Letters to the editor
Why the rush?
A few comments and thoughts about this potential Bair Ranch purchase:
1. First and foremost, it seems to me the taxpayers should receive some recreational value for their money, whatever parcels this money is spent on. I have heard nothing about any hiking trails, nature walks, horseback riding, summer nature camps for Eagle County schoolkids or whatever on this property.
Apparently the only recreational benefit would be fishing, and I hear the fishing isn’t very good there anyway and would need to be done via rafting, which is already permitted. Are we to spend $2 million of the taxpayers money merely to have open space we can LOOK AT? I think taxpayers want recreation, too, as the valley becomes increasingly congested with homes and commercial.
2. There is obviously a huge lobbying effort under way by the Eagle Valley Land Trust, which, it seems, feels it is their right to appropriate this money for their favored projects. Not so! They are entitled to spend THEIR funds for their projects, but not to impose those priorities on this Open Space Initiative TAXPAYER money. This is clearly wrong. EVLT says the Bair Ranch is their number one priority – it is not necessarily the number one priority of the citizens who are to help direct the expenditure of this tax money.
3. The EVLT lobbyists insist that the commissioners can decide how to spend these funds even though the law spells out specifics, including a citizen board, which would make recommendations. To bypass the citizen board, which apparently hasn’t been appointed yet, violates the provisions of this taxpayer-funded measure. The EVLT crowd calls this mere “technicalities” and urges the commisioners to “follow conscience” and “do the right thing.” Please. The commissioners must follow the law – the irony is that these folks would be the first to scream if the law were broken in any other way but to buy Bair Ranch!
The citizen board is necessary to set priorities for the expenditure of this money – that is the intention of the law that the taxpayers voted for, and that intention must be honored, no matter what the EVLT thinks.
4. Does anyone really believe that the county commissioners will allow a huge sprawling subdivision in Glenwood Canyon? The notion is absurd. Plus, someone has commented that the ranch cannot be used for development because of railroad easement rights. This needs to be researched at once.
If this land can’t be developed at all legally, there’s no reason to spend $2 million on it. There is some huge rush to make this decision now which seems suspect as the Bairs have waited years for this deal to
come through. Obviously it would benefit them greatly. Thus, they would be wise to wait a few more months so that the legal requirements of the taxpayer-funded Open Space Initiative can be complied with.
I am writing to urge everyone interested in the preservation of open space in our valley to contact the Eagle County commissioners and ask them to allocate partnership money to fund the purchase of a conservation easement and river access on the 4,800-acre Bair Ranch, which is located near the entrance to Glenwood Canyon west of Gypsum.
In my mind, the Bair Ranch is almost the perfect example of a place where open space should be preserved through county funding because it has almost every single attribute that Eagle County residents voted to approve in Ballot Referendum H last fall.
First off, the Bair Ranch is a working sheep ranch, and one of the largest agricultural operations in the county. The conservation easement that is being proposed would allow the ranch to continue in operation as a fully working ranch, but give the ranch owners enough cash to settle estate claims. If the county does not allocate funding, parts of the ranch will be sold for immediate subdivision, which will be especially disruptive, given that the ranch is surrounded by Forest Service and BLM land.-
Second, and equally important, the Bair Ranch is very large – 4,800 acres in total – and possesses absolutely magnificent wildlife habitat, including over 12 miles of river and stream frontage, wetlands and a sustaining environment for almost every wildlife species that is present in our county. In addition, three miles of land along the Colorado River will be opened to public use for fishing, boating and other water-oriented recreation. So it is hard to imagine many places in the county where so much public good can be accomplished in one transaction.
Lastly, the Bair Ranch project is one where a county contribution of only 40 percent of the purchase price will ensure that the transaction is completed. That is because the U.S. Congress, state of Colorado and private non-profit conservation groups, including the Eagle Valley Land Trust, have committed to raise the remaining 60 percent, approximately 40 percent of which is already in the bank.
In summary, the Bair Ranch project is a classic “win-win” for all concerned, and a prime example of how federal, state and local government and charitable organizations can work together to preserve al large slice of our natural environment intact.
All that is needed is for our county commissioners to approve the funding. We should all be writing or calling them to ask for their approval.
Citizens For Open Space
I am responding to an anonymous “Tipsline” which suggested there are “higher priorities” for county open space funding that the 7.5-square-mile Bair Ranch near Dotsero. As treasurer of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, which evaluates open space opportunities on a monthly basis, I know of no open space project under discussion at this time that would protect as much acreage, or significant fish and wildlife habitat, as the Bair Ranch purchase.
To begin with, the Bair Ranch is a 100-year-plus family ranching operation with deep roots in Eagle County. Each year it runs up to 6,000 head of sheep on the ranch and adjacent national forest and BLM land. It also has an outfitting, guiding and “dude ranching” operation which contributes economic diversity to our county.
Do we really want to lose yet another family owned and operated ranching and guiding business to subdivision and development? And see lights and sprawl over a vertical rise of 3,000 feet (not a misprint!) at the entrance to Glenwood Canyon?
The Bair Ranch is almost completely surrounded by Forest Service and BLM land. If it is subdivided, the fragmentation of wildlife habitat caused by houses, golf courses, access roads and attendant household pets (dogs and cats) will impact not just the ranch, but tens of thousands of acres of surrounding and intermingled public land spanning almost every ecologic zone of importance to fish and wildlife populations. That is not an exaggeration.
The very same attributes that caused the Bair Ranch to be home-steaded for ranching in the late 19th century (namely water, river and steam bottomlands, grazing pastures, and potential for irrigation) are the reason the ranch is so valuable for wildlife today – especially in the fall, winter and spring, when higher elevation land in the county is relatively unusable by most wildlife species.
The Tipsline caller said this project is about “giving money to Mr. Bair.” That’s ridiculous. The proposed conservation easement buys the development rights to the ranch so that it can never be subdivided and can be used only for ranching, hunting, fishing, recreational and wildlife purposes forever!
Are we not supposed to pay the rancher for buying his development rights? Whoever phoned in the Tipsline seems insensitive to that and to the fact that if we do not purchase the ranch, some or all of it will immediately be sold to settle family estate claims. Wake up, Mr. Tipsline, family farms and ranches are disappearing all over the nation because we acted too late!
It is true that there are many other potentially worthy open space projects in Eagle County. However, it has taken three years, and literally
thousands of hours of work by the Bair family, the non-profit Conservation Fund, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, Congressman Scott McInnis (who got funding from Congress for part of the purchase), the state of Colorado (another funding partner), the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Division of Wildlife and numerous others to put this deal together. In addition, tens of thousands of dollars have been spent by the above to secure the necessary wildlife studies, appraisals, option money and draft the legal documents to bring the project to completion.
In summary, large open space projects such as the Bair Ranch do not come along often. When they do, they are extremely difficult to put together, especially when partnership money from the federal and state government is involved. We have a chance to save the Bair Ranch for posterity, and to promote economic diversity in the county by helping perpetuate 100-year-plus working family ranch.
If we don’t do it, it will be a tremendous mistake.
Please call the Commissioners at 328-8605, or e-mail Chairman Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org, and urge funding for the Bair Ranch. Their public hearing is on July 29. Your input counts!
Tim Savage, the intensity of your personal attacks and highly insulting put-downs of others through the newspaper is disturbing. You really should get some counseling for this.
I thought Rachael Stroker wrote an excellent letter and she made some valid points. How much of her letter did you actually read? Apparently not much of it as you missed her point entirely. There was nothing self righteous about her letter, she simply requested a change of subject in the letters section of the Vail Daily.
She did not claim to own the newspaper, nor did she say that you could not have your opinions. She simply asked why you cared about Kate Church’s opinion so much. By the way, what exactly is your opinion? I have read three letters in the newspaper written by you in the past month or so, and it is difficult to encode your cryptic BS and work out exactly what it is you are trying to say. The only point you have clearly expressed is one of venomous racial hatred of foreigners and I for one am ashamed to have to consider you a fellow American. I do pity you, though.
Several of Andres’s closest friends got together to share some memories of him and here is what we came up with.
Andres “Chico” Hernandez will be missed a great deal. The world is truly at a loss today. He will always be remembered for his warm smile and ability to make the best of even the worst situation. Longtime friend and roommate Chad
Warren remembers him as follows. “Chico always had a smile on his face no matter what he was doing. In the six years that I knew him, I only saw him frown twice. He lived life to the fullest. He was a great person to be around and I will sorely miss him.”
When asked about his memories of Chico, Nick Klahr said, “He was the best friend a guy could have. He was always in your corner no matter what. He was always my rock to lean on when things got hard. I really miss him. He was fearless and lived every day like it was his last. He always told me you only live once. He didn’t know how right he was. He made a lasting impression on everyone he came in contact with. It’s like losing a brother.”
Joelyn DeHerrera wrote, “Chico had a unique soul. He had no individual network of friends. He was the social butterfly! Life means so much to him, and that’s why he meant so much to so many people. Love does not make the world go round, but it sure makes for an interesting ride. Chico definitely had an interesting ride, and he is loved by many.”
Heather Hatton: “Andres was always there for me through everything. He always told me I needed someone to watch out for me and that someone was him. I’m going to miss his smiling face, and all the great memories we shared. He was the best friend anyone could ask for.”
Walker Milhoan: “”You only live once!’ That was a phrase used by Chico probably 10 to 12 times a week. Chico never backed down, never was against trying something new, and always, always had a smile on his face. From the time I met him to the day he departed on his long journey, I don’t think there was a life he did not touch, including mine, immensely. He opened my mind to so many new and exciting experiences, traditions and a wonderful culture. I’ll never forget the time Chico and I cooked up some rice in his basement. Rice was the only food we could find and Dave’s Insanity Hot Sauce was the only sauce we could find. I remember reading the warning after Chico and I had already turned the rice completely brown with the stuff, and both of us had eaten about half of the pot. The warning read in bold letters: ADD ONLY ONE DROP PER POT OF CHILI. Well, Chico could eat some pretty hot stuff, and I thought I could. But as it turned out, Chico and I probably lost about three gallons of sweat each, and neither of us could eat for about two days, our mouths were so numb.”
