Friday, August 20, 2010

Land Swap Triggers Colorado Dust-Up

Billionaire energy magnate William Koch's 4,500-acre cattle ranch in western Colorado is split in two by a large strip of federal land—and he wants to change that. The government land includes a road that takes hunters and hikers into a popular national forest, but some visitors stray and trespass onto Mr. Koch's property, according to his ranch manager. So Mr. Koch wants to take title to the federal land—and close the road—by swapping the parcel for land he owns elsewhere in the West. But the way the swap would be executed has drawn criticism in the region. Because the proposal involves multiple federal agencies and land in two states, the deal can't be dispensed with through normal administrative process, which include local public hearings and a thorough environmental review. Instead, it must be handled by Congress, through legislation mandating the swap. That legislation has been introduced by Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat who represents the region (and who is the brother of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar) and who has received campaign contributions from Mr. Koch. Federal officials at a Bureau of Land Management field office raised several concerns about the proposed swap in a draft memo that was leaked to environmentalists. The proposed deal would give Mr. Koch about 1,800 acres of BLM land, including the road that bisects his ranch and some additional mountainous parcels. In exchange, Mr. Koch would deed over to the public about 1,000 acres of land including a small parcel of historic value that sits inside Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. The deal also includes five luxury-home sites in Colorado that he bought for $2.7 million and that have long been coveted by the National Park Service for their scenic value and because they provide habitat for the sage grouse...more

BLM always hates it when they lose land and another agency, even one inside the Dept. of Interior, gains land. I don't know about this particular exchange, but the BLM would oppose it even if it made good sense and was in the public interest. Thus the leak to the enviros.

No comments: