Efforts to Protect High Elk Corridor Praised (CO)

DENVER, CO, 11/11/2003 – The Trust For Public Land (TPL) and the Friends of High Elk today praised the Colorado congressional delegation, led by Senate Interior Appropriations Committee member Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R, CO), for recent successful efforts to secure $1 million in federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for protection of the High Elk Corridor near Aspen and Crested Butte.

“We commend the efforts of Senator Campbell – and those of Senator Allard and Congressman McInnis – for making the $1 million in funding for High Elk a priority.” said Doug Robotham, TPL’s Colorado Director. “This wise investment only enhances our efforts to protect 2,000 critical acres of this spectacular Colorado landscape.”

The High Elk Corridor lies in the heart of the Elk Mountains in the Colorado Rockies, between Aspen and Crested Butte, and includes approximately 6,000 acres of privately owned patented mining claims, platted home sites, and other inholdings within the White River National Forest. This sub-alpine valley system, lying just south of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area, stretching from Gothic, through the mining ghost towns of Schofield and Crystal, into the town of Marble along the Crystal River drainage, provides unparalleled opportunities for long-term biological research, recreational activities, and historic landscape preservation.

The project area also includes the historic Crystal Mill, arguably one of the most photographed landmarks in the state, as well as potential habitat for the Canadian Lynx. Each summer visitors from around the world flock to the area to experience the unparalleled display of wildflowers. Visited and enjoyed by thousands each year, it nevertheless retains its character as one of Colorado’s truly special wild places. Working with the U.S. Forest Service and many local partners, the Trust for Public Land and the Friends of High Elk are working to acquire the privately owned lands within the project area for conservation purposes.

“The $1 million appropriated to High Elk sits in the Fiscal Year 2004 spending bill and is the first of what we hope to be many investments from Congress,” said Charlie O’Leary, TPL’s High Elk Project Director. “In total, we estimate that $6.5 million will be needed to complete the conservation vision for the area, and we hope to see an addition appropriation for $1.5 million in the next fiscal year.”

O’Leary added, “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.”

Earlier this year, TPL completed the first three conservation transactions in the area, permanently protecting 280 acres. Funding for the projects included money from the Gunnison County Land Preservation Fund, Aspen Skiing Company Environment Foundation, and several private individuals. Additional funding for the program comes from Great Outdoors Colorado through a capacity grant.

The recent appropriation will allow TPL to acquire and convey an additional 700 acres to the U.S. Forest Service this summer, representing the first phase of conservation transactions in the High Elk Corridor.

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 1.6 million acres of land in 46 states. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups, and public agencies to protect almost 70,000 acres of land. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at (415) 495-4014 or visit us on the web at www.tpl.org. For further information on the High Elk Project, visit www.tpl.org/highelk