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A private wilderness?

Don Rogers

Wait a minute. Can’t sheep graze in a designated wilderness area? Why, sure.Maybe Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone’s suggestion that the Eagle County conservation easement on Bair Ranch be managed as if designated wilderness wasn’t such reach, after all. He’d vote for that condition, he said last week, during public hearings on whether the county should contribute $2 million of open space tax funds to the $5.1 million purchase of future development rights on the 4,800-acre ranch at the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon.

While decrying the thought of supporting the Bairs’ business in dude ranching, lodging, guiding, horseback riding, ATV and snowmobile tours with public money, Stone – rather diabolically, we thought at the time – said he could go for wilderness status on the 68 percent of the ranchland on Eagle County’s side.That would even better protect the wildlife preservation value of the deal, and it would rather neatly ensure that the county’s “historical ranching heritage” be preserved while keeping the mechanized recreational business at the ranch out of the picture.The Bairs could continue with their sheep operation – which we understand they are getting back to this spring with 5,000 sheep. Surely Stone would not object to the same sort of outfitting and touring that take place in public wilderness areas. So the business the family conducts on their still-private, taxpaying holdings becomes a little more old school? Why not? Ought to be a pretty good market for rustic adventures. Just keep the lodges on the Garfield County side.That’s not the deal on the table, nor is it in the cards. But it’s not so far-fetched an idea, either.


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