlands Initiative and DucksUnlimited. There’s been some speculation on whether GoCo will be willingto grant funds to three Roaring Fork Valley projects, even ifall are worthy. “They do tend to spread their projects around the state,” saidHaughey. “If one of us gets turned down, there’s nothing thatsays you can’t come back for the next round.” When proponents of the two midvalley projects sought support fromthe Basalt Town Council Tuesday night, Mayor Rick Stevens notedthat the board didn’t want to pit one project against another.Will Shafroth, executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado,said that doesn’t have to happen. Although projects compete forlimited funds, a specific geographic area isn’t limited to onegrant. “There is no prejudice because there is more than one projectfrom one valley,” said Shafroth. “Last cycle, Boulder County receivedtwo grants.” About $6 million in grants will be given out in June for openspace purchases by GoCo. There are usually requests for threeor four times as much funding, according to Shafroth.

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