Great Outdoors Colorado’s help needed to save wetlands
The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Trust Fund, financed by lottery proceeds, is once again being asked to help save a significant piece of Summit County open space.We ask GOCO to see the wisdom in participating in the $11 million purchase of the B&B Mines property – 1,840 acres of recreational lands, wildlife habitat and sensitive wetlands encompassing the Golden Horseshoe area in the Upper Blue Basin.The purchase is being engineered jointly by the Summit County and Breckenridge Open Space programs. Even working together, $11 million is a big nut to crack and nobody is yet sure where all the money will come from, but that’s how valuable to the public this purchase is viewed by the respective open space commissioners and elected officials.Of the $11 million, $9 million is for land purchases and $2 million is for environmental reclamation at the Wellington-Oro mine up French Gulch.Specifically, an application is going to GOCO for $500,000 targeted for a portion of the purchase known as the Upper French Gulch property.These 156 acres represent how a valley floor looked before the gold dredge boats ripped up almost all of the Swan, French and Blue River drainages in the early 1900s through 1948. The dredge boats turned the drainages upside down, and we have the piles of dredge rock today to attest to the ecological disaster.The Upper French Gulch property can be viewed from the French Gulch and Sallie Barber roads, which both skirt the property.The acreage is characterized as some of the last intact montane riparian willow carrs along a valley bottom in the county. The still-intact ecosystem is a nursery for the Colorado River cutthroat trout, a state “special concern” species.The Colorado Natural Heritage Program has ranked the parcel as” highly significant” for biodiversity.While GOCO’s funds would be targeted at this precious piece of biological heritage, in the big picture, the $500,000 leverages local taxpayers who are still on the hook for the rest.To that point, we think GOCO is being asked for too little.Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Jason Starr, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Aidan Leonard and Martha Lunsky.
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