Bureau of Land Management approves Blue Valley Ranch land exchange
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Bureau of Land Management released its Notice of Decision approving the Blue Valley Land Exchange. The notice read that the exchange will increase public access to fishing, hunting and other recreation areas in Grand and Summit counties.
The Grand County Board of Commissioners released a statement applauding the BLM’s decision Tuesday. The statement said the commissioners expect the exchange will allow more than 1,000 acres to be opened to the public for recreation activities and provide better access to the Blue River and Green Mountain.
The statement also highlights the creation of the Confluence Recreation Area, which will add more than 2 miles of walking trails, 2 miles of new contiguous fishing access on the Blue River, takeouts and rest stops for river floaters, a boat ramp, river habitat enhancements for a mile-long fishery, a picnic area, two parking areas, wheelchair-accessible fishing platforms and more.
Outside of the recreation area, the statement read upstream anglers will gain walk-in access to over 1.5 miles of the Blue River in Green Mountain Canyon. It also states Blue Valley Ranch will pay for the development of the new features and river restoration.
Both of Colorado’s U.S. senators also came out in support of the exchange on social media.
“Making public lands accessible to the public is a top priority, and this is great news for outdoor rec, conservation, and the anglers, rafters and kayakers who enjoy the Blue River,” wrote Sen. John Hickenlooper in a tweet.
Sen. Michael Bennet also took to Twitter to applaud the move and the work by BLM, Grand County and Summit County officials who helped make it possible, calling it “great news for CO anglers, rafters, and all advocates of the lower Blue River.”
Colorado Wild Public Lands, an organization that monitors land exchanges, expressed concerns about the exchange in 2021. On Jan. 10, a the organization put out a news release announcing that the BLM had just released documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act over a year earlier, in July 2021.
The organization called the released document, the Draft Binding Land Exchange Agreement, vital to the public’s understanding of the exchange in its news release. Graham Ward, the executive director for Colorado Wild Public Lands, wrote in a statement to Sky-Hi News that the draft agreement shows the exchange “is riddled with problems.”
“Insufficient protections to preserve important resources, overly restrictive permissible uses on new recreational opportunities, and inadequate guarantees that those opportunities will even exist, among other details that will set dangerous precedent for future exchanges,” Ward wrote.
The draft agreement BLM released in January was current in July 2021, and Ward wrote that the fully-updated version of the agreement was not released until Jan. 12, five days before the bureau announced its decision. Colorado Wild Public Lands takes issue with the amount of time BLM took to release the first unredacted document and the short period of time between the second document’s release and the BLM’s approval.
Ward added that his organization is preparing a protest to the decision because it believes the public will lose valuable resources and its ability to have its voice heard on land management decisions as a result of the exchange. The organization welcomes input at email@example.com.
A news release from Blue Valley Ranch on Tuesday celebrated the decision, stating the deal increases acreage of public open spaces, puts millions of dollars towards recreation and ecological improvements and protects Green Mountain and San Toy Mountain from future development.
The release also includes quotes supporting the BLM’s decision from representatives of the Friends of the Lower Blue River, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Blue Valley Sportsmen Club and others.
The BLM announcement stated land ownership and public access will not change until the bureau and Galloway Inc., Owner of Blue Valley Ranch, formally close on the exchange. It also mentions that the bureau’s Notice of Decision began a 45-day protest period. Protests must be submitted by March 2, to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to BLM KFO, Land Exchange Protest, PO Box 68, Kremmling, CO 80459.
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