Phase 3 of Red Mt. Preservation Completed (CO)
DENVER, 4/20/05 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today the acquisition 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 different independent landowners. The bulk of the 622-acre parcel was conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for long-term conservation management and public recreational use. Due to the generosity of many of the landowner donations, the USFS was able to acquire the property at a substantially discounted rate using congressionally appropriated Land and Water Conservation Funds.
Former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a key member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, 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.
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 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 these mining claims in Ouray 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.
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 687 acres from 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. “We are very appreciative of the support of Colorado’s Congressional delegation.”
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.