Steamboat Springs A list of federally owned land parcels has been submitted to the Bureau of Land Management in the hopes that selling the properties will generate enough money to trade for Emerald Mountain.
On Monday, the Emerald Mountain Partnership gave final approval to 127 parcels of BLM land on 17,649 acres. The land is worth a total of $17.2 million.
The State Land Board owns Emerald Mountain and wants to sell it and reinvest the proceeds in assets that generate more revenue for the benefit of Colorado's primary and secondary public schools.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership is working with the BLM's Little Snake Field Office to begin a series of land exchanges that would ultimately allow the BLM to acquire the 6,345-acre Emerald Mountain parcel and preserve it.
The BLM's policy is to not sell land, but it can exchange parcels of land it owns for equivalent parcels it wants to buy.
The sale of the relatively small and scattered BLM parcels in Routt County to private owners could generate enough money to purchase Emerald Mountain. It would be a three-way transaction, with the BLM trading parcels with the State Land Board for Emerald Mountain.
Adjacent property owners would buy the parcels and the sale of those parcels would bring into the State Land Board the same amount of money as selling the mountain property would.
Of the 17,649 acres, the State Land Board plans to keep 4,340 acres. The rest of the acreage will be sold to 48 private landowners.
For more than a year, Denver-based Western Land Group has worked with the BLM and the partnership to identify pieces of BLM property available for exchange and surrounding property owners willing to buy the land.
Submitting the property list to the BLM "is one of those points along the timeline that is very important," partnership Chairman Ben Beall said.
The next step is for the BLM to review and approve the parcels on the list and then post notices for the land that will be exchanged. There will also be a time for the public to comment on the sale of federal land, most of which will go to private owners.
Some of the land on the list is landlocked by private land and inaccessible to the public, meaning it poses management problems and would be better suited to private ownership.
The BLM parcels being considered range from 4.5 acres to more than 1,000. The median size is 40 acres.
The partnership came up with guidelines it wanted the parcels to match.
Partnership members first went to owners with land that surrounded BLM parcels. They then went to owners that had land that surrounded BLM land by 50 percent or more.
The partnership wanted land that was not easily accessibly to the public and not heavily used for hunting.
Beall said all the parcels on the list have potential buyers, but things could change in the two-plus years until the transaction takes place. March 2005 is the target date for the land exchange.
In the latest appraisal, the mountain was worth $15.8 million, which is $1.2 million less than what it was appraised for in 2001. Because the final appraisal will not happen until six months before the land swap, Beall said the group has to find enough property to generate between $15.8 million and $17 million.
Beall said the goal should be even higher than that in case property owners back out of deals or the BLM decides the land cannot be traded. "We would like to have $1 million or $2 million above what we need just to make sure when we get to end of the purchase we have enough," Beall said.
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