662 Acres Protected at Red Mountain (CO)

DENVER, 5/19/05:The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today the acquisition and permanent protection of 622 acres of patented mining claims located in the high country near Ouray, Colorado.

This scenic property, lying above and south of the town of Ouray, forms portions of the panoramic backdrop viewed by motorists on Highway 550’s Red Mountain Pass and on Ouray and San Juan County’s rugged 4WD Alpine Loop. The property consists of over 70 mining claims at elevations of between 8,400 and 13,000 feet. This land conservation success is the result of years of hard work based on a set of complex negotiations with a variety of owners. The package was assembled from a donation from Idarado Mining Company (a wholly owned subsidiary of Newmont Mining Corporation), a purchase from Great Divide Mining and Milling Corporation, and donations and purchases from 6 other landowners. TPL then conveyed the assembled mining claims to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for long-term conservation management and public recreational use. Due to the generous donations of land from many of the landowners, the USFS was able to acquire the property at a substantially discounted rate using congressionally appropriated Land and Water Conservation Funds.

U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and former U.S. Representative Scott McInnis were instrumental in securing the federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect this property.

Photo by: Jane Bernard
Senator Allard, a new member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee said, “It was my honor and privilege to be able to obtain the funding to preserve this area for future generations to enjoy. The protection of the Red Mountain area, one of the most spectacular of Colorado’s many scenic wonders, is an accomplishment in which I take great pride. I believe the creation of the Red Mountain Historic District, home to century-old artifacts and breath-taking vistas, will turn out to be one of Colorado’s premier preservation projects.”

TPL’s acquisition of these properties marks completion of the third phase of its 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 National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the area 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.

Speaking on behalf of the Red Mountain Task Force, Chairman Bob Risch said, “Visitors and residents alike are now privileged to be able to freely explore these wonderful additions to the public domain, and we have much for which to be thankful. First, for the landowners who – sharing our vision for the permanent protection of these scenic and historic sites – followed through with the land donations and sales. Secondly, for the dedicated staff of the Trust for Public Land and the U. S. Forest Service who invested enormous amounts of time completing the field work and research required by these complex transactions. Future generations may never fully appreciate the effort that has gone into the Red Mountain Project but they will certainly treasure the results.”

“Protection of these mining claims in Ouray, San Juan, and San Miguel County is an important step toward completing the Red Mountain Project,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado State Director of 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.

“The partnership that has come together to acquire and protect these important lands is almost as impressive as the landscape itself,” said Charlie Richmond, Supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. “This is a locally-led, locally-inspired effort that has benefited greatly from the leadership of Senators Allard and the rest of Colorado’s congressional delegation 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.”

In two separate purchases, in 2001 and 2004, TPL acquired 5,542 acres of Idarado lands, in Ouray and San Miguel Counties, 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.

For the fourth and final phase of the Red Mountain Project, TPL is working to acquire an additional 700-800 acres from another nineteen property owners. These properties are located mostly in Ouray and San Juan counties.?

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 toward realizing the community’s goal of protecting this historic landscape,” says TPL’s Robotham.

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 1.9 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 74,000 acres of the state’s commonwealth of parks and open space.