I wish I could say more. I could fill half the Vail Daily with my thoughts for Chico. So I will end it with this. Chico: you are one of the best friends a person could ever have, one of the best brothers, best sons and one of my greatest inspirations. I’ll always love you, man, and you did live one hell of a life. Good bye. As my brother, as my friend, I love you.
Questions about water
I have three questions regarding water in Colorado:
First, what is the goal of water conservation in Colorado? Secondly, is there a plan, a vision, or any discussion and cooperation within Colorado for a solution to water shortages? Thirdly, if there is a water shortage, or even a problem, or an enemy, what or who is it?
1) Is the goal of water conservation and water distribution in Colorado to have unending lawns and landscaping throughout suburbia, with green golf courses, highway median strips, lawns in front of government buildings and schools? Should we be allowing farmers to continue to push water often outdated and inefficient irrigation systems? Our pristine vision of Colorado, now a little tainted, is of singing streams and rivers, clean water, the sounds of nature and abundant wildlife.
Our water sources are puny compared to, say, Washington state with its glaciers, Kauai with its rainy canyons, or Maine with its rivers and lakes. Yet Coloradoans use more water per person than any of these places.
Ours is, overall, a semi-arid climate, and we ought to learn to live within it. Are we living within our water means? So what is the goal of conservation in Colorado? I do not believe that we have one, but we should start searching for it.
2) When towns and cities implement water conservation at different times, then lift watering restrictions at different times, this shows an utter lack of cooperation, mutual concern, and vision. It shows greed, wastefulness, and an “every-man-for-himself” attitude.
At the present time, Dillon, Green Mountain, and Granby Reservoirs, and many others here on the Western Slope are still low, yet many Front Range cities have eased up on watering restrictions. How sincere are we about ending the drought?
Though several parts of the state have had impressive precipitation lately, and a good deal of voluntary conservation has occurred, our reservoirs are still very low and not projected to fill to anywhere near capacity this year. Too many in the media seem to be congratulating Coloradoans by comparing this year’s reservoir levels with last year’s pathetically low water. This comparison is not much to brag about. Last summer’s slow response to the initiation of water conservation exposes a certain lack of expertise among our experts. Our leaders are not necessarily leading. Alas, we are still in a drought. Normal precipitation, or even above average precipitation along with continued growth, will ultimately result in a sustained water deficit.
Our actual repugnance is not reserved just for the development in in-state jealousies and animosities against people, but is especially sharp against the wildlife, people and economies of neighboring states. For example, the South Platte River in Nebraska, which is so depleted here in Colorado, can barely support a fraction of the sandhill cranes it once did. We lecture Third World Mexico to plant crops to feed itself, yet two rivers that start here and ultimately flow to Mexico, the Grande and the Colorado, are horribly wasted right here.
Colorado’s geographical situation is such that the majority of our rivers begin high in our mountains, flow through our valleys and across the Great Plains, then leave our state for the surrounding states, which, invariably, have a lower elevation. These are: Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming. States beyond these immediate neighbors and also heavily affected by how Colorado uses water are California, Nevada, and Texas, plus Mexico.
Although these places also waste water, is it wise of Colorado to simply ignore the legitimate needs of so many others? In this connection, the proposal and concept of “The Big Straw,”‘ to be a reverse-flow pipeline on the Colorado River on the Utah line, is certainly the most selfish and ungodly proposal in America today, surely to cause Colorado to deserve a good artillery pummeling from a justified alliance of downstream states!
Evidently, as far as water goes, we have a free for all in Colorado. Good politicians would insist upon slow and wise growth, coupled with an acceptance of our very small supply of water.
3) So who is to blame for our water problems as of late? All of us. We often worry about foreign terrorists coming here and doing dirty deeds that will harm us. My advice to them is to stay at home and relax, as we are doing a fine job of destroying our water supply ourselves. Yes, watering a lawn is terrorism. Recently it was said to me, “We need as many new dams as possible, and bigger ones, and we need them as soon as possible.” The weak point of this suggestion is that we already have a huge number of dams, diversion ditches, trans-basin tunnels, water pacts and so forth, and they are managed abysmally. How would more of the same improve our situation? Perhaps we have never had a water shortage, even during the worst of last summer’s drought; we simply have not been living within our watery means.
A water ethic is needed in Colorado. No matter how rich a person or business or city is, or how badly that they want water for non-essentials, they must realize that it is morally wrong for them to have it, and they will not have it.
We must keep water in the streams and rivers, lakes and wetlands, for the health of nature depends upon it, and our own health is never really better than nature’s.
Thomas R. Gagnon