Wildlife officers favor Sutey Ranch winter closure
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — An official with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a division of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said on Wednesday that, if the Sutey Ranch-Two Shoes land swap goes through, the state wants to establish winter closures to protect vital winter wildlife habitat.
The controversial Sutey-Two Shoes swap, as it is known, involves a proposed trade of about 1,200 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property on the flank of Mount Sopris near Carbondale, to neighboring landowners Leslie and Abigail Wexner. The acquisition of the BLM land would consolidate the Wexners’ existing 5,600 acre Two Shoes Ranch at the base of Mount Sopris.
In exchange, the BLM would receive the 557-acre Sutey Ranch, which the Wexners bought several years ago, and which is next to the Red Hill Recreation Area north of Carbondale. The BLM also would get title to a 112-acre parcel along Prince Creek Road south of Carbondale. Both properties are coveted by local hikers and mountain bikers, who already use established trail systems adjacent to both parcels and hope to add the new parcels to the existing trails systems.
Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will, who has nearly four decades under his belt with state wildlife agencies, said on Wednesday that Parks and Wildlife has not yet begun work on a management plan for the Sutey Ranch property, and will not start work on it until the swap goes through.
But, he said, it is the division’s plan to impose winter closure periods to protect wildlife habitat.
“There’s no reason for us to support that exchange if the integrity of the habitat would be lost,” he said, adding that the division has been “very supportive” of the swap.
David Boyd, spokesman for the BLM, wrote in an email on Wednesday that his agency is in agreement that a plan to protect the habitat should be part of the deal.
“If the exchange goes through, we will develop the management plan for the new property with significant involvement from the public, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other stakeholders,” Boyd said. “Until we were to complete that process, we wouldn’t know specifically what would be in that plan. Among the issues it would address would be protection and management of wildlife habitat, which could include seasonal closures. But we’ll look at that in detail if the exchange occurs.”
The organization most closely identified with the land swap, the Red Hill Council, already has worked out a winter closure on the north side of the Red Hill trails area, said council spokesman Davis Farrar.
And while the council has not formally considered the idea of a winter closure for the Sutey Ranch land, Farrar predicted that it would not be a problem.
“I would support a winter closure out there,” he said on Wednesday.
But he added that he had heard “rumors of a total closure,” meaning public access to the ranch property would be denied throughout the year, “and I would not support that.”
But Will indicated that full closure is not part of the Parks and Wildlife thinking as far as he knows, and added that there will be a public input process for any management plan concerning the ranch.
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