Bennet Pushes for Answers to Durango-Area Residents' Concerns Over Proposed Land Exchange at Hermosa Creek

Applauds Forest Service Decision to Extend Comment Period, Allow Additional Time for Public to Weigh In on Proposed Exchange

Vows to Closely Monitor Proposal as Process Moves Forward

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today pressed U.S. Forest Service officials for answers to concerns voiced by southwestern Coloradans over a proposed land exchange that could severely impair public access to and enjoyment of the popular Chris Park recreation site located north of Durango.

In a letter to Mark Stiles, Supervisor of the San Juan Public Lands Office, Bennet raised several concerns he has heard from area residents over potential negative impacts of the agency's "preferred alternative" for the proposed land exchange.

Specifically, Bennet relayed concerns area residents have voiced to him over the proximity between the Chris Park picnic area and the proposed Glacier Club golf course. He also raised concerns over the potential effect constructing a new road through public lands, as called for under the preferred alternative, could have on the value of adjacent private property and the recreational value of area public lands.

"The San Juan Public Lands Office made the right move in extending the comment period and allowing the public more time to voice their concerns," said Bennet. "We need to make sure there is enough time for area residents to review and comment on this proposal, and that any land exchange preserves the public's right to access and enjoy these lands now and for years to come."

The full text of Bennet's letter to Supervisor Stiles is included below:

October 14, 2009

Mark Stiles, Supervisor
San Juan Public Lands Office
15 Burnett Court
Durango, CO 81301


RE: Hermosa/Mitchell Lakes Land Exchange Draft

Dear Mr. Stiles,

I write to express my concern about the proposed land exchange between the San Juan National Forest and Tamarron Development Corporation (The Glacier Club) which includes parcels north of Durango, Colorado.

Thank you for the 30 day extension of the current comment period to October 30, 2009. This exchange has been the subject of intense local scrutiny ever since the proposal was made public. The extension can only benefit the public by allowing additional time to examine and study the proposed exchange.

I understand the San Juan Public Lands Office has offered four alternatives in a draft EIS released to the public in mid-August. That EIS reveals Alternative II as the "preferred alternative" for the possible land exchange. I am concerned that this preferred alternative would have the most negative impact on the Chris Park area within the San Juan National Forest.

Chris Park is an extremely popular and easily accessible public park that is enjoyed by countless individuals, families and organizations. Unfortunately Alternative II would move the northern boundary of Tamarron Development Corporation lands within 1,000 feet from the Chris Park campground. One specific concern that a number of constituents have expressed is that the proposed new golf course will be located too close to this campground and the adjacent picnic area.

Also provided for in the preferred alternative is the construction of a new road. This proposed road would bisect public land and provide year-round access to the private club. Bisection would almost certainly diminish the value of this public property, both for present and future recreational uses of that land.

Finally, none of the alternatives specifically addresses the prior encroachment on public land by Tamarron Development Corporation, a historical fact that is acknowledged briefly in the EIS. At the very least, this trespass should be identified in every alternative including the No Action Alternative I.

I look forward to your reply and will continue to closely monitor this proposal.


Sincerely,

Michael F. Bennet
United States Senate


CC: Cindy Hockelberg, Columbine Ranger District
CC: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture