(Aspen, CO) After two years of discussion and negotiation, Pitkin County Commissioners have reached an agreement with proponents of the Sutey/Two Shoes Land Exchange. First reading is set for December 19th, and public hearing and adoption on January 8th. While initially opposed to the exchange of federally owned property for land now privately owned, under the terms of the new agreement the Commissioners will support the exchange because of significantly improved wildlife and recreational enhancements.
“With this agreement the Board of Commissioners will support the exchange in light of significant public benefits the proponents will make as a result of a separate agreement with Pitkin County. When the public benefits agreed to with the County are combined with benefits already offered in the administrative proposal, we believe there is an overall public benefit to the Sutey/Two Shoes Land Exchange.” said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.
In the agreement with Pitkin County, which is not part of the exchange application with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), proponents have agreed to conserve additional land for wildlife, relinquish development rights to maintain views, and to pay for recreational opportunities for the public as follows. These benefits would become effective upon approval of the BLM exchange:
Wildlife Benefits: A conservation easement will be placed on two parcels of the Two Shoes Ranch within the area known as Potato Bill. These parcels were identified by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife as important winter range for deer and elk, and significant cliff habitat for big horn sheep. The conservation easements will protect the property from future development and recreational uses.
· View Protection: Development rights for ten single-family homes in the Crystal River Valley totaling 50,000 square feet along Highway 133 and Prince Creek Road will be extinguished. A proposed indoor riding arena near Highway 133 will be moved to a less visually impactful location.
· Additional Recreation: The County will receive a contribution of $700,000 from the proponent, for the costs of property acquisition and trail construction including approximately 10 acres of land needed to create a one-mile-long trail parallel to Prince Creek Road within what is now the Tybar Ranch. Should the County not be successful in obtaining the trail corridor adjacent to Prince Creek Road, the money could be used to improve the Rio Grande Trail connecting the Crystal River Valley with the Roaring Fork Valley or for other open space opportunities in the Crystal River Valley area.
In addition to the public benefits agreed to with Pitkin County, the proponents have added the Haynes/West Crown Property in Pitkin County to the exchange. This is an important access point for mountain bikers to the Crown in the Prince Creek drainage. An additional 37 acres was also added to the Sutey Ranch exchange increasing that property, located adjacent to the Red Hill Recreation Area. The added acreage will not only enhance recreational opportunities but also provides valuable wildlife habitat and additional water rights.
“Admittedly discussion about this land exchange hasn’t always been easy,” said Peacock. “There was a lot of give and take on the part of the proponents and the BOCC in recent months to reach this agreement.”
“Two Shoes is pleased that with the agreement Pitkin County Commissioners will join many community partners who have expressed support for the exchange including the Aspen Valley Land Trust, Crystal River Caucus, Garfield County Commissioners, Eagle County Commissioners, Carbondale Town Council, Eagle Valley Land Trust, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Roaring Fork Audubon Society. The County’s support of the Sutey/Two Shoes Land Exchange and its recognition of the benefits for recreation and wildlife in the Roaring Fork Valley is gratifying,” said Gideon Kaufman, Two Shoes representative.
“The Aspen Valley Land Trust is pleased that Pitkin County can now join us in supporting this valuable land exchange, “said Aspen Valley Land Trust Executive Director Martha Cochran.” This exchange benefits the wildlife and people of the entire valley.
Upon approval of the Agreement, a letter in support of the exchange, from the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners, will be sent to the Bureau of Land Management for its consideration.