Saving Bair Ranch |

Saving Bair Ranch

A crown-jewel property in Glenwood Canyon is in danger of being sold off, gem by gem, unless attempts to purchase a conservation easement can succeed.

Open space proponents need another $3.1 million to buy the easement for the Golden Bair Ranch, and soon.

Ranch owner Craig Bair needs some indication that the purchase could indeed occur, and Garfield County should do its part to offer him some assurance.

Bair agreed two years ago to buy out his brother’s share of the ranch by October 2003. Two nonprofit open-space groups have been trying to raise $5 million to buy the conservation easement, which would keep Bair Ranch from ever being developed. But Bair said he’ll need to speak to a Realtor if things don’t happen soon.

Bair has proven cooperative and patient in negotiations, dropping his original asking price for the deal. It not only would apply to a 4,300-acre main ranch property that would remain private, but would cover the outright public purchase of a 512-acre piece of property along the Colorado River stretching from the Dotsero area almost to the Bair Ranch Interstate 70 exit.

Already, the Boulder-based Conservation Fund and the Eagle Valley Land Trust have lined up $1.5 million in U.S. Bureau of Land Management funds and a $400,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant.

Up to $2 million more may be available through Eagle County’s open space program, but not until 2004 at the earliest.

The Conservation Fund has access to “bridge” funding that could pay for the easement now. The funding would be reimbursed once remaining funds are obtained. But it needs firm commitments from both Eagle and Garfield counties.

Unlike Eagle, Garfield has no dedicated open-space tax. Still, it should scrape together at least a nominal amount – perhaps $100,000 – to show support for the project and a commitment to it.

That’s not much to help protect a landmark ranch that’s 35 percent in Garfield County. Unless county voters ever see the worth in a tax to save open space, it may be the best the county can do.

The value of protecting a place like Bair Ranch should be all the evidence they need.

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