2,500 Acres of High Country Protected (CO)
DENVER, 4/5/2004 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today the purchase of 2,500 acres of patented mining claims located in the high country east of Telluride, Colorado from Idarado Mining Company. Idarado is a subsidiary of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation.
This scenic property, which lies above and east of the town of Telluride, forms the panoramic backdrop at the end of the box canyon in which the town sits. The property consists of over 300 mining claims at an elevation of between 9,000 and 13,000 feet. The bulk of the 2,500-acre parcel was conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service for long-term conservation management and public recreational use. TPL conveyed a small portion of the property, consisting of four claims located within the town of Telluride’s Bear Creek Preserve, to the San Miguel Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit land trust based in Telluride.
The deal also includes a tract known as the Kentucky Placer, located adjacent to the Telluride Town Park and beaver ponds. Protection of this tract will ensure that Telluride’s outdoor venue for world-class cultural events, such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, will not be marred by unwanted development.
U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a key member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, and U.S. Representative Scott McInnis were instrumental in securing the federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect this property.
“I am pleased to hear this land will be preserved for everyone to enjoy,” said Senator Campbell. “I worked hard to appropriate funding for the Red Mountain Project because I believe it is essential to conserve these historically important areas.”
Said Congressman Scott McInnis, “We had a long road to travel and many obstacles to cross to acquire the funds necessary to protect this culturally rich part of Colorado’s history and heritage. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see this critical phase of the project now completed. This is truly a great accomplishment for all of the local stakeholders who have worked sohard on this preservation effort.”
TPL’s purchase of the Idarado properties marks completion of the critically important second phase of the Red Mountain Project in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The Project is a five-year effort to acquire thousands of patented mining claims over an 11,000-acre area in the triangle formed by the towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride. The area was designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the nation’s most endangered places. The project is a partnership between TPL, the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado’s congressional delegation, and the Red Mountain Task Force, a group of local citizens and elected officials.
“Protection of Idarado’s high country lands in San Miguel County is a monumental step towards completing the Red Mountain Project,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado State Director for the Trust for Public Land. “This conservation effort also demonstrates to other western communities how they might address the difficult challenge of protecting their natural and historic landscapes while they also grow and develop.”
The area’s alpine meadows and thick conifer forests provide habitat for the Canadian lynx and the Uncompahgre Fritillary (a butterfly species), both of which are on the federal government’s list of threatened and endangered species. With its dramatic scenery and ease of accessibility, it is also a recreational mecca for hikers, mountain bike enthusiasts, climbers, and off-road vehicle users. In addition, the presence of numerous mining structures dating from the 19th century, when the area was a center for gold and silver mining, make the project area one of Colorado’s most historically significant places.
Dave Baker, President of Idarado, said, “Mining was the economic engine in this region for 125 years. Idarado is very pleased that it can return this land to public ownership where it will provide opportunities for continued economic benefit in the region. The Red Mountain Project is a testament to what can be achieved when communities, government and industry work in a collaborative setting. Responsible stewardship of these lands and preservation of the area’s history will be Idarado’s lasting legacy.”
Gary Hickcox, Executive Director of the San Miguel Conservation Foundation, said, “We are extremely pleased to have been able to work with the Trust For Public Land to consummate the acquisition of Idarado’s four mining claims located in the Bear Creek Preserve. While gaining control of these claims was important, acquiring the Golden Chief Millsite was absolutely critical from our standpoint. That particular claim is adjacent to the Little Canton Millsite which we purchased several years ago, and is surrounded on all sides by the Preserve with Bear Creek Road running through the middle of it. Should this claim have remained in private ownership, we would have been unable to control non-permitted uses that may have conflicted with the management plan for the Preserve. Ultimately, we intend for this land to be owned by the Town of Telluride and included in the existing Bear Creek Preserve conservation easement held by the Foundation.”
Previously, in 2001, TPL acquired 3,042 acres of Idarado lands, primarily in Ouray County, as the initial purchase for the Red Mountain Project. That land was also conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service for permanent protection from development. Together, these two Idarado purchases represent 51 percent of the overall conservation goal of the Red Mountain Project. Six other properties totaling over 1,500 acres have also been acquired over the past two years within the Red Mountain Project area.
“The partnership that has come together to acquire and protect these important lands is almost as impressive as the landscape itself,” said Bob Storch, Supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. “This is a locally-led, locally-inspired effort that benefits greatly from the leadership of Senators Campbell and Allard and Congressman McInnis and the hard work of the Trust for Public Land. The Forest Service is proud to be doing its part in the effort to conserve the Red Mountain Project area.”
For the third and final phase of the Red Mountain Project, TPL is working to acquire the remaining 3,900 acres from twenty-five other property owners, who own anywhere from 10 to 1,200 acres in the Red Mountain Project area. These properties are located mostly in Ouray and San Juan counties, east of the Idarado acquisition.
The Red Mountain project is one of the Trust for Public Land’s highest land conservation priorities in the country. “TPL has long been interested in protecting this incredible part of Colorado. With this transaction, we have made significant progress towards realizing the community’s goal of protecting this historic landscape,” says TPL’s Robotham. “We are very appreciative of the support of Colorado’s Congressional delegation, along with that of Governor Bill Owens.”
The Trust for Public Land (www.tpl.org), a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.9 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $3 billion. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve its “land for people” conservation mission. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups and public agencies to protect over 72,000 acres of the state’s commonwealth of parks and open space.