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Click to view letters from the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce, the Gunnison County Board of County Commissioners, the City of Gunnison, the Delta County Board of Commissioners, and the National Parks Conservation Association

Please select each title below to read community letters supporting the Bear Ranch Land Exchange.


Letters to the Editor - Steve Stewart, Grand Junction

Letters to the Editor
Steve Stewart, Grand Junction
Mountain Valley News
January 30, 2013

Dear Editor:

As an avid hunter and outdoorsman in Western Colorado, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Outdoors Alive, Inc. this past year and it was an experience that I won’t soon forget.

Outdoors Alive, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that focuses on creating outdoor recreation opportunities for everyone, from youth and women, to veterans and wounded warriors.

This year Outdoors Alive, Inc. hosted the first annual Brothers in Arms Hunting Camp at Buck Creek Ranch at the base of the Ragged Mountains.

The Bear Ranch deserves huge thanks for everything they provide to this experience.

I also would like to thank Commander and Company Outfitting, Rain for Rent, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The Foreign Aid, Wiggys Inc, Batteries Plus, Sportsman’s Warehouse, TK Mining, Cabela’s Boise Cascade, Callaways, Davis Tent, LDS Consulting, Alliance energy Services, the VFW and American Legion and many others, including all the volunteers who worked as guides, cooks and wranglers.

The first annual program was very rewarding. In addition, it offered a tremendous opportunity for both disabled and able-bodied veterans to hunt in a beautiful part of Colorado, in a way that many of them would not have had otherwise and I feel very lucky to have shared this experience with such incredible individuals.

Planning is already underway with Outdoors Alive, the Bear Ranch, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others on next year’s camp and I am excited to say that we will continue to serve those who have served their country with the 2013 Brothers in Arms Hunting Camp at Buck Creek Ranch.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support this program and programs like it.


Letters to the Editor - Terry Commander, Somerset

Letters to the Editor
Terry Commander, Somerset
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
January 25, 2013

Hunting camp restores dignity to many veterans

Over the past several years, Outdoors Alive, Inc. has been working on promoting safe enjoyment of outdoors recreation with an emphasis on reaching youth, women, military families, veterans and wounded warriors. With the establishment of the Brothers in Arms – Buck Creek Ranch Hunting Camp this past year, we celebrated our greatest accomplishment to date.

Thanks to major sponsors like Bear Ranch, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Commander and Company Outfitting Services, we were able to provide nine hunts through a Wounded Warrior program for able-bodied and disabled veterans.

Programs such as this go further to create opportunities for outdoor recreation than many of us can imagine. They help us say thank you and even help to restore dignity to men and women who so rightly deserve it.

We are already starting to work with Bear Ranch and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation on next year’s camp and want to thank all of our other generous supporters. (There just isn’t room enough to mention them all in this letter.) If you would like to join them in helping us with this project, our upcoming banquet or find out more information, please call Terry at (970) 929-6202.

Thank you for your help and support.


Letters to the Editor - LeRoy Nelson, Cedaredge

Letters to the Editor
LeRoy Nelson, Cedaredge
Mountain Valley News
September 12, 2012

Recently, a friend and I took advantage of one of the Bear Ranch Land Exchange tours being offered to the public of the new proposed trails and trailhead at what is now called the Buck Creek Ranch. The gentlemen who gave us the tour were very friendly and I was impressed at how open they were to answering all of our questions.

Most people are aware that the two ways that 99 percent of people access the Ragged Mountain Trail do so either at McClure Pass on Highway 133 or at Forest Service Road 795 by the Erickson Springs Camp Ground off of Kebler Pass. Both offer great views and access to a beautiful trail, but for someone of my age the trail is far too long to bike or hike from one end to the other. Thankfully, the proposed access off of Buck Creek Ranch will make it possible for my wife and I to enjoy the beauty of this area in a much more convenient way.

To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about the exchange except for what I read in the paper and heard in conversations, but I felt that before I made up my mind, I should see for myself what it is all about, and I am very glad I did.

