Sleeping Giant land put in 'trust'

State Land Board move offers protection

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— As people drive west down Steamboat Springs' Lincoln Avenue the impressive profile of Sleeping Giant Mountain can be seen in the distance his head, chest and legs outlined against blue sky on a clear day.

An old tale passed down from an early resident says the giant was once a friend to the Ute Indians until he stole one of their maidens. A chief's son brought down the giant with one of his arrows, and today he still lies where he fell, making a beautiful backdrop for western Steamboat.

Now 369 acres of state land on Sleeping Giant has been recategorized by the State Land Board. Now, with its "Stewardship Trust" designation, the land is more insulated from development pressures.

That's good news for the rancher who leases the land for grazing.

"We didn't think it should be developed and should be kept in its natural state," said Dick Soash. The Soash family owns adjacent land it homesteaded nearly 100 years ago.

Soash nominated the Sleeping Giant land for stewardship.

"It's a natural landmark in the area so we thought it was important to preserve that as well," he said.

If you're looking at Sleeping Giant, the piece of state land runs south along its face and hits County Road 46 on the west. It is bordered by federal, private and state lands and offers the only access to the federal land.

The State Land Board manages 3 million surface acres and collects money from leases and sales. The revenue, by law, goes to Colorado's public schools.

About 300,000 of those 3 million acres will be set aside as Stewardship Trust lands. The long-term benefits of the acreage in the Stewardship Trust is valued more than its quick-buck potential, although the land must still generate revenue.

State Land Board lands not put in stewardship are supposed to be managed in a way that generates a maximum return. In other words, preserving the natural beauty isn't the top priority.

Another piece of Routt County land recently put in the Stewardship Trust was 640 acres of Morrison Creek which is southeast of Stagecoach Reservoir. The land was nominated by Colorado State Parks and the State Land Board because of three rare riparian communities, said Steve Hall, a spokesman for State Parks.

The two sites are just the latest pieces of Routt County land put into the Stewardship Trust. A total of 32,252 acres of Routt County has been moved into the trust, including about 6,400 acres of Emerald Mountain which serves as the southern backdrop of Steamboat Springs.

A group of citizens has formed a non-profit group that is looking for a way to buy Emerald Mountain to save it from development.

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