$5.1 million would ban development | SummitDaily.com

$5.1 million would ban development

Veronica Whitney

EAGLE COUNTY – Edwards resident Don Cohen contributed to the preservation of the Bair Ranch because he liked the idea of his money bolstering funds already committed to the deal nearing fruition.”This sets a good example of how public and private funds can work,” said Cohen, who is among more than 1,000 Eagle County residents who have put money toward the $5.1 million needed to ban development on 4,800 acres of the Bair Ranch, which straddles Eagle and Garfield counties. “We are going to see more and more of this combination of funding,” Cohen said. “Preserving land is expensive and you have to be more creative.” Cohen, who donated the money to the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the organization raising funds locally for the project, said even his 21-year-old son wrote a check to contribute. “It gives us a way to feel that we can have some ownership of being able to preserve open space,” Cohen said.Money donated by citizens will add to county, state and federal funding already set aside to buy what’s called a “conservation easement” on 4,800 acres of the ranch. The easement prohibits further development and allows ranching activities to continue. The closing is less than one month away, and local conservationists still need to raise $118,000 for the project. Cindy Cohagen, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, said the land organization is less than 10 percent shy of its $1.3 million fundraising goal. The deal between The Conservation Fund, the Boulder-based nonprofit spearheading the deal, and the brothers who own the ranch, Craig and LeGrande Bair, is set to close July 7.On June 1, after months of heated debate, County Commissioners Michael Gallagher and Arn Menconi, with Commissioner Tom Stone dissenting, approved a $2 million contribution toward the project. The $2 million comes from the new open space tax approved by voters in 2002. In addition to the private contributions and the $2 million from the open space tax, money to purchase the easement on Bair Ranch comes from the Bureau of Land Management, which has already committed $1.5 million to the project, and Great Outdoors Colorado, a state organization that has pledged $1 million.

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