Colorado Sopris BLM Land Exchange — Serfs and Lords?

Post by blogger | June 12, 2012      

LAST UPDATES (text 6/18/2012) (GPS 6/16/2012) — if you use our GPS data, stay updated.

Please sign petition opposing this land exchange

Hiking Mount Sopris BLM Wexner Two Shoes proposed land exchange property.

If this land exchange happens, here is the treasure we'd be giving up, middle elevation lands already owned by the public, excellent hiking, hunting, and more. In this photo, we're near the boundary between USFS lands and the BLM lands proposed for exchange, our local signature peak, Mount Sopris, rises above in unique view angle that's delightfully different from that seen elsewhere.

In feudal society, a lord owns your land. You farm it (if he lets you), hunt (if he lets you), hike (if he lets you) or just look at the land by his whim. A man who appears to be in the running for our regional lord, Leslie Wexner (owner of Victoria’s Secret and more), appears to be using money to create a fiefdom. A far as I can research it, Wexner and his smart legal staff are essentially using vast wealth to sway public opinion in various ways, to gain favor for privatizing public land adjacent to their ranch, as an “exchange” for private land they own elsewhere.

A few examples of how the Wexner group is manipulating this process to their favored outcome:

One, Wexner outright bought several properties adjoining the BLM lands in question, with what I feel (and sources say) is the obvious purpose of blocking proposed access easements so they can claim the proposed exchange land has poor access. On the surface you might say, “so what, they bought some land.” But know that some of the acquired parcels were being considered by land managers to be used for easements or outright purchase to provide public access. The story is Wexner’s minions got wind of that, and quickly snapped some of these properties up at over market value — obvious purpose being to shut down any hint of public access to the public land. Building the fiefdom, as it were.

Two, according to my sources Wexner has promised an adjoining subdivision a donation to their “water fund” and also promised such adjoining private land owners they’ll been given foot travel access to a portion of the now public land even if it becomes private. The latter is huge, as at least some of those land owners might have perhaps protested the exchange deal due to their access to adjacent public land disappearing in a puff of well financed smoke. Instead, they still get access — we don’t. Sickening. And to think these property owners will receive cash money if the deal happens? That totally invalidates any opinion they have about the matter. Essentially, they’ve been paid off or at least appear to have been. Really, kind of dumb for them to have taken any of those concessions and then expect anyone to listen to them speaking in favor of the exchange. Sadly, BLM and local officials appear to be listening to this tainted support for the exchange.

Three, the main piece of land Wexner proposes to trade for the exchange was, in my view, obviously purchased specifically for that purpose — a 557 acre property known as Sutey Ranch that’s seductive to mountain bikers as it could possibly add trails to an existing cycling area. On the surface, that sounds ok. But the Sutey is significantly smaller in acreage than the BLM lands to be exchanged (1,470 acres!), is not the wonderful backcountry land that’ll be ‘disposed’ of if this process is completed — and most importantly, our Department of Wildlife states that if the Sutey Ranch becomes public land under their jurisdiction, they’ll require it to be managed for wildlife conservation — not recreation. What that means is is may not have _any_ mountain bike trails, and will be closed entirely to human use for many months of the year. (Note, the main BLM parcel of exchange lands is 1,269 acres, with two smaller parcels making the total 1,470.)

Four, BLM would also receive a $1.1 million donation from the Wexners – said to somehow be earmarked for developments of a site-specific management plan for the newly acquired parcels, and for their long-term management. Legal bribe or what? Cash is cash and has an influence. Again, the whole thing would smell much better if the cash part had been left out of the deal. Considering their land purchases to block off access, money for Prince Creek Homeowners, an army of lawyers and consultants from Western Land Group, and this BLM ‘donation,’ the amount of coin the Wexners are laying out must be phenomenal. Amazing what selling lingerie can do.

On the access trail a short distance before hitting land slated for privatization.

On the access trail a short distance before hitting land slated for privatization. Click to enlarge.

Indeed, reality is that the public land Wexner wants to take is astonishing in its value as a public amenity — “disposing” this to private ownership would be tragic. The land in question does not compare to the Sutey Ranch; it is vastly superior in numerous ways such as it being mid-elevation backcountry where hiking, equestrian and bicycle trails could be built that had a much more “backcountry” spirit than those of the Sutey area; wildlife is much more abundant and varied and could easily be accommodated by careful trail design and recreation management (the area is already ranched, which doesn’t seem to be bothering the animals a whole lot); it is already public land — we should proceed with fanatical care on ANY deal that privatizes public land (and view most such deals with extreme skepticism if not outright hostility.)

One of the worst parts of the Wexner effort to sway public opinion is it appears his men-at-arms have somehow spread disinformation to us serfs, to the effect that the public land in question is virtually blocked from public access. Indeed, one of the strongest cases for Wexner acquiring ownership of the public land through land exchange is that it’s “inaccessible to the public.” That would actually be a good reason (provided the exchange involved creating public land that _was_ to be totally accessible for public recreation, which it does not as the Sutey ranch in exchange will have a large human restricted area for wildlife). But, this accessibility issue appears to be a lie or at least ambiguation (and more, a situation that appears Wexner and his staff attempted to create through various manipulations such as buying up surrounding property and blocking informal access, which is nauseating). Below are more facts (and yes, some blog style opinion as well):

Google Earth view of the backcountry area in question, see links below  to download Google Earth file.

Proposed land exchange as viewed in Google Earth: purple encloses public land slated to become private, red shows hiking route that sticks almost totally to well used trails and two-track dirt roads. See links below to download this Google Earth file for viewing on your local computer. If you choose to hike this, most of the route shown is proven to be the best line, but know that the section from Lions Mane north to might be better walked along the fence lines, download the Google Earth file and the GPS files to make this clear by viewing on your computer.

If you’re not from our WildSnow HQ area here in west central Colorado, you might yawn at this post. Please do not. This sort of legal theft is going on everywhere. It’s disgusting and the system that allows it needs to be changed. Links below cover all this. For now, how about some maps and GPS data? Locals can use this info to go hike the beautiful, downright spectacular land that is slated to be stolen from the public commons. Non locals can see what throwing money around can do to steal our heritage. Check it out. Be aware. Very aware.

Unique view from BLM property slated for 'disposal" to private ownership.

Unique view from BLM property slated for 'disposal" to private ownership. In this shot, we're looking northerly at a formation called the Lions Mane, which would end up mostly in private ownership if this deal goes through -- and of course the view in this photo would be eliminated from enjoyment by the public. Town of Carbondale is visible in distance to left of Lions Mane, and interestingly the ranch that Wexner bought to try and exchange for this is on the reddish hill in the distance just above Carbondale.

