456 Acres Preserved in San Juan Mts. (CO)

OURAY, Colorado, 7/21/2003 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced it has purchased two more groups of mining claims in the Red Mountain area above Ouray.

The 59 separate mining claims cover a total of 456 acres and are part of the Red Mountain Project, a major initiative to acquire more than 11,000 acres of privately-owned mining claims in the mountains between Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride.

The latest purchases bring to about 3,600 acres the total protected by the Project, a partnership which includes TPL, the Forest Service, Ouray County, San Juan County, the historical societies of each county, and the Red Mountain Task Force.

The mining claims were purchased by TPL from Royal Gold, Inc. of Denver, and Excalibur Industries. The land will be conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service to be included in the Uncompahgre National Forest with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress appropriated the funds at the request of U.S. Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard, both R-Colo., and Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo.

Campbell, a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, played a key role in securing funding. He said, “Red Mountain is one of Colorado’s most treasured historical places. It is a rare link to the past, which tells us so much about the way the people who helped settle the West lived. The provision of these funds is an opportunity for the federal government to build on local initiative and help preserve Colorado land for future generations.”

Allard commented, “The Red Mountain project is a shining example of grassroots historical preservation. Once a vibrant mining town and now a historical landmark, the effort to preserve Red Mountain will leave a living legacy for generations to come. The region’s scenic vistas, historical value and recreational opportunities make this truly a spectacular landmark.”

McInnis said, “Red Mountain is a vital link to our past, a literal time capsule that helps those of us today remember the lives and times of generations past. Preserving this place is about keeping the past alive and preserving our western heritage for future generations to enjoy.”

Ouray County has also acquired from a private owner several lots, along with three well-preserved historic homes, in the abandoned mining town of Ironton. The land and structures will become part of a Ouray County Historic Park. Funding for this purchase came from grants from the Colorado State Historical Society and the Idarado Resource Recovery Fund.

The region’s aspen groves and alpine meadows draw more than 1 million visitors a year and are home to a pair of species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act – the Canadian lynx and a butterfly known as the Uncompahgre Fritillary. In addition, the area was a center of Colorado’s 19th century gold and silver mining boom and includes a large number of historic mining structures.

The bulk of the money for the Red Mountain Project comes from $13.6 million in LWCF funds, in addition to local grants provided by Greater Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado State Historical Society and the Idarado Resource Recovery Fund.

“This is some of the most historic and ecologically important land in the San Juan Mountains and protecting it from sprawl is one of our major goals,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado TPL director. “Meeting the desire of the community to protect these spaces is one of our highest priorities, and we could not do this without the leadership of Sens. Campbell and Allard, Rep. McInnis, and Gov. Bill Owens.”

The 305-acre group of claims acquired by TPL from Royal Gold will protect the outstanding views from U.S. Highway 550, also known as the Million Dollar Highway, and preserve the Mountain King mine. It began operating in 1878 and will be managed by the Forest Service for its scenic and historic interest.

Stanley Dempsey, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Gold, said, “We were pleased to work with TPL on this project. They provided leadership in preserving the mining heritage of the Red Mountain region. This heritage is known worldwide, and will now be maintained for all to enjoy long into the future.”

The other 151-acre parcel purchased from Excalibur Industries protects lands along a stretch of the scenic Uncompahgre River, in addition to numerous claims along several backcountry roads between Silverton and Ouray which are popular in the summer.

The Red Mountain Project began more than five years ago, and in the past years, TPL has bought 3,042 acres from the Idarado Mining Company. TPL is working with other landowners, including a second transaction from Idarado, to protect several thousand more acres in San Miguel County, above Telluride, later this year.

Bob Storch, supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Umcompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, said, “By working with TPL, we have acquired some 4,500 forested acres and made significant additional progress toward reaching our 11,000-acre goal in the Red Mountain area. Thanks to TPL, this magnificent area will be protected for the use and enjoyment of generations to come.”

Ann Hoffman, Director of the Ouray County Historical Society and a member of the task force, said, “It is exciting, even awesome, to reflect upon the progress achieved by the Red Mountain Task Force. The thrust of the project has been, from conception, to protect our scenic, natural, recreational and historic resources in Ouray and San Juan County by buying up land from willing sellers.”

On Sept. 20, 2003, the Red Mountain Task Force will hold an “open house.” Residents and visitors will be able to visit a dozen historic mine sites, explore newly opened roads and trails, and learn about the history of the region and future plans to protect it. For details, contact the Ouray County Historic Society at (970) 325-4576 or the San Juan County Historical Society at (970) 387-5488.

The Trust for Public Land, 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 1.5 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $2 billion. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups and public agencies to protect over 65,000 acres of land since 1980.