The long awaited public forum on the Bear Ranch land exchange will take place Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Paonia Town Hall at 7 p.m.
Representatives from Bear Ranch and Western Land Group will provide information on the proposed land exchange which would allow Bear Ranch to acquire over 1,846 acres of public land currently managed by BLM.
According to Ed Marston, opponents will also present their arguments on the Bear Ranch proposal "to privatize three square miles of high-elevation, well-watered public land east of the Paonia Reservoir. This privatization would close the best existing access to another 40 square miles of the Ragged Mountain Basin, much of it wilderness."
Citizens will have the opportunity to make comments and ask questions at the informational meeting.
Mayor Neal Schwieterman is to facilitate the meeting.
Bear Ranch and Western Land Group have previously stated they want federal legislation introduced early this year in the U.S. Congress. Last year's attempt at legislation died when the bill did not get out of committee.
Before Thanksgiving, the National Park Service (NPS) rescinded their letters of support for the land exchange announcing they will remain neutral. The Curecanti National Recreation Area superintendent stated last month that Bear Ranch's claim that Sapinero Mesa is a "high acquisition priority" for the Park Service is a "misrepresentation."
Mary Risser, NPS superintendent at Dinosaur National Monument, confirmed that acquiring the Douglas parcel in Utah to be incorporated into Dinosaur National Monument is "a very high priority" for the park, but is neutral on the specific land exchange until they see what legislation is proposed.
Bear Ranch purchased Buck Creek Ranch to replace the access that will be removed if the BLM corridor becomes their private property. Susan McIntosh, executive director and general counsel for Black Canyon Land Trust which owns the conservation easement on Buck Creek Ranch, states that they haven't received a formal proposal for any trails.
"The conservation easement does allow the owner of the land to grant public access across that land in a manner that does not negatively impact the conservation values that are identified in the conservation easement. And those values generally are agricultural values, watershed values, wildlife habitat values, water quality values, and those kinds of things," McIntosh said.
"So as long as trails are designed and constructed and maintained and managed in a way that does not negatively impact those conservation values, then the land owner certainly has the right to do that and we will be supportive of that."
Bear Ranch has proposed granting easements for a motorized trail and a non-motorized trail. Previously, they had also floated the idea of conveying the entire Buck Creek Ranch to the federal government. According to Bear Ranch, that option has been removed due to objections by their neighbors who believe too much ranch land is being made public.
An interesting point McIntosh explained is that the Forest Service "doesn't like to take land with conservation easements on them." She continued, "If that ever happens, we would have to work out a management scenario where we, the land trust, was assured that the management of the land while it was held in public ownership by the Forest Service would be similarly protective or more protective of the conservation values that we are protecting with the management we provide as owners of the conservation easement."
As owners of Buck Creek Ranch, Bear Ranch has "the right to make those decisions as to how they want to proceed so long as it's consistent with the terms of the conservation easement," McIntosh said.
"We haven't been provided with a final trail alignment especially on that nonmotorized trail. On that motorized ATV trail if that happens. . . The only way the motorized trail could happen is on the existing trail," McIntosh stated. "On the nonmotorized trail there's just a range of trail configurations that could be put together for that. There's a lot of different options on that property . . . Bear Ranch as the landowner is going to try and make as many people happy as they can," McIntosh concluded.blog comments powered by Disqus