Red Mountain Protection Celebrated (CO)
OURAY, CO, 7/13/01 – More than 200 people gathered today to honor those responsible for the conservation of 3,152 spectacular and endangered acres of high country land in the heart of the San Juan Mountains.
Speaking at the celebration were U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, Trust for Public Land President Will Rogers, Executive Director of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) John Hereford, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Tom Thompson, Idarado Mining Company President Dave Baker, Ouray County Commissioner Alan Stahle, and Colorado Trust for Public Land Director Doug Robotham.
The purchase of 3,042 acres of Idarado Mining Company Land and 110 acres of Garard family property is the first phase of a landmark initiative to save 11,000 acres of aspen groves, alpine meadows and thick conifer forests in an area between Ouray,Telluride and Silverton near the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy. 550). TPL recently conveyed the Idarado land to the Uncompahgre National Forest and the Garard property to Ouray County for permanent protection from development and stewardship. “This is some of the most historically and ecologically important high-mountain land in Colorado,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado State Director for the Trust for Public Land.
Colorado senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard, and Colorado Representative Scott McInnis, all Republicans, played key roles in securing $9.6 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for the project.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo. said, “Today we are gathered to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Red Mountain Project. This is also a day to celebrate the sense of community and the successful collaboration between local, state, and federal entities that helped make this important project possible.”
Senator Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who could not make it to the celebration, said from his Washington office, “The battle to secure funding for Red Mountain has been a true team effort. Everyone involved in this effort can take pride that we have been able to preserve a very special area for our children and grandchildren.”
Representative Scott McInnis, R-Colo. said, “This is truly a great accomplishment for the local stakeholders who have worked so hard on this preservation effort. This window to Colorado’s past is now well on its way to being preserved for the benefit of future generations.”
The 3,056-acre parcel consists of 402 separate mining claims surrounded by the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. It sits between 9,000 and 13,500 feet and is located near the summit of Red Mountain Pass, west of U.S. Highway 550 (the San Juan Skyway) and south of the historic mining town of Ouray.
The area provides critical habitat for the Canadian lynx and the Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly, both of which are on the federal list of threatened and endangered species. With its scenic vistas and accessibility, it is also a recreational mecca used by more than 1 million visitors a year.
In addition, the presence of numerous 19th century mining structures make the project so historically significant it has been named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the nation’s most endangered historical sites.
Last year, TPL bought the land the Idarado Mining Company, a Denver-based subsidiary of the Newmont Mining Corporation. Dave Baker, president of Idarado, said, “For the past 100 years, mining was a part of the economic engine that built this part of Colorado. This really begins the final chapter in Idarado’s history in the region. Protecting this land and preserving its history will be Idarado’s final legacy.”
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) supported the acquisition with a key $131,000 grant for the Garard property. GOCO Director John Hereford said, “The Red Mountain Project exemplifies what voters had in mind when they passed GOCO ten years ago – protection of a wonderful piece of Colorado’s cultural and natural heritage. To travel in this area is to be swept back in time and swept away by the breathtaking beauty of the San Juan Mountains.”
The transaction is the first of a multi-phased initiative to save 11,000 acres in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. This area – sitting in the triangle formed by the towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride – is so threatened by “backcountry” sprawl and second home development that it was recently ranked as the Forest Service’s top conservation priority in the country. The Red Mountain Project has also been a top priority for the Trust for Public Land.
Trust for Public Land President Will Rogers said, “Not only is this vitally important to preserve for its scenery, wildlife, and history. The extreme fire season the West is currently facing underscores the need to protect wildland areas to keep homes and people out of harms way.”
Phase II will involve TPL’s purchase of an additional 2,200 acres from Idarado in San Miguel County, above Telluride and adjacent to the Phase I purchase. That land, on which TPL has a contract, will be conveyed to the Forest Service next year. For the third and final phase, TPL is negotiating with several other property owners to purchase the remaining 5,700 acres over the next two to three years.
This campaign has been spearheaded by the Red Mountain Task Force, a coalition of San Miguel, Ouray, San Juan, and La Plata County public officials and residents who have worked on this project for more than three years.
Alan Staehle, Ouray County Commissioner and task force member said, “The Red Mountain project has had tremendous community support right from the beginning. We are very pleased that this critical first phase is coming to fruition.”
Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land (www.tpl.org) specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance and legal matters to acquire parklands and wild spaces that improve the quality of life for people throughout the United States. In Colorado, TPL has worked with private landowners, community groups and public agencies to protect over 65,000 acres of land since 1980.