Yet another Texas billionaire has set his sights on acquiring roadless national forest lands and wild river corridors. The Proposed Valle Seco Land Exchange would hand 175 acres of wilderness-caliber roadless lands adjacent to the South San Juan Wilderness to the Bootjack Ranch in exchange for a remote private parcel near Chromo.
We need your voice to be heard: tell the Forest Service to pull the plug on this blatant land grab and keep our public roadless lands in public hands.
We think it’s a bad deal for the public, and another example of a woefully inequitable land exchange process that favors well-connected big shots at the public’s expense (does the village at Wolf Creek ring any bells?).
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A little backstory…
The expansive Bootjack Ranch spans the valley encompassing the western approaches of Wolf Creek Pass and they want hundreds of acres of adjacent public lands. The ranch’s owner is Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren, owner of Energy Transfer Partners and the notorious Dakota Access Pipeline. Warren’s pipeline spurred months of protest by Native Americans and others outraged by its route across traditional indigenous lands and its threats to water supplies. Warren hired ex-military mercenaries, TigerSwan, to spy on and harass opponents to his pipeline. He sued Greenpeace and other groups for racketeering.
After expressing his contempt for the concerns of both Native Americans and environmental advocates, Warren now wants to embellish his Colorado trophy ranch at the expense of our wild forests and rivers.
We certainly agree there is benefit in acquiring the Valle Seco parcel for its big game habitat value. But it’s outrageous to purchase that at the expense of our irreplaceable wild forests and rivers – protected roadless areas shouldn’t be used as trade-bait for well-connected billionaires.
For more information on the Land Exchange and access to maps, please click the link below:
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Written comments will accepted until Thursday, July 29, and can be submitted online via the Forest Service Portal.
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- The trade takes 175 acres of the South San Juan Adjacent roadless area and gives it to Warren. This area was previously found qualifying for wilderness designation, but the Forest Service said no further protection was needed because it was managed under the Colorado Roadless Rule. Now the agency might just give it away – hardly some protection!
- The Colorado Roadless Rule established that roadless areas belong to all Americans and are a resource to protect and pass on to future generations. Selling a roadless area to rich, politically-connected big shot is not in the public’s benefit.
- If the Forest Service wants to acquire Valle Seco, then devise a plan that does not entail selling off roadless lands adjacent to one of our most iconic wilderness areas, the South San Juans.
- The trade is being orchestrated by the Western Land Group, the same lawyers and lobbyists who for decades have schemed behind the scenes to foist the Village at Wolf Creek on the public. Their involvement is a red flag that practically guarantees closed-door dealing to the detriment of the public interest.
I am writing to offer comment on removing 175 acres from the South San Juan Adjacent Colorado Roadless Area. There is no on-the-ground basis for cutting out these roadless lands, other than to appease the whims of the adjacent billionaire landowner. I object to the disposal of these wilderness quality roadless lands adjacent to the South San Juan Wilderness.
The South San Juan Wilderness is among Colorado’s wildest areas, and the lands within the adjacent roadless area included within this contemplated land exchange have been proposed for wilderness designation by conservation advocates for over 20 years. The San Juan National Forest previously deemed wilderness designation of this roadless area unnecessary because it was protected under the Colorado Roadless Rule. It is a betrayal of the public interest to quickly turn around and give away wilderness-quality roadless lands just because a neighboring billionaire wants them.
Given the extraordinarily controversial nature of eliminating wilderness-quality roadless areas for private benefit, it is imperative this boundary modification be analyzed in a full blown Environmental Impact Statement.
It is also imperative that this process be conducted in a completely open and transparent manner. The land exchange proponent’s lobbyists at Western Land Group are skilled at promoting the interests of their clients behind closed doors, and the public deserves equal treatment – the same access to decision-makers and documents as the lawyers and lobbyists get.
If the overriding purpose of the project is acquisition of Valle Seco for the value of its big game wildlife habitat, then a more feasible and widely supported approach is for the Forest Service to simply purchase the 880-acre Valle Seco property using the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress has permanently funded at $900 million per year. In any case, no alternatives should be pursued that require selling a portion of the South San Juan adjacent roadless area to accomplish this acquisition.
I encourage you to promptly reject this project. It is not in the public interest to hand over protected roadless areas to politically-connected megadonors.
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