Sutey-Two Shoes land exchange proposal open for public comment
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
CARBONDALE, Colorado – The contentious Sutey-Two Shoes land exchange process shifted into a higher gear this week, as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has put out a call for formal public comment on the proposal.
The exchange has been a controversial local issue for more than three years, and has prompted divisions among local governments, open space advocates and recreationists.
Originally proposed as a legislative process requiring approval from the U.S. Congress, the swap was switched to an administrative procedure last year after Pitkin County declined to endorse the idea.
“The main criterion we’re looking at is, is this in the public interest?” said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM.
While the final decision will be up to Colorado BLM Director Helen Hankins, Boyd said “all levels of the BLM are involved.”
He said the local office had to get the OK form the agency’s Washington, D.C., office before calling for public comments.
“A lot of people have been waiting for their chance to weigh in on it,” Boyd said. The deadline for public comments is June 20.
The lands proposed for exchange are in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties.
If it happened, the exchange would involve a public-private swap between the BLM and billionaire Leslie Wexner, owner of the Two Shoes ranch at the base of Mount Sopris southeast of Carbondale, and another landowner in Eagle County.
The private property that would go to the BLM in the proposed exchange are the 557-acre Sutey Ranch, adjacent to the popular Red Hill Special
Recreation Area in Garfield County, and 117 acres of Wexner-owned land on the northeast flank of Mount Sopris, known as The Crown, also in Pitkin County.
The Sutey Ranch is coveted by the Red Hill Council, a volunteer network of recreationists who would like to see the Sutey land annexed to the Red Hill mountain biking trails system.
The Crown property is criss-crossed by a popular network of mountain biking trails and is used as an access to BLM roads and trails.
The public land that would shift into private hands includes 1,268 acres of BLM property at the base of Mount Sopris, which is largely surrounded by Wexner’s ranch.
In addition, 195 acres of BLM land on Horse Mountain, southwest of Eagle, would be transferred to the adjacent Lady Belle Ranch.
The private landowners involved in the swap would donate a total of $1.1 million for management of the newly acquired public lands, according to the BLM.
Written public comments can be submitted by email to BLM_CO_SI_CRVO_webmail@blm.gov or by traditional mail sent to BLM, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO, 81652, attn: Sutey Ranch Land Exchange.
The BLM is planning to hold a public open house on the subject from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at Carbondale Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave., to provide information and answer questions about the proposal.
Boyd stressed that the open house is not intended to gather spoken comments from the public, although written comments may be submitted to BLM officials at the meeting.
“An administrative land exchange is a really long process,” Boyd told the Post Independent on Monday, “because it is a big, important decision to exchange public land.”
He said the agency expects to reach a decision about the proposal in approximately a year.
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