You’re probably thinking, what exactly is being offered in exchange? Yep, the Wexner legal trust went out and purchased a very nice little ranch near here, one that appears to offer a few recreational amenities mainly for mountain bikers (but actually may not, due to priority of wildlife conservation). To nearsighted politicians and citizens this appears to make this thing a good deal (even though the public land is 1,470 acres, compared to the tiny ranch at 669 acres!), and that along with Wexner promising to spread ever more money around to various non-profits. A modern day feudal lord: instead of war horses, Wexner uses war dollars. Mainly we need letter writers to oppose this potential tragedy. Is the pen mightier than the sword of the lord? Let’s find out. Click links below for details on everything. Meanwhile, a few more maps for locals wondering about the lies pertaining to public access for this amazing chunk of land.

Wild roses on land slated to be taken from public ownership.

Wild roses on land slated to be taken from public ownership.

Main access, from the west, Crystal River drainage. Marked trail is approximate.

Main access, from the west, Crystal River drainage. Marked trail is approximate, see Google Earth and other items here for data you can use for hiking. Click image to enlarge, or download via links below so you can read everything.

Route to access BLM lands from Prince Creek Road

Approximate route to access BLM lands from Prince Creek Road using overland off-trail hiking. Considering the Crystal access shown above, this makes two totally legal access routes for this public land. We've researched this route on the ground, and it appears a better route might follow the fence lines more closely, or else use game trails at higher elevation. Click image to enlarge.

Download GPS track and data for hiking the proposed Mount Sopris Land Exchange, (AKA: Wexner, Two Shoes, Sutey, etc.). This is in GPX format that works in many GPS units. Note that section of trail marked from Lions Mane north to BLM corner 015 might be better hiked along fence to east of marked route (most of route is verified.) The GPS data uses GPS datum WGS84; be sure your unit is set to that (most are).

Download Google Earth File (install Google Earth software first. Please note that property boundaries on this map are approximate, while the marked trail is guaranteed not to use private land even though it appears to do so in a few places where it’s close to fences.)

Download Garmin GPS file to install on your GPS or use in Garmin Mapsource software.

Facebook Page for the facts.

Crystal drainage access map, same as displayed in post above, showing exact private land and general hiking route, download-display, exact locations of legal hiking subject to verification.

Recent article in Aspen Times, written by person who’s actually been on the land in question rather than hearsay.

BLM offical information about the land exchange.

Route Description from Crystal River Valley (taken from several sources, best used with GPS unit, route description subject to verification, use at own risk).

This description describes a lengthy hike that takes a rough diagonal across the totality of BLM land proposed for privatization. Most parties will want to take a shorter but still satisfying hike into the beautiful Lions Mane area, perhaps a mile or so beyond, then return.

As of this writing, there is easy and legal access to this area from the south, but no formal public access or egress on the northern end of the public lands. That said, the northeast corner of the public land is several hundred feet from a public road right-of-way and what many people view as historical easements do exist. Use your own judgment here; we make no recommendations in terms of northerly access/egress, though we’re comfortable saying that prosecution for trespassing here would be unlikely.

The trail described below is occasionally marked with temporary social markers such as rock cairns or flagging, locals attempting to control use of public lands adjacent to their private holdings have been removing all markers soon after they appear. Doing so is juvenile and only has the effect of causing the public to wander and create threaded trails. We’d request to the locals that they stop removing markers and let one main trail remain marked. When you go up there and scour the trail markers, you’re acting like you’re in kindergarten.

To begin the hike, Drive HWY 133 (about 7 miles north from Carbondale, or drive south from McClure Pass) and park near the Nettle Creek Road Bridge crossing the Crystal River. Reliable parking is available about 300 feet north from bridge on side of HWY 133 — one or two spots may be available on east side of bridge, but these spots are being manipulated and possibly illegally signed and blocked by by what appears to be people living nearby. It’s better to park on the roadside just as people fishing do, though be sure you’re in a wider shoulder spot, well away from the pavement. We wouldn’t be surprised if the childish locals called in complaints about parking near the highway and attempted to thus harass trail users.

From the east side of the bridge, head south across a small creek on an obvious dirt road road along an irrigation ditch to a rusty and somewhat hidden gauging station on the ditch (to your right as you walk south). Look left for a road cut up and to the north with 3 steel stakes at the start (these appear to be planted to block ATV traffic, by whom we do not know and they may be illegal and subject to removal.) Walk up the road cut.

After a few hundred feet up the road cut, follow an obvious powerline for about 200 yards then head right to the creek. Cross the creek on a well used trail to a small irrigation ditch, cross a 2×12 plank bridge over the ditch (again, we wouldn’t be surprised if this plank was removed by locals) and climb to the improved dirt Nettle Creek Road. Walk up the road to the Carbondale water treatment plant and look left for a road cut just a few feet before the treatment plant. Follow this up the a short distance, then head left on an obvious foot trail that generally follows the left side of the creek.

(Regarding Nettle Creek Road, you may observe that this road is gated just north of the bridge. This is why you walk south and take the variation described above. There is some question as to if it’s legal to gate the Nettle Creek Road. We’re of the opinion that it’s legal to climb over the gate and walk the road. If you do so, be ready to be harassed by the childish locals. Better to take the hike as described above.)

At any rate, you’ve reached the water treatment plant on Nettle Creek Road, and you have left the road and are hiking southerly up a drainage with a small creek. After a steep climb on obvious trail, stay on the easily followed trail and head northeast and gently down in to a drainage; look for cairns (though all cairns and markings tend to be removed by NIMBY locals attempting to discourage public use of these lands). Cross a boggy patch of wild iris, and when you reach a drift fence, go through the gate (grazing drift fence on public land) Eventually you pass through another gate, this time at the BLM boundary to the proposed land exchange acreage.

Continue northerly and gently descend into the Potato Bill drainage. It is critical to follow our mapped and GPS documented route in this area, otherwise you’ll encounter difficult oak brush. Pass through a grove of fir and enter a meadow bisected by the fence running north/south which divides BLM lands from Wexner private property. Continue north and cross Potato Bill Creek into a grove of very large oak trees at the southern base of the Lions Mane scarp formation. Head up the hill (dirt and scree, sparse timber) somewhat parallel to the fenceline on a well used trail (again, this is the public/private boundary). When you reach the east/west fence at the top of the Lions Mane, head west to enjoy a fantastic view of the Lions Mane, across the Crystal River valley over to Thompson Divide and up the flanks of Mount Sopris. A good name for this high-point is “Lions Mane Overlook.”

From Lions Mane Overlook you have two choices.

