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What’s next for Eagle Co.’s big open space buy?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

BURNS, Colorado ” The Gates family received a $2.1 million contribution from Eagle County to preserve their 740-acre ranch, but more money still needs to be raised, George “Bud” Gates said.

The Gates have applied for a grant of $600,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado, and $300,000 still needs to be raised, said Cindy Cohagen, president of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

The Gates will also contribute $400,000. The money goes toward a deal to secure a conservation easement, a legal tool that will ensure the land remains open space forever. The family will give up any development rights to the land in exchange, allowing Bud Gates to settle his estate and allowing his two sons, Doug and Kip, to continue ranching.

They have completed one of the hardest parts ” securing the deal with the county, Bud Gates said, but they still need to raise the money for the rest of the cost.

“It’s not been completely approved by (Great Outdoors Colorado), so the deal isn’t set in concrete,” he said.

The hearing for the grant from Great Outdoors Colorado is Dec. 3, and the rest of the money will come from individual donors.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust hopes to have the money raised by the end of the year, Cohagen said.

The money from the land deal ” $3.4 million total ” will ultimately go to the Gates, said Cohagen.

Bud Gates’ son, Doug, will probably use the money to buy another ranch for himself.

“The ranch isn’t big enough for two boys to operate,” Bud Gates said. “But both want to stay in ranching.”

The land deal is not a guarantee that the family will be able to stay on the land forever, only that the land will stay ranch land forever, Cohagen said.

“The purpose of the open space land fund is to preserve the land, not to save families,” she said in response to critics who called the deal “cowboy welfare.”

But the deal will certainly help. The Gates also benefit from state and federal tax advantages for their donation, county planners said.

The family will receive a tax credit of 50 percent of the value of the donated land. For example, since the family made a $400,000 donation, they will receive $200,000 in state income tax credits, Cohagen said.

The family would also be eligible for a federal income tax deduction equal to the value of the donation.

By removing the land’s development potential, the land’s market value is lowered, which in turn lowers the estate tax, helping the Gates heirs to keep the land intact, county reports said.

The family had been trying to figure out a way to preserve the land, which has been in the Gates family for five generations, and this was the best way to do it, Bud Gates said.

“You go through all the hoops and hollers and answering the people who are opposed to it,” he said. “So we’re pretty happy about that. Now we gotta keep going forward.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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