BLM land swap may involve billionaire
The Bureau of Land Management is evaluating a proposed land swap involving thousands of acres, three counties, $1.1 million and an Ohio billionaire.
Leslie and Abigail Wexner previously had hoped to get congressional approval for a similar trade, aimed at benefiting their Two Shoes Ranch at the base of Mount Sopris south of Carbondale.
But they opted to pursue administrative rather than legislative approval after failing to win support from Pitkin County.
Leslie Wexner made his fortune in the retail business through the Limited Brands. Under the proposed trade, the BLM would transfer 1,268 acres in Pitkin County to the Wexners’ Two Shoes Ranch. The land is surrounded mostly by private land and public access is difficult.
In return, the BLM would get the 557-acre Sutey Ranch, which is near its popular Red Hill Special Recreation Area, north of Carbondale in Garfield County.
It also would receive 117 acres along Prince Creek Road in Pitkin County at the base of Mount Sopris. The latter acreage is popular with mountain bikers and accesses BLM roads and trails.
As part of the deal, the BLM also would transfer three parcels totaling 195 acres on Horse Mountain southwest of Eagle to the adjacent Lady Belle Ranch.
“All lands that would become private under this proposal would carry a conservation easement protecting them from future development,” the BLM said in a news release Monday.
Also, proponents would give the BLM $100,000 to develop a management plan for lands it would acquire, and $1 million for their long-term management.
While Pitkin County had concerns about the legislative land swap proposal, some other local governments, recreationists and land trust advocates had supported it.
Steve Bennett, the BLM’s Colorado River Valley field manager, said in Monday’s news release, “It’s important to remember that BLM land exchanges are evaluated based on the value of the lands involved — they are not straight acre-for-acre exchanges.”
Despite the acreage disparity in the current proposal, the BLM said it expects the land appraisals will show the deal favors the public, even without the $1.1 million donation.
The agency plans to hold an open house on the proposal from 4 to 8 p.m. May 31 at the Carbondale Town Hall. It also is accepting public comments through June 20.
More information will be available at http://www.blm.gov/co/crvfo.