The new proposed trails and trailhead offer magnificent views of the Ragged Mountains all the way up to the actual Ragged Mountain Trail itself. And because of improved access directly off of Highway 133 I am sure that many more people will be able to appreciate the beauty of this area first-hand.

After taking the time to see what’s being offered in the exchange, I am in full support of it.


Land swap creates exciting opportunities - John Grimsley, Grand Junction

Land swap creates exciting opportunities
John Grimsley, Grand Junction
Delta County Independent
March 14, 2012

Dear Editor:

I am very excited about what the general public, especially in western Colorado, stands to gain from the proposed Bear Ranch land exchange.

My family and I love riding our ATVs recreationally all over Colorado and Utah, but I have to admit that I have never ridden the Ragged Mountain Trail.

After seeing several stories and letters to the editor about the area and the land exchange, and hearing about these beautiful trails I decided to look into it for myself.

From what I have come to understand the current trail at Spring Creek is not often utilized because the access is difficult to locate and extremely dangerous. This other trail I keep hearing about is also apparently difficult to access, has no actual trailhead and does not allow for any motorized users. So when I read about Bear Ranch’s proposal to build and pay for a new trail and trailhead that will allow everyone from mountain bikers to hikers and ATV users to access the Ragged Mountain Trail via Spring Creek I was very excited.

From what I have read the taxpayers are getting a great deal as well with the lands that are being traded in Gunnison and Uintah counties, but I am most excited for the new opportunities right in my back yard.

The North Fork Valley is a beautiful area and the idea of being able to make a day trip out of exploring this new trail and then stopping off in Paonia for pizza and a micro beer is exactly why I love living in western Colorado.


Energy development is necessary - Larry M. Head, Hotchkiss

Energy development is necessary
Larry M. Head, Hotchkiss
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Mr. Koch and I have similar interests. We are both private property owners. Granted, he may own thousands of acres compared to my few, but we both have the same rights. If I wanted to conduct a legal activity on my private property, of what concern is it to others? Does Mr. Koch not have the right to enjoy his hobby as others have with done with their property?

There are various and assorted ghost towns, museums, antique malls, etc. in the area, all conducting a legitimate business. If Mr. Koch wants to put his historical collection on display for his personal enjoyment, more power to him. And besides, will that not provide additional local revenue via workers salaries? Ed Marston and others of his ilk enjoy their private property rights, but continue to protest, through various agendas, the right of others to do the same. Certain business people are engaged in productive ventures but scream like mashed cats if somebody else wants to do the same, referring to the egg farms proposed in the Hotchkiss area.

Mr. Marston and others do not want to see any energy development. But I bet he would be in line to be one of the first to call the local utility if his gas or power was cut off for any reason. There are continued cries by both the organic and non-organic farmers of what will happen to the environment if there is increased energy production. There are more than ample regulations already in place to protect the environment.

I would like for some economist to conduct a cost comparison between the economics of the energy industry and the agricultural industry as to which one provides for the financial well being of the North Fork. Yes, agriculture is the historical provider for our rural way of life, but if you think there are empty business buildings now, take the energy industry out of the area and see what happens. Grape growers are not going to pay the way.


Resident is for land swap - Mary Kay Tennison, Somerset

Resident is for land swap
Mary Kay Tennison, Somerset
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

My name is Kay Tennison and I am the former owner of Crystal Meadows Ranch. I would like to respond to Ed Marston’s editorial comments in his letter of Nov. 21 in regards to Crystal Meadows Cafe and Resort.

First, I never considered my restaurant a cafe. It was a resort. What this business has to do with the ensuing discussions on the proposed land exchange by the Bear Ranch is beyond my comprehension.

Since Mr. Marston brought up the subject, I would like to respond. The property was on and off the market from 1999 on. I sold the property. I never sold my CMR business. I knew it would be closed to the public and I went to great lengths to inform my clients. It was my business, my property and my decision. I still live on CR#12 and have been there ever since 1987 — nearly 25 years. The area is not less attractive. There have been many improvements and I, for one, and the neighbors,take great pride in CR #12.

