Saving ranch hinges on funds |

Saving ranch hinges on funds

A working ranch in Glenwood Canyon could be preserved from development if a conservation easement proposed by the owners and the Bureau of Land Management can be funded.

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking $4.5 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to buy a conservation easement on a working ranch at the east end of Glenwood Canyon.

BLM and the Bair family want to preserve it from development and maintain the ranch as a way of life.

The 6,000-acre ranch was established in 1919. It is surrounded on three sides by BLM land and on the fourth by the White River National Forest, said Anne Huebner, manager of the BLM GLenwood Springs field office.

“Picture what the ranch would look like with golf courses and condos,” Huebner said. “It’s the last undeveloped ranch property in the Interstate 70 mountain corridor.”

Instead, BLM and the Bairs wish to preserve the natural beauty of the ranch and continue the historic sheep ranching operation in that stretch of scenic Glenwood Canyon, she said.

“Our interest is in preserving the ecosystem and the Bairs’ traditional way of life,” she added.

“Ann Morgan, the BLM state director, has put it forward as the BLM’s highest priority” for Land and Water Conservation Fund money, Huebner said. Congress appropriates those funds.

Both the Garfield and Eagle county commissioners have promised to send letters of support for the proposal to U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, both Colorado Republicans.

Currently, $1.5 million is earmarked for the easement in the Bush administration’s 2003 budget, Huebner said.

Congressional appropriations committees are not expected to decide on the proposal until this summer, she said.

As part of the agreement, which has yet to be worked out, the Bair family will spell out how much land it wants to reserve for future development of family homesites, Huebner said.

The Bairs also operate three rental cabins and host chuckwagon barbecues at the ranch. Those activities could continue under the conservation easement agreement, she said.

In addition, BLM would like to purchase 528 acres of Bair Ranch property just east of Glenwood Canyon, south of I-70. That land is also being appraised, Huebner said.

Huebner said she is interested in working with Eagle County to continue the Glenwood Canyon bike path eastward.

An appraisal of the ranch is now under way, which will establish the free market value of the land and the value of potential development, Huebner said.

The Conservation Fund of Boulder has hired an appraiser to determine the value of the ranch following BLM guidelines, said Christine Quinlan, projects manager for The Conservation Fund.

The value “will be based on the highest and best use of the property” as well as its development value, she said.

The Conservation Fund will also help raise money for the project, Quinlan said.

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