1. Simplest is to continue along the fenceline north, then go north a bit more till you hit dirt roads and heavily used trails leading to Thompson Creek and so forth as described below.

2. For less fence walking and more backcountry hiking, from Lions Mane Overlook head westerly on the Lions Mane ridge for a short distance, then follow less distinct trails north and northeast about 1/2 mile to pass just feet north of an important private/public property fence corner (see map).

With either choice 1 or 2 above, from the property corner follow a short section of trail north and east which leads to two-track which you then follow easterly for about 1/2 mile where you swing north and stay on two-track to eventually reach Thomas Creek. To stay on public land here, your best choice for hiking (or bicycle riding if you hauled one up here) is to swing east on an obvious two-track (well used by the adjoining ranch as their own virtually private road) which follows Thomas Creek upstream for about 1/4 mile where you’ll see a very obvious two-track road cut heading steeply north off the main two-track road. Stay on this road as it leads to obvious private/public property line fence, which you pretty much follow all the way north to the far northeast corner of the public lands. This last part of the hike is actually quite nice, taking high somewhat dry sage flats that are scenic and easily walked. Reverse the route to return to the Crystal River drainage. Full hike is 7 miles one way to far northeast corner. Parties of average fitness will need a full day to do the 14 mile out-and-back trip from the Crystal River drainage.

Overall, the trails described above should be considered unmarked, some smaller sections are intermittent due to livestock and wildlife wandering not establishing one main route. For success, travel with a person who’s done the route, or use a GPS loaded with the data you can download in the links above and below. Also note that the first section of trails described above is excellent hiking on USFS land that will (hopefully) remain public even if the BLM land exchange goes through. But the prize is the BLM land up on broad shelves, shoulders and ridges. Magnificent terrain with Lions Mane Overlook being the crown jewl.

Unfortunately, we as public owners and users of the commons have a nearly empty arsenal when it comes to opposing these heinous land exchanges. Public opinion is our only weapon, and in this case a man with huge monetary resources has managed to sway public opinion by spreading wealth around (or promising to do so), as well as appealing to some local residents’ nimby tendencies. Thus, we can do two things: 1.) Use media to get the facts out, as I’m doing here. 2.) Write a letter to BLM. Until the final decision on the Wexner exchange, it’s critical to send written comments to the following addresses. Email is just as effective as written.

Steve Bennett – BLM
Field Manager
2300 River Frontage Road
Silt, CO 81652


The best opposition letters cover specific points (see end of this blog post for suggestions) but writing a simple letter or email saying you oppose the land exchange is useful as well. How much influence these sorts of letters have is an open question, as this is not a voting process, but at least let yourself be heard. If this land is stolen from us and you did not speak up, you’ll regret it the rest of your life.

(Please note: I, Lou, the author of this post, am not against the land exchange process when it is obvious public good and equal exchange of value comes out of it. Indeed, the Federal exchange process was near as I can tell indeed designed to accomplish just that (though it turned out to be based on poorly written laws and rules that need revising). More, I’m a private property advocate who is not against land owners doing the best they can with what they have — rich or poor, thousands of acres or a half acre. What I’m against here is a clearly unequal exchange in value, including a net loss of public commons acreage that happens to be an incredibly wonderful amenity for a variety of healthy and essential recreation.)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


62 Responses to “Colorado Sopris BLM Land Exchange — Serfs and Lords?”

  1. Jed June 12th, 2012 10:25 am

    This e-mail address bounces:

  2. Lisa June 12th, 2012 10:37 am

    Jed, thanks for the heads up. I corrected the error. His email is:

  3. Jack June 12th, 2012 10:57 am

    Lou, do you think that out-of-state emails are worthwhile? I have no direct connection to the area (other than in, perhaps, my future plans). Currrently living the life in Eastern Massachusetts.

  4. Lou June 12th, 2012 11:10 am

    Jack, YES, this is FEDERAL land — YOUR LAND! In fact, out of state folks have huge influence on all this. Heck, Wexner himself is out of state!

    Thanks for writing.

  5. Lou June 12th, 2012 11:13 am

    BTW, if you guys are writing and have time, please see guidelines in this previous blog post that’ll make your letter more powerful:

  6. Andrew June 12th, 2012 11:15 am

    It appears Carbondale has become a suburb of Wasangeles. ;(

    Another aggravating factor in these types of shenanigans is that the robber barons have learned to either circumvent or minimalism any sort of public input. They’ll quietly work on projects for years, line up all the $upport they need and then spring it on the public at the last possible second. In the case of the SkiStink bill, the public was given a one week notice that they would be allowed to comment, oh, and by the way, the venue happens to be in Washington, DC. None too surprisingly, the vast majority of the public input came from lobbyists and paid-off local SLC politicians who “just happened” to be in DC at the time.

    As much as anything, it is a sign of the times when those with vast wealth can openly and legally get away with things like this, and much more.

  7. Lou June 12th, 2012 11:40 am

    Thanks Andrew. Agree for the most part, but I’m not sure that wealthy folks getting away with stuff is anything new or a sign of the times…

    What’s amazed me as I’ve learned more about this stuff over the years is how if you have the money you can basically just go out and buy public land. In my youth, I had no idea that was at all possible, though I always knew you could lease public land with special use permit.

    Thing is, the process for doing this is actually quite necessary to land management, it just needs to be regulated in a different way so these outright land grabs can’t happen.


  8. MVA June 12th, 2012 12:55 pm

    I’m a bit curious… this on the surface seems to be quite like the telluride case with Chapman, and yet in that case you seemed to tip toe carefully on the issue not using an outwardly negative tone in your pieces on the subject. Then with this one there is no hiding your disdain for what is being done. I understand T-ride isn’t your home and this is but what else is there that I am missing that is different between the two cases.

    FWIW I think this and the t-ride case is a crock of $&it.

  9. Xavier June 12th, 2012 1:11 pm

    MVA..interesting question? maybe NIMBYS( Not In My Backyard Syndrome) ; )

  10. Jon June 12th, 2012 1:26 pm

    Telluride is a different case. Here in Tride we at dealing with already private land that does block easy access. In this case it is public land that would become private. Lou nails it when he says there is no going back from that exchange. Once land is private it stays that way. Write in!

  11. Joe June 12th, 2012 2:53 pm

    Done, hiking up there tonight to explore the area. I suggest others do the same if you live in the RFV or come down/up this way to recreate you owe it to yourself and others to know what land will be taken from you. FOREVER might I add.

  12. Joe June 12th, 2012 3:58 pm

    In such a dry spring and upcoming summer can the nearby residents access their water? Is anyone aware of where this stands?