I’ve written to the editor previously and I still support the land exchange to Bear Ranch. I believe this land exchange is good for Gunnison County, Delta Count, and for all of us who use public lands. Mr. Koch has given support to our local communities and activities. Let me name a few: assistance to the local Fire Protection Districts, Paonia Library Campaign, Outdoors Alive, Inc., an ambulance to Delta County, and the annual Cherry Day’s Parade activities.

Mr. Marston wrote: “At this point, this proposed exchange is so damaged, and so little in the broad public interest, that it should be abandoned.” Perhaps, Mr. Marston might want to abandon his attacks on Mr. Koch and Bear Ranch. What does the new road, the new construction, and the warehouses in Paonia have to do with the exchange? And I am sure that “CMR” has nothing to do with it. Change is a part of life. Nothing is forever; let’s keep moving forward.


Land exchange good for Bear Ranch and neighboring communities - Rob Gill, manager at Bear Ranch

Land exchange good for Bear Ranch and neighboring communities
Rob Gill, manager at Bear Ranch
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Over the last few years, we at the Bear Ranch near Paonia Reservoir have endeavored to build a world-class cattle operation and are pleased with our results to date. The ranch employs about 50 people and we currently run more than 2,000 premium beef cattle and 100 longhorns on our properties in the North Fork Valley and Texas.

We have worked hard to be good stewards of our lands and the federal lands we lease. On our ranch, we have put in place a 30-year vegetation management plan to restore natural conditions, improve habitat for wildlife and control noxious weeds.

We’ve treated bark beetle infestations and worked to improve cutthroat trout populations.

Like any ranching operation, we have land management issues. One of our biggest impediments is that a narrow strip of Bureau of Land Management property divides the ranch. This BLM strip makes it difficult for us to manage our herds, control noxious weeds and prevent trespassing and poaching.

We certainly aren’t the only cattle ranch in Colorado that has these issues, but we think we have come up with a solution that will help us better manage our operations and produce a host of benefits for the public.

That’s why we have proposed a land exchange.

In exchange for the BLM strip and several other remote and little-used parcels adjacent to the ranch, Bear Ranch will convey two valuable parcels to the National Park Service and construct trail facilities that greatly improve access and recreational amenities in the North Fork Valley.

Our first step in developing this proposal was to meet with federal agency staff to discover what their highest priorities were for land acquisition.

Two parcels quickly rose to the top for the Park Service: the Sapinero Mesa property adjacent to Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Orchid Draw property inside Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.

Sapinero Mesa is a 911-acre property that offers spectacular views of the iconic Dillon Pinnacles across Blue Mesa Reservoir. Elk, deer and Gunnison sage grouse call this land home. This property is currently zoned for five luxury home sites. Conveying it to the Park Service would protect it from future development. In addition, the National Park Service has expressed an interest in building a new visitor center on a small portion of the property along U.S. Highway 50.

The Orchid Draw parcel is also a high acquisition priority for the Park Service. Orchid Draw is an 80-acre island of private property inside Dinosaur National Monument. Inclusion of Orchid Draw in the monument will protect the property’s valuable ecological and paleontological resources, including prehistoric fossils.

Some folks have asked why we chose these two parcels: The simple answer is that these parcels were identified by federal agency staff as having high conservation and recreation values — parcels that would be an excellent addition to the public domain.

One opponent of our proposal, Ed Marston, has told other media that he might not oppose us if we were willing to replace these properties with another one owned by one of his friends.

But we don’t do business that way.

Because these lands are in two states and involve multiple federal agencies, this exchange can only be approved by federal legislation. It also requires that formal appraisals be done to ensure that the lands the government is receiving are worth at least as much as the lands that Bear Ranch is receiving.

After meeting with the agencies, we then held dozens of meetings with public-lands user groups, conservation organizations, local government entities and others to find out what their priorities were for recreation in the North Fork Valley.

