This blog post is a WildSnow.com April Fools’ parody and satire construct, and is in no way factual or intended to represent any real agency, person, or entity.
The way is clear for billionaire Colorado ranch owner L. Wexner to own majestic Mount Sopris — the signature mountain of the Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley area. (Wexner owns Limited Brands, which includes Victoria’s Secret and other companies.)
“We’ve got the details worked out, it’s a done deal,” said Big Land Group’s Andy Willner.
Big Land Group is a consulting firm that’s known for its expertise in substituting land for hard currency and thus “buying” public land through land exchanges.
“This is an unprecedented land exchange,” said Willner, “We managed to acquire a somewhat useless parcel of rock pile wilderness for Mr. Wexner, by trading the public ownership of a small wildlife preserve where biologists can do tick infestation studies on our declining deer population. Along with that, we gifted a few acres of scrub oak for a public mountain bike trail and a shooting range. It’s an amazing win-win — one of the best land exchanges we’ve ever been involved in.”
The success of the land deal is obvious. Nearly every politican in central Colorado either welcomed the proposal with open arms, or if opposed was handily out-voted by their fellow officials. Sopris Land Exchange supporter Geo Nellman of the Pitkin County Commissioners was instrumental in the process.
“Sopris is such an ugly hunk of stone,” said Nellman, “With the mountain in private ownership and thus taken out of the national Wilderness system it can be beautified by Wexner’s landscape architects, as well as providing more acreage for his ranch employees to enjoy their ATVs and herd cattle. Privatizing public land is simply a great way of preserving it — and here at Pitkin County we are all about preserving land. For example, we work hard to make sure most of our homeowners live elsewhere and build unoccupied houses on large tracts of land, thus preventing residential sprawl and automobile accidents involving children.”
The final decision of the Pitco officials was an exciting ending to the five-hour-long land-use meeting, which brought nearly 300 Cinch Creek Subdivision (adjacent to the land exchange) residents to the Court House building in Aspen to support the proposal. Preferring to remain anonymous, one Cinch Creek resident expressed his delight with the decision due to his fear that if the mountain were to remain as Federal land, annoying public access could be granted near his back yard. He also stated that the growing popularity of hiking on the mountain was dangerous, and shutting it down by making it private would save public funds used for search and rescue.
Other nearby land owners in favor of the historic land exchange said the proposal would decrease noise, lights, traffic, fire hazards, carbon emissions, watershed contamination, ozone depletion, wildlife stress, erosion, bandit trail building, Rainbow Tribe gatherings, latino parking and picnicking, gas development and target shooting, and that it would produce a major increase in property values due to local children watching Wexner’s hunting guests cleaning their kills.
“We are so looking forward to these free anatomy lessons,” said Cinch Creek resident Lilly Cruse, “With Wexner owning the peak and land adjacent to ours, we expect his guests to be much more successful with their hunting and subsequent game cleaning than when anyone with a public tag could hunt up there. When it’s public, the game gets scared off. When it’s private land big game is attracted by the salt licks and feeding stations that the ranch hands can more easily install. I’ll be buying my daughter a telescope tomorrow.”
When Willner of Big Land Group was asked how his firm had apparently engineered a nearly seamless process for privatizing a whole mountain that is public land, he cited Lou Dawson and Tayler Chapman as outside consultants without whom they would have given up and walked away from the daunting challenge of converting a whole mountain from public land to private.
“I read Lou’s blog religiously,” said Willner, “if it wasn’t for him I’d have never contacted Taylor Chapman and tapped Chapman’s vast knowledge of the land exchange process. According to Outside Magazine, the guy has done 487 land exchanges like this, talk about experience!”
Chapman (who avoids appearing in public) was missing from the commissioners hearing room during the decision. Admited “publicity hound” Lou was there and said it’s been an empowering experience working with individuals as varied as Willner and his wealthy client.
“I love these guys,” said Lou, “After the Big Land Group promised me a new backcountry skiing trailhead to be built near Marble, Colorado, I couldn’t help but support giving away Mount Sopris. I didn’t quite know how to go about helping, but Chapman is a genius and showed the way. Along with all that, I’m looking forward to the 50 pound box of Victoria’s Secret lingerie that I’ve been told Wexner sends to all his supporters once these sorts of deals are locked. My wife is going to look good in that stuff, and I might even try some of it myself. Oh, and remember to check for the latest developments at WILDSNOW.COM, THAT’S W I L D S N O W DOT C O M”
Last year a proposal to rename Mount Sopris to John Denver Peak was implemented. While the John Denver name idea appears to be a non starter, Wexner representatives said that if Mr. Wexner owns the mountain he can rename it, and they’ve already discussed changing the peak’s title to Mount Wexner. Forest Service officials concurred that they’d already been asked about a name change. They said while they don’t have ultimate authority for geographic name changes, the USGS Board of Names generally listens to their recommendations. Wexner supporters this reporter spoke with also suggested the peak be named Mount Victoria. Consensus seemed to be that was too commercial and the name Wexner was more in keeping with local culture.
Opponents of the Sopris land exchange became desperate in the final hours. After being reported by annoyed nearby ranch owner Yon Shook, two individuals were arrested for attempting to protest the historic land exchange by shining their headlamps from the Sopris summit. Shook complained that “light pollution is a very real problem, and this was a perfect example of uncaring individuals messing things up for the rest of us.” Still others hiked off established trails and crushed sensitive grass stalks, causing Forest Service officials to step up their law enforcement presence in the area.
Forest Service officials said they were confident that now that the Sopris Exchange was a done deal, they would not only have less land to patrol with their ever shrinking budget, but that they were sure protesters would be silent and accept the rule of law. Nonetheless, the officials cautioned that “today’s bright LED headlamps are a very real environmental problem, please dim your lamp when hiking at night so as not to offend other user groups.”
(WildSnow guest blogger Leon Sendmuller spends equal time on the ocean as a yacht crewman and writing about ski towns. He specializes in researching ways public land is improved by giving it to private ownership. Researchers Dillon Downing, Leslie Dawson and Haul Gandersen contributed to this article. Thanks also to volunteer editors from New Forker magazine who made sure the word count was adequate. Lorbs magazine column writer Andy Gritty also contributed.)
This blog post is a WildSnow.com April Fools’ parody and satire construct, and is in no way factual or intended to represent any real agency, person, or entity. For factual opinion articles about Soprs land exchange issues, please see our Land Use Category.