  13. Tony June 12th, 2012 4:47 pm

    I’m curious: are the people opposed to this land swap the same ones thronging the Roaring Fork Valley in two-story pickup trucks with “No Hidden Gems” stickers plastered on them?

    Seriously, could privatizing land currently managed by the Bureau of Logging and Mining make things any worse? As long as the dominant truckasaurus/ATV/motocross crowd still thinks Jesus wrote the Constitution to guarantee their right to tear up, burn, log, and ranch into desert anything labeled “public land,” I’ll take my chances with a feudal lord.

  14. Lou June 12th, 2012 6:13 pm

    MVA, each thing is different. In this case the land is already public, that’s the main point! When someone such as Gold Hill Development out of Telluride already owns land and does things like not wanting trespassing, as a fan of property rights I have no fundamental problem with that with that though I would perhaps whine about it as it’s indeed an example of the trend in the west that’s blocking more and more access. In Chapman’s case I thought there was way too much negativity and nothing that appeared to be proactive on the part of the public, just whining and hate. I just didn’t care to go that route so I tried to write neutral or even friendly style about it, as sometimes that’s a better way to get things done. Sure enough, GHD has been exploring ways to accommodate backcountry skiers, including the idea of mountain huts. Wexner’s deal is nothing but taking beautiful public land and shutting down all access except to a select few nearby property owners and his friends and associates., way different than operating with existing private land. Lou

  15. Dostie June 12th, 2012 8:05 pm

    Gooooooooooooooo Looouuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And all you letter-writing Sopris locals!

  16. John Gloor June 12th, 2012 9:44 pm

    Tony, I don’t follow your reasoning. I have one of the “No Hidden Gems” stickers on my 4runner, but that does not concern this parcel. Why would anyone favor trading more than double the amount of public land than is received from Wexner? How is that better than having it as undeveloped woodland under public ownership?

  17. Warren Rider June 12th, 2012 10:26 pm


    Can you tell me who is the head of the BLM decision process at this point? Is it Allen? I wouldn’t mind catching up with an old co-worker to talk about his exchange if you think it would be helpful.


  18. Frank K June 13th, 2012 8:59 am

    Lou, I hope to see a similar post regarding Koch’s land swap proposal closer to your Wildsnow backcountry headquarters in the Raggeds. These guys definitely use the same playbook- tell everyone the land being lost isn’t that great anyway, offer a bunch of “better” lands, have your cronies in DC do all the heavy lifting so none of the locals know what’s going on in their backyard, etc. Koch has even sent a couple of nice glossy mailings to all the addresses around here, stating his case. Hard to win against money like that.

  19. Jess June 13th, 2012 9:25 am

    All–I second (third, fourth?) the need for and value of submitting comments to BLM on this exchange. While I’m not intimately familiar with BLM practices or land exchanges (or even Carbondale, for that matter), I have spent a bit of time in the land of lobbyists and political power and I can tell you that your thoughts matter and that agencies do actually consider them. What’s more, public comments often serve as a way to preserve an issue for later legal battles (the good kind, where the environmentalists and public land users triumph). So, especially if you’re familiar with these areas I’d say write in and tell them all you can about the relative values/uses of the parcels to be exchanged, how access will be limited by the exchange, how water rights will be affected, etc. etc. Lou–thanks so much for bringing these issues to our attention. Public lands are our greatest legacy.

  20. Lou June 13th, 2012 11:29 am

    Frank, thanks for the encouragement. I’d hope someone would go hike that and guest blog it, but if we have time we’ll get over there midsummer. Last I heard the Koch deal might not happen? You got any news sources for that?

    Whatever the case, one reason to oppose these sorts of land exchanges is that many are obvious abuses of the system. I don’t care how much money they offer non-profits, or what private land they offer in exchange, the fact that a guy can basically buy public land by spending money and hiring lawyers is a fact. And once more and more people figure out how to do it, you’ll see more and more of these things happening. Yeah, some exchanges are good, some might piss people off but in the end really don’t have much effect on anyone… Big thing is before I’m convinced I’d have to see obvious parity in value of the lands exchanged, no loss of backcountry public land, and no payoffs and patronization of user groups and generally inept town and county governments. The fact that Wexner has been promising money to people all over the valley if this thing goes through is a red flag in of itself, and in my opinion should invalidate the whole process, or be the subject of a later lawsuit from public interest groups.

    I’d also add that I’ll continue making an effort to be critical of this process, but to not vilify or personally attack the proponents such as Wexner. Yeah, a bit of sarcasm and joking are fair, as in post above when I talk about lords and serfs, but I’m not going to expend energy on doing personal attacks the way many people have treated Chapman. Wexner is actually probably a pretty cool guy in many ways, and most certainly must have an amazing mind for business. It appears he likes big things. Big yachts, big houses, and apparently big ranches. As far as I’m concerned most of that is fine by me, but his going over to this effort to acquire public land to increase the size of his ranch is something I can not abide.


  21. MVA June 13th, 2012 1:21 pm

    Got it. Thanks for the clarification. Irateness completely justified 🙂

  22. Lou June 13th, 2012 9:24 pm

    Two new points from research and discussion today:

    1. The access right Wexner has promised adjoining land owners is worth money, as it increases property value. It is thus more than just a nice thing for the property owners — it’s a payoff.

    2. Someone inside the deal told me that Wexner mainly wants to do this to prevent gas drilling on the public land. I found that a bit hard to believe upon examining all aspects. But, if that’s the case, a deal I could live with is if Wexner acquired ownership of the property, but at the same time made it all a conservation easement that allowed use by the public. By doing that, no gas drilling could occur, and the public could still use the land. As this was never proposed, I suspect this little story about gas drilling is just BS.

  23. Tom June 14th, 2012 8:41 am

    The open house in Aspen was well attended last night, though once again Leslie Wexner didn’t show up. After reviewing the maps of the proposed exchange parcels I am thoroughly unimpressed with what is being brought to the table. A little known aspect of the exchange are three parcels surrounding the Lady Belle ranch south of Eagle. If the swap goes through these will go to Wexner who already has plans to sell them off to the LB ranch. It is possible that Wexner is going to be benevolent in this and just pass them on in the spirit of being neighborly but on the other hand he didn’t get to be a rich man through benevolent acts. The BLM stated that the main purpose of this exchange, as with many others, is to reduce fragmentation which is a good thing. These three parcels are also next to Colorado State School land, how about we give it to them to bolster the education system in Colorado? There is one other parcel very near to the LB Ranch that doesn’t quite border the ranch and is not included so in reality the fragmentation isn’t reduced to the degree it appears. That parcel does border the state school land and could be transferred along with the other three to make a noticeable reduction in the random fragments of BLM land. The public really needs to look at the maps of all the parcels to realize how truly unbalanced and skewed in favor of the private sector this is. More to come!