From those discussions we have produced a plan that will greatly improve public access to the Ragged Mountain Trail for both motorized and non-motorized user groups. We will build new trailheads, new trails, and offer permanent public access across the Buck Creek Ranch north of Paonia Reservoir, and offer a trail easement on the southern portion of Bear Ranch to connect the whole trail system to the Town of Paonia. In addition, we will build a trailhead and convey permanent public access to the extensive road and trail network on the Jumbo Mountain area near Paonia.

These new recreational amenities will be of great benefit to local residents and also allow the town and Delta County to offer destination hiking and mountain biking experiences to draw in tourists and their dollars.

Several groups and government entities have publicly supported the exchange, including the Gunnison County Trails Commission and the Gunnison County commissioners.

There is a small group of critics who have focused their attention on a series of historic western buildings being relocated on a portion of the existing ranch, including the site of Bill Koch’s future home.

Fact is, this construction is occurring on less than 20 acres of the existing ranch and has nothing to do with the proposed exchange.

We will continue to visit with neighbors, user groups, stakeholders and other interested parties to refine this proposal and make sure that folks who actually use these lands are satisfied with the final arrangement.

To learn more, please visit our website at www.bearranchlandexchange.com.

Rob Gill is the manager at Bear Ranch in Gunnison County. His education and professional experience are in biology and hydrology. Prior to working in the private sector, he spent his early career working for the U.S. Forest Service as a fisheries and watershed management specialist.


Why is the land exchange such a hot topic? - Vic Ullrey, Paonia

Why is the land exchange such a hot topic?
Vic Ullrey, Paonia
Delta County Independent
December 14, 2011

Dear Editor:

On Nov. 30 a letter from Tony Prendergast was printed in the letters to the editor. With due respect to Tony there are some statements that need to be addressed. I have monitored and worked on the trails and recreation opportunities in that area for 15-20 years and find some of what he wrote to be misleading or in error.

The proposed reroute of the ATV trail at the Spring Creek Trailhead is very much in the public interest. People trained in engineering and experienced in laying out trails have looked at it and say it is impractical to reroute the trail in the steep confines of the BLM at that point. I have talked to people who refuse to attempt riding that portion of the trail. It can be a bit scary for some and I don’t consider it safe for general use.

Also consider the present access to the Jumbo Mountain area. The owners of the present access seem to be willing to let the public cross their land but owners and attitudes can change quickly. Bear Ranch offers a guaranteed access.

I am a lifelong resident of the Paonia area, love the mountains and have spent time there every chance I’ve had for the last 60 years. I don’t like to see an access closed off but in this case it is in the greater public interest. The access in question is only one of four access points to the forest in that area. Yes, it provides an easier route but once on the national forest there is no forest maintained trail to connect the hiker or equestrian to the forest trail system. What you find are ditch easements and unmaintained “cowboy” trails. Also with easy access to an area comes a corresponding degradation in the quality of hunting, fishing, and opportunities for solitude.

Tony states that once hunting season starts the elk will move onto the enlarged Bear Ranch. Sorry, that has already been happening for a long time. Somewhere around 1995 I was on what is now the Bear Ranch with the previous landowner during hunting season. I saw between 300-500 elk that day and I’m told that is generally the case. Adding the BLM land to the Bear Ranch holdings is unlikely to change that well-established elk migration pattern.

There are other things that I could comment on but in the interest of brevity I will close with a recurring thought of mine. Could the real issue concerning the land exchange be something other than the present BLM access? I noticed that Tony’s letter began by calling attention to Bill Koch as being “amongst the top tier of wealthy Americans” and he later mentioned “Koch and his congressional hunting buddies.”

At Congressman Scott Tipton’s town meeting in Paonia on Nov. 19 one of the leading and more vocal opponents of the land exchange, Ed Marston, told the Congressman that the “rich” were his enemy. Those of you who were at the town meeting witnessed that. Why has a previously little known and little used access to the national forest suddenly become such a big deal? I wonder. Maybe, just maybe, could it really be about class envy?

