When it comes to the proposed Emerald Mountain land swap deal, it's time for the residents of Routt County to play the popular political game of the day -- "Connect the Dots."
Dot No. 1: The Colorado State Land Board is selling/trading the 6,400-plus acres of Emerald Mountain for $15 million to $17 million ($2,400 per acre). This is far below fair market value when comparable prices in the area are examined. For example, a 1,200-acre parcel next to Emerald Mountain recently sold for $22.5 million ($18,500/acre). Further, the 15,000 acres of BLM land being traded for Emerald Mountain will be sold for $1,000 to $2,000 per acre, which also is at far less than fair market value. This land is worth $50 million to $75 million based on comparable sales. These lands are held in trust by the State Land Board with revenues dedicated to K-12 education. By law, the CSLB must maximize the return of these lands either through leasing or selling. The current sale/trade fails that mandate.
Dot No. 2: State Senate candidate Jay Fetcher, a Democrat, is in line to be one of the buyers of BLM land in the Emerald Mountain Land Swap. Fetcher is a landowner who abuts a 120-acre parcel of BLM land, which will be swapped in the BLM/Emerald Mountain Land Swap. This parcel is prime development land; has public access through the forest; is between Hahn's Peak Lake and Steamboat Lake; is close to a county road; and has a magnificent view of Steamboat Lake. Comparable land in the area sells for $5,000 to $12,000 per acre. Fetcher could acquire this land for less than $2,000 per acre. If he developed and sold this land in 35-acre parcels, Fetcher could pocket a profit of $500,000 to $750,000. In addition to running for the Democratic senatorial seat in this district, Fetcher was on the School Board for more than nine years and is familiar with the law mandating money from the sale of these lands by the CSLB go to K-12 education programs.*
Dot No. 3: Chairman Doug Monger of the Routt County Board of Commissioners, a Democrat running for re-election, was on the Emerald Mountain Partnership Board and, most significantly, was on the selection committee to select the parcels of Emerald Mountain to be traded and then sold to private ownership.
Dot No. 4: Ben Beall is the former chairman of the Routt County Democratic Party. He also is the chairman of the Emerald Mountain Partnership and was instrumental in bringing in the BLM to initiate the land swap between the BLM and the CSLB.
Connect the dots: Valuable Emerald Mountain acreage is being swapped for BLM acreage of lesser value. The Emerald Mountain acreage then will be sold at below fair market value. The entire transaction raises serious questions of political influence and conflict of interest when it comes to three prominent Democrats. Additionally, the transaction denies potential funds to the K-12 Education Program.
Connecting the dots raises serious questions about the conduct of Fetcher, Commissioner Monger and Chairman Beall -- all prominent Democrats with inter-related interests in the Emerald Mountain/BLM deal. It is high time residents of Routt County "Connect the Dots" and demand these "public servants" are held accountable to these questions before the Court of Public Scrutiny.
- Editor's Note: Jay Fetcher acknowledges that his family is interested in acquiring the property noted in the letter. Fetcher said the property, if acquired, would be used to expand the family's ranch holdings and protect the property from development. Fetcher said the family has no plans to develop or sell the property.