  24. Lou June 14th, 2012 10:09 am

    Tom, Lisa and I would have been there, except our son had a big event with college that we decided to celibrate. Family has always come first here, but I was indeed bummed I couldn’t attend in Aspen.

    Regarding Wexner showing up, be it known that how guys like him go about doing this is they hire a cast of thousands (or dozens) to do virtually everything. In this case the Western Land Group, who are incredibly good and have refined a process of manipulating public opinion and getting the exchanges done. All it takes is an idea about what public land you want to buy (through a trade), then you just write a check to Western Land Group and they make it happen. They’re not bad guys, and neither is Wexner, but the process is bad and flawed because basically it allows anyone with money to just go out and buy public land, by using other trade lands as currency, and also allows the proponent of the land exchange to spread money around in order to manipulate public and official opinion. All legal, but wrong.

  25. John June 14th, 2012 11:37 am

    Why would you ever advertise and publish maps showing access to the BLM parcel? This is critical wildlife habitat, particularly for Big Horn Sheep. The last thing it needs is more hikers and developed trails. This is incredibly irresponsible and shows a profound lack of appreciation for how this BLM parcel should be maintained – predominantly undisturbed and protected from development and human recreational uses. A conservation easement and restricted public access is exactly what the BLM land needs – not more gapers. Finally, will you feel triumphant if the exchange falls through and Sutey gets turned into a subdivision? Thanks a load for that. If you could get over your hatred for rich people and look at the benefits of the overall uses and protections for the land – you might see the net good that comes out of the exchange proposal. 1,400 acres of former BLM land placed into a conservation easement and 669 acres of development land put into public ownership for wildlife preservation and public use.

  26. Michael Kennedy June 14th, 2012 11:48 am


    So, fences and stock ponds; horse, cattle and 4-wheeler trails; and other development associated with ranching, grazing and private access are all okay?

    The land is public now and impacted by all the above. No “hatred of rich people,” just a desire to be sure that we, the people, understand what we’re giving up.


    A Gaper

  27. John June 14th, 2012 12:07 pm

    I will take a conservation easement and restrictions for agricultural use any day over BLM multiuse policies. The oil and gas leasing debacle in Thomson Divide does not need to be replayed on this piece of BLM land (or who knows what other use BLM may see fit to impose on this piece?). In exchange I’ll gladly see Sutey and its water rights put into public stewardship and the land on Prince Creek made public. The winter closure regulations on Red Hill provide critical winter range for deer and elk on Sutey. If that land were developed it would be a travesty. I’m not willing to sacrifice Sutey to make a point about how rich people shouldn’t be allowed to facilitate land exchanges, especially when the exchanged land will protected from development and extractive industries. There’s a reason Aspen Valley Land Trust, Eagle Valley Land Trust, Eagle County, Carbondale and Wilderness Workshop all support the exchange. Pitkin County is the lone objector, and I guarantee you that objection is not based on a valley-wide perspective. For PitCo it’s all about PitCo and screw everyone else.

    I guess I took the comments about Wexner being our “regional lord” and us being “serfs” as disdain for the wealthy – apparently that’s not the language of class envy.

  28. Gas Dawgs June 14th, 2012 12:34 pm

    Somewhere, near Denver, Dallas and Houston maybe, gas company executives are toasting you all, to your quibbling over 1,400 acres, as they prepare, and now finally in earnest, to make work on hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands just across the Crystal River. Who cares about a little benzine and a few flaming-throwing water faucets when we’ve got a Wexner fish to fry?!!

  29. Lou June 14th, 2012 12:48 pm

    John, anyone who knows my politics and personal philosophy knows I don’t have any sort of overall disdain for rich people, and just to set the record straight, let me say I do not, and indeed am striving constantly to become rich myself. I actually in many ways admire individuals such as Les Wexner. In this instance I chose to use some sarcasm to make a point. Point being that if you have the money you can virtually buy public land, and in this case I don’t agree with the purchase.

    As for gas wells, their associated gas field exists for up to 60 years or so, then they go away — if anywhere close to that long. If the land is changed to private ownership, that’s forever. Folks are always talking about “robbing from future generations.” Well, here is a case where public land is being robbed from future generations. Moreover, to play the “gas card” for any BLM land as a device to justify changing to private ownership is a ridiculous exercise as the extended logic says this is a valid means of conservation that should be extended to all BLM lands if possible, and we know that’s specious and laughable. I actually can’t believe a conservationist would be advocating this, I mean, what has the world come to?

    As for Sutey, it has no comparison to what we have up at the BLM lands at Two Shoes. As for “critical habitat” that’s a term of art that means nothing. We have more elk in this state than we’ve ever had, and much of the herd is managed to provide shooting recreation for out-of-state hunters. Why people consider that more important than other recreational uses is something I just can’t figure out. Indeed, most people I talk to who start trotting out this “critical habitat” verbiage are anti hunting, and when I explain that the habitat is considered “critical” to keep the game herds blooming so hunters have more targets, these same people seem to get a glazed look in their eyes and start talking about endangered field mice, as hunting isn’t an issue with field mice — at least unless they invade your cabin.

    Truly, Western Land Group and Wexner have spread so much money and promises of money around this valley, and played to so many emotions, they’ve done a job of public manipulation that’s worthy of 10 Oscar awards. The more I learn about it, the more against it I become rather than the other way. In fact, of late as each revelation comes up I feel like I need to take a shower afterwards. Lou

  30. Lou June 14th, 2012 12:55 pm

    P.S., if you hike the BLM land in question you’ll see that it’s got a dirt road on most of it, and well used trails on the rest. It’s obviously well traveled by mechanized means such as ATV 4-wheelers and used by humans coming off the Wexner property, both for recreation as well as ranch work. To say that’s somehow good and that us public going up there and walking around is bad is patently ridiculous. Pure mythology. Believe me, if it was truly a pristine backcountry wilderness I’d be slightly more inclined to agree that management of human recreation could be important, but the way it is in reality is it’s quite will used and enjoyed, you can go up there and look at the 4-wheeler tracks if you want.

    While you’re at it you can also check out the nearly 2 miles of road they’ve build on public land to access their water system. Pristine habitat? My arse.

  31. Lou June 14th, 2012 1:29 pm

    Lastly, who died and made our pubic officials king and special interest groups such as Wilderness Workshop king? More times than not, I disagree with them and most other people disagree quite often as well. Public officials’ take on land use issues is frequently mis-informed and subject to various forms of influence and bias. Groups like Wilderness Workshop are radicals, and influenced by the necessity of fund raising. We citizens have to figure this stuff out on our own, not listen to the politically and who-pays-my-salary rooted BS. Amazing that people can call a president a liar, then think that their local elected officials are some kind of little perfect gods who are experts on public land issues. Sure, in a perfect world those guys represent our interests, but sorry….