 


Bear Ranch is a good neighbor - Joe Zanin, Aspen, North Fork, Land Owner

Bear Ranch is a good neighbor
Joe Zanin, Aspen, North Fork, Land Owner
Delta County Independent
December 14, 2011

Dear Editor:

I feel compelled to write this letter in defense and support of my neighbor the Bear Ranch who has seemed to become the target of some very inaccurate criticisms because of their request to improve their ranch management operations through a legal, public land exchange with the federal government.

I read the letter to the editor by Tony Prendergast expressing his opinions about the proposed land exchange and I think he has obviously been away from the Forest Service far too long. Bear Ranch is a good neighbor and in fact has a long-term wildlife restoration plan. Bear Ranch doesn’t try to publicly claim credit for their conservation efforts, but they have replanted numerous native plant species and worked hard to improve habitat for the local elk herd. The cooperation between Bear Ranch and the USFS to install fish gates for cut-throat trout has given local fisherman many reasons to say thanks. Moreover, it is clear Mr. Prendergast has not been up Deep Creek in the summer because that creek is dry as a bone most of the time, and is not capable of supporting fish populations.

Other detractors to Bear Ranch’s proposed land exchange are Doug Gill and Ed Marston. Both have argued “for the public” so they will not lose access through the strip of BLM in question to the supposed “Deep Creek Trail.” Well, here are the facts about this road, to the trail, that doesn’t officially exist. I purchased the ranch above the Bear Ranch in 1999. The previous owner of the Bear Ranch (before Mr. Koch) only used the ranch in the summer, because the BLM strip and road from the Paonia Reservoir to the picnic area are impassable in wet weather. Not difficult to drive mind you, but completely impossible to use. I graveled the road and cleaned out the ditches and culverts at my own expense.

When Mr. Koch bought the Bear Ranch they made several additional improvements, including a guard rail. If it were not for Bear Ranch, which spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain County Road 2, there would be no access to the BLM road. In addition, while they do not maintain the roads, I (as I am sure the Bear Ranch and other land owners in the area) have to pay a “right of way” rental fee to the BLM annually. They will not waive this fee, so I would be happy to share this expense with Mr. Marston and Mr. Gill. I have been told that Mr. Marston told the Gunnison County Commissioners (Trail Committee) that if not for his “rabble rousing,” there would be very little traffic up the BLM road. Well, I am here to say that if not for the Bear Ranch and myself, there would be no road to “rabble rouse” about!

Finally, no matter what attempts are made to play the class warfare card, this proposed exchange really comes down to a ranch trying to improve their management practices and protect their private property rights, while making several offerings that will benefit federal agencies and the public in several counties and two states. Ronald Reagan once said, “…facts are funny things.” Mr. Prendergast’s alliance with Doug Gill, Tom Chapman, Ed Marston, and his merry band of naysayers has blinded him to the facts.

 


Bear Ranch adds some honey to exchange deal - Bob Cox, Mountain Valley News staff

Bear Ranch adds some honey to exchange deal
Bob Cox, Mountain Valley News staff
Mountain Valley News
October 19, 2011

Last year then congressman John Salazar sponsored a bill, which would have resulted in a land exchange that was designed to combine two pieces of the Bear Ranch into one larger piece. Currently, a small strip of land controlled by the BLM divides the land.

The exchange was complicated. It involved land in Delta and Gunnison Counties and both Colorado and Utah. It involved almost every federal agency that has any interest in land use and acquisition. The proposal was shoved to the back burner after Salazar was defeated in the 2010 election and local residents began voicing their concerns over everything from public access to transparency.

Bear Ranch owner Bill Koch is not ready to give up. Earlier this year Koch authorized Tom Glass to pursue the purchase of the Buck Creek Ranch, along with a piece of property near Paonia that would allow expanded access to the public lands on Jumbo Mountain.

