Proposed Sutey Ranch Land Exchange
The public comment period on the Preliminary Environmental Assessment closed May 29, 2013. The next opportunity for public involvement will be a 45-day protest period when the final environmental assessment and proposed decision are released. We currently anticipate this will occur early this year.
What is being proposed?
Under this proposed land exchange, BLM would acquire:
- The 557-acre Sutey Ranch adjacent to the popular Red Hill Special Recreation Area in Garfield County, including the historic water rights from the ranch.
- 112 acres in Pitkin County along Prince Creek Road near the Crown. This private parcel is a highly popular area with mountain bikers and is used to access BLM roads and trails.
- A $100,000 donation from the proponents to develop a site-specific management plan for the newly acquired land
- A $1 million donation from the proponents for the long-term management of the newly acquired land
BLM would exchange:
- Three parcels totaling 1,269 acres in Pitkin County south of Carbondale. These parcels are mostly or entirely surrounded by private land and extremely difficult for the public to access. They receive little to no public use.
- Three parcels totaling 201 acres on Horse Mountain southwest of Eagle which have little public access.
This information is being posted for your information. Information about how to protest the Decision and associated documents, such as these appraisal documents, will be posted with the Notice of Decision. We expect the Notice of Decision to be announced in early 2014.
Questions and Answers
Who is proposing this exchange?
The proposed exchange is being facilitated by Western Land Group. The Pitkin County parcels that would become private land would be acquired by the Two Shoes Ranch, which largely surrounds the parcels. The Eagle County parcel would be acquired by the Horse Mountain LLC, which owns the adjacent Lady Belle Ranch.
All lands that would become private under this proposal would carry a conservation easement protecting them from future development.
Why isn’t the acreage being exchanged the same?
Land exchanges are conducted on a value-for-value basis, not an acre-for-acre. This is because the value of land varies greatly based on its location and development potential.
How does the December 2012 agreement between Pitkin County and the proponents of this land exchange affect this proposed exchange?
The Pitkin County and the proponents reached an agreement separate from the proposal BLM is evaluating. We are continuing to evalutate the proposal as described above. You can read more about the agreement between Pitkin County and the proponents here.
How will BLM evaluate this proposal?
The environmental assessment analyzes the values traded for the values acquired. This includes detailed surveys for rare plants and wildlife, cultural resources, and hazardous materials on all the lands involved. The lands were appraised for their monetary value as well. BLM follows a detailed process for proposed land exchanges. The ultimate question that must be satisfied is whether the exchange is in the public’s benefit. Public comment is a critical piece of evaluating whether the exchange is a benefit to the public.
When does BLM expect to make a decision?
We currently expect a final decision about whether or not to proceed with the exchange later this year. If the decision is to go forward with the exchange, closing on the exchange would follow shortly after that. Land exchange evaluations are complex, and it is not unusual for the process to take longer than first anticipated.
How would BLM manage the newly acquired lands?
BLM would develop a site-specific management plan for these lands if they were acquired. Public participation would be a key part of developing that management plan.
How will BLM use the donation money?
$100,000 would specifically be donated to develop the site-specific management plan. BLM is exploring options for how to manage the $1 million donation to ensure the best return for the public and management of the area.
Will BLM consider suggestions for additional lands to be included in this proposal?
Land exchange acreages are based on land value. An appraisal of all proposed parcels will be conducted as part of the evaluation process. If the appraised value showed inequity in favor of the proponent, BLM could suggest additional acreage be included. However, it is likely the land appraisals for this proposal will show the exchange to favor the public, even without the $1.1 million donation. It is unlikely that additional lands would be considered as part of this proposal.
Why does BLM consider these types of land exchanges?
BLM manages a number of small, isolated parcels across the West that have little or no public access. These are typically very difficult for BLM to manage and have little benefit for the public. BLM considers opportunities to exchange these difficult-to-manage areas for areas that would potentially offer more benefit to the public. The long, extensive process to evaluate such proposals is in place to ensure land exchanges that are approved are indeed in the public’s interest.