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Bair Ranch sole application for open space funds

Veronica Whitney

Although Bair Ranch faces no competition in the first round of open space tax funding, county officials said it may not get the money.

By Friday afternoon, the Glenwood Canyon Ranch, which has been the target of a major conservation effort, was the only applicant for funding from the $3 million open space tax, said Cliff Simonton, a county planner.



Monday is the deadline for applications for the tax’s first funding cycle.

The Conservation Fund, which is trying to bar future development on 4,800 acres of the ranch, is seeking $2 million of the tax money to help buy a $5 million “conservation easement” on the ranch. The county’s open tax funds are critical to the completion of the project, said Tom Macy, director of The Conservation Fund in Boulder.



The conservation easement is a legal tool to prohibit development of open space.

“Being the sole applicant doesn’t mean it will get the money,” Simonton said. “The decision to fund will be based on whether or not it fits the open space criteria well. Maybe the commissioners might have some other reason why they don’t want to fund the project.”

The county’s Open Space Advisory Committee will make recommendations on preservation projects, the board of commissioners will have the final vote on where to spend the money.



“(The Bair Ranch) is a good test case to evaluate our approach and our methods,” said Ron Wolfe, chairman of the Open Space Advisory Committee. Wolfe declined to comment further, saying it wouldn’t be right now the county has received an application.

The Open Space Advisory Committee will review the Bair Ranch application on April 26. After that the 14-member committee will render a recommendation to the county commissioners, who are scheduled to hear the application on May 18.

“There might be a decision then,” Simonton said. “The Board of County Commissioners, however, has the discretion to request more information, though.

“This will be the first time that we will take the new criteria to evaluate open space projects and apply it to a specific project,” Simonton said.

The year’s second and final deadline for applying for tax funds hasn’t been set yet, but it could be by the end of July, Simonton said.

To qualify for the open space funds, the 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 as well as protecting wildlife and migration routes.

But a project doesn’t necessarily have to meet all the criteria to qualify, Simonton said

Simonton said the county is likely to receive applications for proposals that only meet one of the standards as well as projects that meet all the criteria.

“It’s very relative,” he said. “(The Bair Ranch) project has had a lot of exposure until now. And it has excellent financial backing.”

Funds already pledged to the Bair Ranch preservation project come from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which has already committed $1.5 million to the project, and Great Outdoors Colorado, which has approved $1 million.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust, a local nonprofit, has committed to raise about $1.3 million. Conservationists are hoping to protect 3,306 acres in Eagle County and 1,524 acres in Garfield County and .

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


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