Glass, who is the founder of Western Land Group, and represents Bear Ranch, said that he has realized the original plan, while meeting all the technical requirements, failed to adequately address the concerns of the people of the North Fork Valley. “We really did not have enough in it for the North Fork Valley,” Glass said, while conducting a tour for local media of the Buck Creek Ranch.

He says that has now changed. Koch now has the 811-acre Buck Creek Ranch under contract and Glass says that, at a minimum, there will be a significant portion of the ranch converted to public lands, giving both motorized and non-motorized access to the Ragged Mountain Trail.

Glass says several other groups have toured the Buck Creek property and have all been very positive. He has also presented the new proposal to the Gunnison County Commissioners and has asked for their support. They voted on Sept. 6, to support the proposal. To further enhance the proposal, Bear Ranch has contracted to buy 20 acres east of Paonia to give access to Jumbo Mountain. The current access requires crossing a very small piece of private land, which limits access to the point of being inconvenient for many users.

One Paonia businessman said that, while he was initially opposed to the proposal, he has looked at the new proposal and sees only a win-win situation. He asked not to be identified, saying, “I think a lot more people will use this trail than ever used that trail up Deep Creek.” He also said that there were probably still a certain number of people that opposed the whole thing, and that some of those people may well be his acquaintances and customers. For those reasons, he chose to ask that his name not be used.

Both the Paonia businessman and Glass credited the concerned citizens for giving him the incentive to try other options. He says he is certain the new proposal is a good one.

“This (Buck Creek) is a great piece of property. No other property could give us the opportunities we have with this one,” Glass said. Under the proposal, which is labeled, The Central Rockies Land Exchange, the U.S. Government and the public, in general will receive the following:

-The U.S. Park Service acquires a 911-acre Sapinero Mesa parcel on the south side of Blue Mesa Reservoir.

-The Parks Service also acquires an 80-acre Orchid Draw parcel in Utah for addition to Dinosaur National Monument.

-The U.S. Forest Service acquires 0.42-acre Lily Lake trailhead near Marble to provide new public access into the S and SW side of Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

-Under a separate deal from the exchange, Bear Ranch will convey a 300-foot right-of-way to Gunnison County along County Road 12 for a potential future road bike path from Erickson Springs to Paonia Dam.

The new proposal also includes:

-The Forest Service and BLM will get a new motorized and non-motorized trailhead and access to Ragged Mountain Trail, and re-route of the Spring Creek ATV trail through the Buck Creek Ranch

-BLM will receive 20 acres three miles east of Paonia, providing permanent public access to Jumbo Mountain.

-Bear Ranch will fund the forest service study, design and construction of a non-motorized trail to parallel the Ragged Mountain Trail between Spring Creek and Forest Road 795, as recommended by the Gunnison County Trails Commission for the Crested Butte to Carbondale Trail.

Under federal land exchange laws the lands exchanged must be of equal value and enhance federal land management objectives. In return for the above-mentioned transfer, Bear Ranch receives approximately 1,843 acres of BLM and three acres of forest land that is intermingled with, or adjacent to, the Bear Ranch. Bear Ranch will place all but three acres under a permanent conservation. The U.S. retains all underlying minerals. The existing road on the main BLM land strip will remain open to non-motorized use until the Buck Creek trailhead and the Ragged Mountain parallel trail are completed and open. In addition, Darien Ranch acquires a permanent right-of-way along Rapid Creek near Marble for a small hydroelectric project intake and pipeline.

 


Letter to the Editor - Terry Landoll, Hotchkiss

Letter to the Editor
Terry Landoll, Hotchkiss
Mountain Valley News
November 2, 2011

Dear Editor:

This land exchange that Bear Ranch is working on makes sense to me. I’m glad to see that they’ve added some new access points and lands to improve recreation opportunities in Delta County.

We’ve never had great access to the Ragged Mountain Trail and it looks like the exchange will fix that. By adding new facilities and trails at Buck Creek Ranch (even just a parking lot would be an improvement) more folks will be able to get into the high country and enjoy the scenery.

