Deal to preserve Bair Ranch closes today |

Deal to preserve Bair Ranch closes today

Veronica Whitney

Those involved in the preservation of the 4,800-acre Bair Ranch are scheduled today to sign a deal that took more than three years to accomplish.The $5.1-million agreement, the result of an effort led by The Conservation Fund, a Boulder-based nonprofit group, will close today at 9 a.m. in Eagle. The money will buy conservation easements that prohibit further development in the ranch while allowing ranching and guest ranch activities, as well as the outright purchase of ranchland along the Colorado River.”The money is all lined up,” Tom Macy of The Conservation Fund said Tuesday. “For a small local organization, the Eagle Valley Land Trust has done a phenomenal job to close the gap of about $650,000 still needed to reach the goal.”In six months, the Land Trust has almost raised the $1.3 million it had committed for the project -$600,000 came from a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. “This will be the culmination process,” said Cindy Cohagen, executive director of the Land Trust. “We have worked almost a year on this project. To be at this goal line is incredibly exciting. This partnership, including significant local support, will create a legacy that will benefit countless residents and visitors to this region.”So far, more than 1,050 people from Eagle County, throughout Colorado and 23 states have contributed toward the easement, Cohagen said. Money donated by citizens will add up with county, state and federal funding already set aside. In June, after months of heated debate, county Commissioners Michael Gallagher and Arn Menconi, with Commissioner Tom Stone dissenting, approved a $2 million contribution toward the project. The money comes from the new open space property tax approved by voters in 2002. In addition to the private contributions and the $2 million from the county’s open space tax, money to purchase the easement comes from: the Bureau of Land Management, which has already committed $1.5 million to the project; Great Outdoors Colorado; and other public and private contributions.”We’re thrilled of the generosity of the supporters of the project that have enabled us to raise this much money in such a short time,” Cohagen said. The land trust still has to raise $116,000 to pay for the transaction costs.””The partnership with the land trust has been terrific,” Macy said, “particularly with the atmosphere of controversy they had to deal with.”Several people opposing the project in Eagle County say the money will preserve land that won’t have significant public access -only the 512 acres along the Eagle River that were bought outright will be open to the public. “This is a great example of the power of a place (Glenwood Canyon), the power of a family and their history and the power of people working together,” Macy said. “All these together make complicated transactions happen.” This will be the third and largest conservation easement placed on Eagle County land. Previous easements included the East Vail waterfall in 2000, for which the Land Trust raised for $300,000; and the West Avon campaign for $150,000 in 2002. More contributions neededThe Eagle Valley Land Trust still seeks donations totaling $116,000 to complete its fund-raising commitment to the project. To contribute, send a check to the Land Trust at P.O. Box 3308, Eagle, 81631.Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at

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