  32. John June 14th, 2012 1:57 pm

    The Bighorn herd on Sopris is seriously threatened. They concentrate for breeding in the area around the Lion’s Mane, Potato Bill Creek and Nettle Creek – the very areas where the bandit trail to the BLM parcel has been created. Bighorns are particularly susceptible to adverse impacts from human recreational use. The management plan for the BLM parcel if the trade goes through would protect those areas where the Bighorns need protection. The balance of the BLM parcel would also be subject to a comprehensive management plan in concert with the CDOW. I don’t consider these minor issues and place the preservation value of this parcel much higher than the purported recreational value for humans. The same concerns apply to Sutey. It’s an important piece of ground to preserve that provides linkage to the Fisher Creek parcel. The Sutey property will be managed first and foremost for wildlife preservation. These open space and and wildlife considerations trump the recreation card for me.

    As for conservation easements, I think they are an extremely effective method of preserving open lands, whether they occur on private lands or in the context of a public land exchange. Losing Sutey Ranch and having increased public recreational impacts or extractive uses on the BLM parcel would be the worst possible outcome for land preservation and wildlife protection. If you think the creation of hiking trails for people is more important, then we’ll certainly never agree.

  33. Lou June 14th, 2012 2:23 pm

    John, I assume you or at least many of your friends and loved ones live on land that used to be wildlife habitat? Sometimes, human use does trump wildlife.

  34. Lou June 14th, 2012 2:40 pm

    Oh, and I forget to mention. There is a win/win solution for this until we change the laws that allow virtual purchase of public land for privatization. Let Wexner acquire the land, but the conservation easement that is so incredibly beautiful to you guys in favor of it would include a couple of human trails with access by the genral public. Such trails could easily be designed to have no more influence on wildlife than existing ranch work and private recreation going on up there already (not to mention the adjoining land owners who will be allowed to hike on the northern part of the property!). There you go, the win/win solution that requires all proponents to put it on the table for something that works for everyone.

    If this really was a “conservation easement” that was really to conserve wildlife habitat, it would exclude all human uses on the entire property, including the dirt road that the Wexner ranch uses for crossing public land between the private parcels, as well as their road they built and maintain on public land. Instead, this is pure simple elitism being supported by a bunch of deluded or at least biased and misinformed public officials.

  35. John June 14th, 2012 2:44 pm

    Of course I live on land that used to be wildlife habitat – everyone does. That’s not a reason to sacrifice the existing habitat that remains to development. Pretty pointless comment Lou.

  36. John June 14th, 2012 2:58 pm

    Your idea for retaining a trail is a good one – but that’s part of what the public is getting in exchange – access on the Sutey parcel and access on the Prince Creek parcel, both of which are currently private and off limits to the public. Both exchange parcels offer more public benefit than the BLM parcel (the Prince Creek acreage in particular which is key access to the trails on the Crown).

  37. Jack June 14th, 2012 3:57 pm

    I’m going to stay out of the Lou/John discussion (fracas?) and just say that I wrote to the BLM managers with a general slow down, consider recreational uses and resource management planning, very much in line with the points on Lou’s associated post.

  38. Lou June 14th, 2012 8:04 pm

    No more fracas, John has made his points and so have I. To me this is basically three questions for our readers. 1.) Do you wish to support and encourage a loophole in the land management laws that allow people to virtually buy large tracts of public land. And 2.) Do you think we have a scarcity of wildlife around here in Colorado, or a scarcity of backcountry access? And 3.) Do you think that people and wildlife can coexist?

    Write letters, whatever your point of view, especially since John is writing dozens (grin).

  39. Mike June 15th, 2012 9:35 am

    You aren’t by chance the Jonathan Lowsky who is quoted in the Times today are you?

  40. John June 15th, 2012 9:39 am

    No – not me.

  41. Lou June 16th, 2012 8:58 am

    Updated and edited this post today. If you’re hiking up there, be sure to always use our latest GPS data. Once our data stabilizes, I’ll note that. For now, download frequently.

  42. Matt Kinney June 16th, 2012 10:32 am

    One must read between the legal lines on these exchanges. Many of the wealthy that buy up these lands are members of Safari International, a leading advocate for trophy hunting on public lands. They exchange land for preserving hunting preserves. But they don’t want you to actually know that, so they hide that in the small print as a “stipulation” and act like conservationist to the press and public. What they really do is buy up huge tracts under the guise of “conservation easements” The caveat to the purchase agreement is that hunting and/or grazing right will never be stopped, ever. Guided “can” hunts will proliferate and hunters will have the main say on wildlife management. So in other words, in the future, if the citizens of the area wanted to simple stop “trophy” hunting or manage a specific area but limiting or preventing hunting they would not be able to at any time in the future, forever.

    One need not look further than the mission statement of US Safari International to understand why some of these exchanges occur by their members. Seems we are protecting wild life corridors so the wealthy can shoot trophy animals for simple sport not real sustenance. In Alaska, SI tried to contract to manage state wildlife management on vast state lands through some other nefarious action to stop “emotional” citizens from being involved in wildlife management. They failed in that effort, but had plenty of support from International trophy and guiding interest.

    This is happening across the west as the wealthy tie up lands to preserve the “heritage” of trophy hunting. Sounds a lot like the royal hunting lands for the rich and privileged in England.

    I’m not anti-food hunting, but these exchanges may tie the public’s ability to effluence game management in other ways than just managing them for pure sport. The hunting industry knows very well what this is about. They fear vast areas of federal land eventually being off limits to trophy hunting. They prevent this by the exchanges and insetting a “trophy hunting” clause into the exchange agreement, which they have and still do.

    Hopefully that is not the case near Mt Sorpris, but it was the case in last weeks exchange of lands in Southern CO last week by the feds. There, they sets aside a “corridor to protect wild life” so people can shoot them in the same corridor.

  43. Adam Olson June 16th, 2012 11:48 am

    Am I hearing you right:
    1)The Two Shoes Ranch has created illegal roads and trails on the proposed BLM land to be exchanged?

    2)Is there is a subdivision that needs access to the proposed BLM land to be exchanged for their water interests? Is the subdivision out of luck if the exchange doesn’t happen?

    I certainly hope the BLM will extend the comment period for this exchange. It seems like the more the general public starts to understand the consequences of the exchange the more the general public seems to be losing.

