Letters to the editor
In what way is a ranch considered a conservation easement? The people at Bair Ranch seem to think so. Is it because priceless water is wasted on fields for ranching in an area where ranching and other forms of agriculture should not be implemented due to the lack of sufficient rainfall? Perhaps it is to protect the erosion caused by ranching? Should we also make urban ghettos conservation easements so that they will not be “developed”?
Would it make more sense to put a conservation easement on untouched lands so that they may remain untouched, rather than protecting land that has in fact already been developed and destroyed?
This was done two years ago with the purchase of land for Sylvan Lake State Park, which is south of Eagle. I do not want my tax money to go to protect land that has been destroyed.
I would much rather see it go to land that has been untouched and has the possibility of future development such as already occurred on Bair Ranch. There is no difference between developing land by creating a ranch or creating a neighborhood. These threats of selling land to developers by the Bair Ranch owners should not be conceded to by the county or its taxpayers. This country does not need more ranchers on welfare. If a business cannot survive on its own, it should not survive.
If taxpayer money is going to be spent on a conservation easement, it should protect untouched land for future generations and for the good of the environment.
The money should not be used for ranching welfare so that in other words we are paying to aid ranchers in the destruction of our land.
Lots of support
“We can shape the future by learning the lessons of the past.” These are the words of Gov. Bill Owens, quoted in a recent op-ed piece by Commissioner Tom Stone.
How true they are and how timely, given the opportunity now afforded to our commissioners to help protect permanently 4,800-plus acres of land as open space.
Placing a conservation easement on Golden Bair Ranch is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help preserve this region’s ranching heritage, to protect important wildlife habitat, to conserve scenic vistas that “wow” locals and visitors alike, and to enhance the appeal of this region as a tourist destination. Put ridgeline development on the hills overlooking I-70 and another gated community and golf course at the Ranch entrance and we lose even more of what attracted many of us to this region in the first place.
The merits of the project have already been endorsed by the Eagle County commissioners. In August 2002 in their letter of support for this project to Great Outdoors Colorado, they stated, “The Bair Ranch possesses open space, wildlife, agricultural, scenic and natural resource values in the Glenwood Canyon corridor. Protection of the ranch with a conservation easement is a wise solution to protecting these many resource values and eliminating the possibility of development. We are pleased to see the project being done on a willing seller basis, and with an end result which keeps the ranch in private ownership.”
Likewise, the federal government has supported the project with a $1.5 million allocation. When it was clear that President Bush’s budget included funds for the Golden Bair Ranch, Rep. Scott McInnis said an a press release “I’m delighted by the administration’s clear statement of support to preserve Colorado’s important conservation efforts. The items earmarked for Colorado clearly deserve these dollars and I will do everything I can to preserve these places for Colorado’s future generations.”
Additionally, the state of Colorado has earmarked $400,000 for the project with Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funds. This large grant sends a clear message about the importance of this project compared to dozens of other conservation efforts across the state.
If the federal government supports this project, if the state supports this project, and if the Eagle County commissioners SAY they support this project, I am baffled as to why it has become such an issue.
Nearly 70 percent of Golden Bair Ranch is located in Eagle County, including 512 acres at the confluence of the Eagle and Colorado rivers, which will be open for public recreation and provide direct access to BLM land. The $2 million represents less than 40 percent of the total cost! Even if the Colorado River portion was the ONLY acreage under consideration, we would be gaining access to BLM and nearly three miles of Colorado River access for less than $4,000 an acre – this in a county where prices can easily reach $70,000 per acre! But the fact is, we are gaining not only the 512 acres, but more than 3,300 acres located in Eagle County – $600 an acre!
The preservation of Golden Bair Ranch truly affords the Eagle County commissioners the opportunity to “shape the future by learning the lessons of our past.” To deny funding to preserve FOREVER nearly 5,000 acres will pave the way for potential development that will serve as a reminder for generations to come that this generation had little regard for the beauty of our environment and the fragility of our natural resources – we “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”