771 Acres of High Elk Corridor Protected (CO)

DENVER, CO, 2/10/2005 – Efforts to protect Colorado’s historic High Elk Corridor got a boost today, as the Trust For Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation non-profit organization, announced it has successfully acquired 82 patented mining claims in the Corridor north of Crested Butte in central Colorado. This latest High Elk Corridor success brings the total amount of protected land in this northwestern Gunnison County valley system to almost 1,000 acres, or approximately 40% of TPL’s goal of conserving the Corridor’s 2,500 most vulnerable acres. With the transaction TPL has conveyed the 771 acres encompassed by these mining claims from seven separate private landowners to the White River National Forest.

“Anyone who has spent time in High Elk Corridor is familiar with the beauty of the area,” said U.S. Senator Wayne Allard. “But there is more to this area than beauty. The area is also home to important wildlife and mining ghost towns. Because land is acquired only from willing sellers, local landowners are protected while we provide protection for a pristine piece of land.”

Funds for the purchases were appropriated by Congress through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), with the strong support of Senator Allard and former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Former U.S. Representative Scott McInnis also supported this protection effort. Additional funding for the effort came from the Gunnison County Land Preservation Fund, Aspen Skiing Company Environment Foundation, the New-Land Foundation, the Hunter-White Foundation, L’Aiglon Foundation, the Ruth H. Brown Foundation, the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, and many private individuals.

“In the 19th century, when mining was king, these parcels of land made local economies thrive. Now in the 21st century, these lands will once again help the community, this time by preserving a landscape so beautiful that thousands of people come to see it every year,” said Congressman John Salazar, recently elected to represent Colorado’s third congressional district. “I am proud to continue in the tradition of Congressional support for protecting the High Elk Corridor. In the upcoming months, I look forward to working with Senator Allard to obtain funding from the LWCF, to make sure that these areas are protected for the benefit of both the visitors and residents of the Third Congressional District.”

The High Elk Corridor is in the heart of the Elk Mountains in the Colorado Rockies, between Aspen and Crested Butte, and includes almost 6,000 acres of privately owned mining claims and other inholdings located within the boundaries of the White River National Forest. The corridor narrowly separates the Maroon Bells-Snowmass and Raggeds Wilderness areas and stretches from Gothic through the mining ghost towns of Schofield and Crystal into the town of Marble, along the Crystal River drainage. This sub-alpine valley system provides habitat for numerous wildlife and plant species, an unpolluted water resource, a unique outdoor laboratory for important climate change research, and a host of year-round recreation opportunities. One of Colorado’s most special wild places, High Elk includes the historic Crystal Mill, one of Colorado’s most photographed landmarks, along with a wildflower display that draws visitors from around the world. Working with the U.S. Forest Service and many local partners, the Trust for Public Land and the local Friends of High Elk are working to acquire privately owned lands within the project area for conservation purposes.

“We commend the efforts of Senator Allard – and those of Senator Campbell and Congressman McInnis – for securing enough federal funding to make this portion of the High Elk Corridor Conservation Initiative successful,” said Doug Robotham, TPL’s Colorado Director. “TPL and its project partners, the Friends of High Elk, have matched this wise public investment with money from private foundations, companies, and individuals. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Allard and Together, we’re working to ensure that this spectacular corner of Colorado’s landscape remains in its natural state forever.”

“We have enjoyed working cooperatively with the Trust for Public Land to secure these properties for public use and enjoyment,” said Don Carroll, Acting Forest Supervisor for the White River National Forest. “TPL’s efforts to acquire private inholdings within the High Elk Corridor have resulted in the permanent protection of some valuable public benefits, and we are looking forward to continuing our cooperative efforts to protect an additional 1,500 acres in the project area.”

Robotham estimated that another $1.5 million – $500,000 in federal funds and $1 million in private funds – are needed to protect the corridor’s remaining most vulnerable 1,500 acres. “We are excited to build on today’s success,” Robotham said. “The President’s recently released FY 06 budget request includes an additional $500,000 for the High Elk Corridor. We hope Congress will approve this request, and we’re confident we’ll be able to raise matching private dollars. We have known from the start that this project would require a strong public-private partnership, which is why TPL and the Friends of High Elk have undertaken private fundraising efforts to fill the funding gap. This part of Colorado is too special to be lost to second home development.”

“If we start losing special areas like the High Elk, it could really dry up our tourism economy,” said Jim Starr, a Gunnison County Commissioner who also sits on the board of the Crested Butte Land Trust, one of the founding members of the Friends of High Elk.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than two million acres of land in 46 states. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups, and public agencies to protect almost 75,000 acres of land. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, visit us on the web at www.tpl.org. For further information on the High Elk Project, visit www.tpl.org/highelk.