    The Sutey brothers are laughing in there graves, as a member of the very first Red Hill Steering Commitee the Sutey brothers were the biggest opponents of the public using there precious ranch. Hell bent I would call it. Seems like hell is being bent here for this exchange to happen under everyone’s nose.

    Lastly, what is up with the spineless ramblings from people unwilling to use there whole names? Your words carry no weight without accountability.

  44. Lou June 16th, 2012 1:52 pm

    Adam, no, nothing illegal being done up there that I know of, though I’d sure like to know what a grazing permit allows a rancher to do in terms of mechanized access and brush cutting. The point is they’ve touted the BLM land as being some kind of pristine game preserve, without trails, when in reality it’s got miles of dirt roads, ATV tracks, and single tracks. Evidence all over the place of human occupation. Not to mention crisscrossed by drift fences they use to control cattle grazing. Amusing also, if you look close at Google Earth you can see cattle grazing on the BLM land. The overall idea is that judging from the amount of use and grazing the BLM got and is getting, it could easily be managed in part for human recreation, and in part as a game preserve, just by segmenting off parts, doing trails in the correct places, etc.

  45. Matt Kinney June 17th, 2012 8:43 pm

    I looked at google earth closely as you recommended and all I saw was a herd of telemark skiers crissXcrossing corn fields. I hear they are endangered in CO, in particular AT managed tracts bought up by those rich Dynafit…moguls?

  46. Tom June 18th, 2012 12:51 pm

    When the aspects of this exchange are laid out for all to see it is hard to imagine why this is even on the table. There are ways to achieve the stated goals of the BLM that are simpler and increase or maintain the value to the public. Given that there is a single person on one side of this exchange and the entire public on the other, the increase in value to the public should not be something that you have to squint your eyes to see, it should be overwhelming

    Reducing fragmentation, simplifying management and increased value for the public, those are the three features the BLM looks for when considering a land exchange according to Steve Bennett at the open house in Aspen recently. How could anyone have an issue with that, seems reasonable? The problem with the Wexner exchange is that it fails in all three areas.

    I have already touched on the parcels surrounding the Lady Belle Ranch parcels on how that aspect doesn’t reduce fragmentation as much as it appears and also how an alternate exchange with the state of Colorado could increase the value for the public.

    The same can be said for the Two Shoes/BLM parcel. An alternate plan not involving privatization of public land would be to do an intra-agency land exchange with the USFS which the 1200 acres borders on the south. That would reduce fragmentation and maintain pubic value. It would also release the BLM of managing the Sutey Ranch, which is an active agricultural area (water right/irrigation etc). The BLM is not in the business of active agricultural management and acquiring this area would not simplify any management issues that the BLM is responsible for.
    My .02!

  47. Tom June 18th, 2012 3:30 pm

    The BLM has decided not to extend the public comment period so get your comments in by the 20th!

    This is surprising for those of us who don’t think this proposal should even have gotten this far but is standard operating procedure for the BLM since it is in the “scoping” period. The comments received will be taken into account when they determine what will be done in the Environmental Assessment which is the next step.

  48. Jim June 18th, 2012 9:14 pm

    Time to stop the land hostage problem. Wexner, Koch, Chapman, its all the same. The rich get our land for very little paper and or trade of land and we the public get screwed. In Gunnison we lost river access to the Moncrefs (oil stuff) forever.

  49. Lou Dawson July 22nd, 2012 4:29 pm

    While I’m pretty suspicious of all this stuff, each deal should be looked at on its own merits and detriments. More, some deals are actually ok — land swaps and such are quite common. Also, though I do attack Wexner with sarcasm, it’s really not these guys fault, it’s rather the fault of the BLM and USFS rules and regs that let this happen. In the case of Chapman and Telluride land, he and Gold Hill Development serve to illustrate how our government tends to not take care of these things in a good way. For example, the land that Gold Hill Devlopment bought could have been had for a very reasonable amount of money at one point, and it’s incredibly surprising it wasn’t purchased by some benevolent organization, or by the Telluride skiing corporation. In fact, the latter defies common sense, as instead of buying the land, Telski seemed to think they could do commercial guiding on it without permission. You’d think this was science fiction, all the weirdness, really…

  50. Tim August 30th, 2012 4:47 pm

    Interesting development in the case of “public access” and picture making in and around the site of the proposed swap.

    Anybody else get any certified mail from from the USFS?

  51. Lou Dawson August 30th, 2012 4:59 pm

    Hi Tim, I’ve not heard of anyone else getting cited. The above is typical USFS “make an example” theory of law enforcement, which is incredibly unfair and usually politically motivated. What’s ironic is we suspect at least some of what this investigation is based on is the accusations of a nearby NIMBY who you can bet would clear a downed tree off that trail in a New York minute, so they could get their horse past it. The whole thing is super sad. Such a good example of how access to our public lands is constantly being eroded, never improved. Even though the public has demonstrated ever growing needs for more trails, better trailheads, better parking, and on and on. Just, sad.

  52. John August 30th, 2012 5:18 pm

    I would be surprised if the USFS elected NOT to pursue the case since the two people in question decided to openly publicize the trail work they did in the newspaper. Seems that the USFS would be accused of making improper exceptions to its regulations if it decided not to cite them. I’m certain the PItkin County Open Space and Trails officers wouldn’t hesitate to ticket anyone they found altering a trail or creating a bandit route, just like the USFS or the BLM. It happens all the time – so why suggest that a double standard is appropriate here? Sauce for the goose.

  53. Lou Dawson August 30th, 2012 5:23 pm

    John, I don’t recall any trail work being publicized. But correct me and how about a link? If you’re talking about simply marking a trail or route, that’s done all the time by everyone from climbers to hunters. If doing so is illegal, then there are literally tens of thousands of criminals running around out there and I for one would want to see that law enforce evenly, or changed. Not used as a tool to harass selected individuals, or to set an example.

    In other words, if it’s illegal for a hunter to tie some surveyors tape to a few trees to mark the route back to a kill, or for a climber to build cairns on the summit routes on Pyramid Peak, when and where is the USFS enforcing the law on those guys?

  54. Tim August 30th, 2012 6:13 pm

    This June 15 story from the Aspen Times has a bit of foreshadowing in it: (

    Lots of curious elements to this, including that suspicious camera of unknown origin identified by Lou, why the USFS, rather than the BLM, is doing the citing, and perhaps most importantly how any public agency could frown upon (and fine) members of the public making honest attempts to familiarize themselves with public lands connected to a proposed land swap.

