Eagle River wetlands protected | VailDaily.com

Eagle River wetlands protected

Cliff Thompson
Eagle River Watershed Council volunteer Tom Page, Marjorie Westermann and Leo Spaziani stand outside an Edwards title company Wednesday after closing a deal that will conserve 62 acres of prime wetlands at the headwaters of the Eagle River.

The documents are a conservation easement that will protect the so-called “Westermann parcel” that straddles U.S. Highway 24, a national Scenic Byway, from development while at the same time allowing the existing landowners to maintain residences. The land is about a mile north of Tennessee Pass.

“Marjorie (Westermann) is doing it because she loves the land,” said Cindy Cohagen, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, which helped make the deal happen. “It’s a demonstration of how conservation easements can be used to protect valuable land when you have a willing land owner who is like-minded and willing to protect the land from development.”

The easement was purchased for $281,750. The funds were assembled from local and state sources, Cohagen said. A huge chunk of the funding – $210,00 – came from a fine paid by the owners of the Eagle Mine that in the 1980s discharged pollution into the Eagle River, killing a seven-mile-long stretch. Additional funding, $75,000, came from the lottery-funded Greater Outdoors Colorado and $10,000 was donated by the Eagle River Watershed Council.

It’s the first closing the Eagle Valley Land Trust has presided over in three years, Cohagen said, but it’s also the first time that the Natural Resource Damage Fund – the fine for mine pollution – was used for a conservation easement.

“The primary object is to protect the beauty and open space of that land,” Cohagen said. “The wetlands are incredibly beautiful.”

Wetlands have been identified by scientists as fundamental in creating clean, pure water.

In addition to the wetlands, the land also has remnants of Taylor City, a silver mining camp from Leadville’s heyday in the 1880s.

“It also is protecting the historic values of Taylor City,” Cohagen said.

At the other end of Eagle County, in Glenwood Canyon, various agencies are seeking to protect 4,300 acres of Bair Ranch. Purchasing the conservation easement there, however, is far more costly, with the agencies, including Eagle County, seeking $5 million to bar further development on the ranch that straddles Eagle and Garfield counties.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com

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