In addition, I’m not a big mountain biker, but I do know that the Jumbo Mountain area is a place where local mountain bikers like to ride. With better access and facilities there the North Fork Valley should be able to draw more tourists and out-of-town bikers in to spend some time in Paonia and the surrounding communities—and that will be good for the economy.

Moving this exchange forward is a good idea for Delta County.

 


Good neighbors - Randy Sunderland

Good neighbors
Randy Sunderland
Delta County Independent
November 2, 2011

Robert Frost, in his poem, “Mending Walls,” artfully shaped the question of good neighbors. In Delta County, the debate is less peaceful.

The central characters are Bill Koch and Ed Marston, with plenty of other neighbors weighing in.

Marston left the crowded and well developed East years ago to build a career around writing and championing the value of the wide-open spaces and abundant public lands of the West.

Koch’s corporate holdings include energy companies such as Oxbow Mining and Gunnison Energy, along with Bear Ranch near Paonia Reservoir in Gunnison County.

The two now find themselves neighbors. Bear Ranch has long been a working ranch, and is also being expanded into an exclusive, private getaway. When a proposed land swap between the federal government and Bear Ranch was announced, Marston railed that the public’s interest was being shortchanged . . . and in his own back yard!

The initial land swap proposed an exchange of some 1,800 acres of federal land near Kebler Pass Road for around 911 acres near the Curecanti National Recreation Area near Blue Mesa Reservoir and 80 acres within Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. The exchange was introduced in legislation by Rep. John Salazar and was later withdrawn, buying time for locals to rally folks to their cause.

Frustrated by the lack of knowledge — and interest — by his neighbors in Delta County, Marston and others are campaigning to build support for their position. And thus a battle of wills is playing out between two “neighbors” adept at the game of public opinion.

Bear Ranch responded to criticisms by improving public access points to public land, enhancing opportunities for regional trails between Crested Butte and Carbondale, and sweetening the deal by adding access to Jumbo Mountain in Delta County. A small fortune has been spent in design and land acquisition, as well as an advertising campaign to build awareness of the jobs and other positive contributions to the neighborhood. Ranch managers have organized tours for select groups, showing them the land in question and the improvements being offered. In other words, they are working hard to make this a win-win situation.

The opposition has also organized tours in an attempt to show what they believe is being lost. They’ve also reached into their bag of tricks in attempts to discredit Bear Ranch. Last winter a Paonia couple crossed two closed gates to go snowshoeing. After pleading guilty to trespass, they turned to the media to discredit Bear Ranch. With claims of missing signs — refuted by Bear Ranch manager Rob Gill — the couple accused Bear Ranch as being unneighborly for enforcing their private property rights.

While this drama is simmering, another pot has been put on to brew as efforts ramp up to develop a new mine on Oak Mesa near Hotchkiss. It’s flash point between reasonable energy development and environmental groups, so expect plenty of unfriendly battles to erupt.

People can’t pick who their neighbors are. They can only hope they turn out to be good. Judging by their actions so far, I believe the folks at Bear Ranch, Gunnison Energy and Oxbow Mining are trying hard to be good neighbors.

 


Land swap is a good deal - Peter Blake, Environmental Excavation, Hotchkiss

Land swap is a good deal
Peter Blake, Environmental Excavation, Hotchkiss
Delta County Independent
November 16, 2011

Dear Editor:

Thank you for your coverage of the Central Rockies Land Exchange proposed by Bear Ranch. I think that it is important for people to try and find out as much as they can about this issue, since there is much misinformation circulating about it.

Personally, I feel that with the parcels at Sapinero Mesa, the Lily Lake Trailhead and in Dinosaur National Monument, as well as the additions of trails and trailheads at Buck Creek Ranch and Jumbo Mountain, the public is getting a better deal than the Bear Ranch, but I am not going to complain about it. I have recently been up the BLM strip that cuts Bear Ranch into two pieces and I am confident the lands and access that the government and the public are getting in the exchange are of superior value to what they are giving up.

I support the exchange and I am confident that as others review the facts, they will too.