  55. Lou Dawson August 30th, 2012 6:26 pm

    Thanks Tim, I’d agree the whole deal is rather curious. But regarding USFS, most of the trail _up_ to the BLM land is on USFS land, hence, the misguided enforcement effort. What’s annoying as all getout is if you go up on the BLM land, you’ll see all sorts of evidence of vegetation removal and such on public land, obviously done by ranch folks. Enforcement of that? Fugetaboutit. My theory is that a local whining nimby is behind much of this, but that’s just theory (though theory based in part on the mysterious surveillance camera we encountered up there, which was NOT USFS or BLM and had an antenna aimed at an obvious local’s location…)

    For those of you who are curious, here is the blog post about the illegal camera we found installed on the trail:

    I should add, to be fair to USFS and BLM, that they are required to enforce laws to at least some degree.

  56. John August 30th, 2012 9:11 pm

    BLM and USFS are different agencies. The BLM parcel is under a grazing lease, so trails and use issues are different than USFS land. The trails you saw on the BLM parcel are likely permitted under the agricultural uses pursuant to the lease. USFS standards are different and more stringent to protect sensitive wild life habitat, etc. In either case, creating bandit trails for recreational uses is always frowned upon and prosecuted if notorious enough. As a mountain biker I am constantly trying to rein in other riders from creating bandit trails out of respect for the overall public process of public land management. I find it deliciously ironic that the Pitco Open Space officials are being busted for ignoring the same rules they themselves impose on others. After awhile the beaurocrats end up eating their own kind, and their own rules bite them in the ass. Terrific!

  57. Lou Dawson August 31st, 2012 5:56 am

    Good points John. Biggest irony to me is that part of what the proponents of the land exchange are touting is the so-called pristine nature of the BLM lands that are probably indeed under grazing permit, and well used.

    In defense of the individuals the USFS is accusing, they didn’t build any bandit trails. Also, they are not “bureaucrats” but rather public land access advocates.

    If anyone has built a bandit trail it’s the locals near the land exchange who have been using and gradually improving the access trail for years.

    I heard the trail was indeed marked at one time, not sure who did that but whatever the case case the markers were obviously completely erased (very probably by nimby locals) just a few days after they were placed. The markers were doubtless no more than tiny rock cairns (two or three rocks stacked, or a piece of surveyors tape. I’ve never seen anything wrong with or known that it was a crime to place a trail marker on an existing trail. That is truly news to me and I’ll be much more careful myself with that sort of thing, so as not to get on the wrong side of the law. As for vegetation, if there was any cutting, it was removal of twigs directly on the trail, not outright trail building, same as hunting outfitters do around here.

    The issue of bandit trail building is tricky (this was not trail building, but you bring up that important issue). Many people would agree that we need more trails, and that our public land management agencies (for whatever valid reasons) are not stepping up to the task other than in a very minimal way. When that sort of discrepancy happens, you get civil discord and people try and meet needs outside of due process. We live in a country that’s by the people and for the people, meaning the solution to public needs is not to go around arresting people who are not hurting anyone, but rather to look at meeting those needs.

    The USFS and BLM are indeed strapped for cash, and pulled in a lot of different directions. But they do have degrees of discretion on where they allocate resources. More, they have an amazing amount of power when it comes to finalizing the location and opening or closure of trails. During the making of the USFS Travel Plans, they go through a rather tedious process that has turned into somewhat of a nightmare, wherein some citizen groups fight to close land and trails, while others fight to open more trails and roads. Because it’s cheaper to just close trails, or not make new ones, the trend is for us to hardly ever get much in the way of new access or trails.

    The trail in question above is a totally established and well used track, not a bandit trail or anything of the sort. Most of the use appears to be nearby locals, especially some with horses. You can see the horse tracks. Much of the use in certain parts is from grazing, in fact, at least some of the trail is cow trail. When I was up there, it was obvious that for years people have maintained the trail by cutting brush, removing logs, and so forth. I’ll guarantee those people doing that are not the ones the USFS has cited. In fact, I’d guess that at least some of that was done over the years by the same people working on the grazing permit lands, or perhaps the USFS land is still covered by a grazing permit. If that’s the case, niggling over someone placing trail markers and cutting some twigs is absurd!


  58. Hawk February 22nd, 2013 1:42 pm

    Lou, the BLM have published the land exchange documents, and set back the decision date another month or longer. Turns out that any comments of substance are usually still considered throughout the process. This exchange is not a “done deal”, so if you have learned something new about this exchange, KEEP WRITING to the BLM. The BLM published comments (all 386 some ofdd pages of them, pro and con) are at:

    The Prince Creek Subdivision (meant to be secret until the exchange goes through) agreement providing the adjacent homeowners with cash and personal, private access, and settling their water issue (concocted by Wexner for pressure(?) complete with a map, is at pages 151-155 and very much worth reading. The resulting letter of support from the homeowners is at page 284. It is just as you said, documented and for real with Wexner’s lawyer all signed off. How many other letters of “support” were similarly bought and paid for?
    Best Part? Letter of support and agreement signed by a well-respected brother of a sitting US Senator, neatly sidelining him from having an opinion or role in the exchange. I tell you, these guys are GOOD….Watch your backside.

  59. Lou Dawson March 20th, 2013 6:53 am

    Just thought I’d leave a comment here and say that the USFS prosecution of Hawk (above) and Annie for “illegal trail work” was dropped. I’d like to state here for the record that the trails in question have existed for years both as game trails and human routes, and that locals such as outfitters and nearby land owners have used and (judging from observation) cut and otherwise removed vegetation on these trails for many decades.

  60. chad Huck June 27th, 2014 8:33 pm

    This truly is a sad day. I have been hunting, hiking, and taking my kids up there for many years. My dad brought me up there when I was 10 and have been going up there ever since. To have my land,your land,and everybody else’s land sold out from under us is a crime.

  61. Lou Dawson June 28th, 2014 8:00 am

    I did hear the swap was approved. Can’t find any news articles about it. If someone has link, let me know. I’ll edit all my blog posts once I know it’s a done deal, so as not to cause confusion. If the deal is indeed approved that’s very sad, and in my opinion we the public are heavily on the losing side of the situation. Only long-term upside is the resulting massive private ranch and endless construction projects will keep a lot of people employed. The guys selling ATVs should do good as well, as from what I saw during hikes up there the folks using the ranch will be going all over the place on 4 wheelers. Lou

  62. Curtis Wackerle March 10th, 2015 9:32 am

    Hello Lou and WildSnowers
    Curtis from Aspen Daily News here. I am trying to get on the main federal parcel to take some photos and write a story about what I find there. As you may know, this thing is still before a Dept. of Interior panel of administrative judges. The federal land is still public. I’m wondering if the route description in this blog post is still valid, and what conditions will be like now. Any help would be most appreciated. Feel free to email me at Thanks.

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