Bair Ranch faces local conservation vote | VailDaily.com
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Bair Ranch faces local conservation vote

Veronica Whitney

The first official report on an open space project in Eagle County says the Bair in Glenwood Canyon has high value for its regional heritage and wildlife. But the scores drop for scenic values on the Eagle County side of the ranch.

The Bair Ranch preservation project, for which conservationists are seeking $2 million in county tax funds, scored 42 points out of 60, said Cliff Simonton, the county planner assigned to the project who analyzed the proposal.

“This is the first time we’ve rated open space, so 42 points could end up being one of the highest scores,” Simonton said. “There’s no way to know yet because we can’t compare it to any other open space projects.”

Simonton’s evaluation, however, isn’t the final word on the preservation proposal, which only served to evaluate whether Bair Ranch met open space standards established by the county.

The Open Space Advisory Committee, which meets this afternoon to review Simonton’s report, will make a recommendation to the county commissioners, who will make the final decision on spending open space tax dollars at Bair Ranch.

The 14-member open space committee’s recommendation is scheduled to be considered by the commissioners on May 11.

“We’re excited about the file. (The Bair Ranch) is a very good, first test proof,” said Ron Wolfe, chairman of the open space committee.

The Boulder-based Conservation Fund, which is spearheading the Bair Ranch preservation campaign, is so far the only organization to apply for funding from the county’s open space tax. The Conservation Fund is seeking about $2 million from Eagle County to purchase a $5 million “conservation easement” – a legal tool that would block development on 4,830 acres of the ranch, about two-thirds of which is in Eagle County. The entire ranch has been appraised at $17 million.

To qualify for open space funds, Bair Ranch and other projects would have to meet standards set by the advisory board. The standards include preserving “outstanding natural beauty and visual quality;” maintaining regional heritage; supporting agriculture and ranches; and protecting wildlife.

In analyzing the ranch, Simonton said he relied on maps, visual analysis, input from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and information provided by conservation agencies.

“The scoring obtained by the project so far isn’t relevant,” Simonton said. “What is important is what the (open space committee) decides. That committee could decide something completely different.”

The federal Bureau of Land Management will spend $1.5 million to preserve Bair Ranch while Great Outdoors Colorado, a state-funded conservation agency, had contributed $1 million. The Eagle Valley Land Trust, a local nonprofit, has committed to raise about $1.3 million while Garfield County has also pledged to pitch in.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.

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Bair ranch review

What: The Open Space Advisory Committee will discuss the Bair Ranch conservation project at a public hearing. The committee is expected to render a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.

When: At 2 p.m. Monday

Where: Eagle County Building, Eagle County Room, 500 Broadway Ave.

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How the ranch scored

This is how the Bair Ranch conservation proposal scored based on the county’s open space standards. The project was evaluated by Cliff Simonton, a county staff planner assigned to the project. The Open Space Advisory Committee will use his analysis to make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide if tax money will be used to preserve the ranch, which straddles the border of Eagle and Garfield counties.

– Scenic landscapes and vistas:

– Medium for the river parcel

– Low for the mountain parcel in Eagle County

– High for the mountain parcel in Garfield County

– Regional heritage, agriculture and ranching – if the project retains Eagle County’s history, culture and agricultural land uses:

– High for regional heritage

– High for wildlife

– Sensitive lands and environments:

– High for sensitive lands -buffers not available

– Access to streams, rivers, public lands and dispersed recreation opportunities -in general, the Bair Ranch doesn’t provide the benefits contemplated by this criterion.

– Access is not available

Source: Eagle County

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