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Proposed Sutey management plan calls for winter closure

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The Bureau of Land Management has announced its intended approach for managing the Sutey Ranch near Carbondale, pending a 30-day public protest period.

The BLM acquired the 557-acre ranch, as well as the 112-acre Haines Parcel near Prince Creek,  in March 2017 through the Sutey Ranch Land Exchange with the Wexner family. Once a working ranch held by the Sutey family, the parcel was historically used for grazing and includes ditch water rights, water storage rights and historic outbuildings. Much of the property’s western and southern borders connect to the “North Side” of the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area via existing non-motorized trails.

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Under the proposed plan for the Sutey parcel, the BLM would maintain irrigated fields to provide critical forage for big game and allow public access between April 16 and Nov. 30 to reduce disturbance to wildlife in the winter.

“The acquisition of these parcels has expanded outdoor recreation and access in the Roaring Fork Valley, and acquisition of the Sutey Ranch specifically ensures critical habitat for wintering big game,” said Acting BLM Colorado River Valley Field Manager Rob Berger.

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The Haines parcel would be included in the adjacent Crown Special Recreation Management Area with an emphasis on mountain bike recreation.

Of the two, however, the Sutey property has generated the most controversy as different recreational groups clashed over potential uses. The Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council, in particular, has lobbied hard for horseback riding to be given priority over additional mountain bike trails.

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RFVHC Communication Chairman Holly McLain said the organization was still reviewing the 67-page document but was initially pleased with the plan.

“The Sutey Ranch is a special place, which the BLM has recognized as a Priority Wildlife Habitat area with recreation use for hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers,” she said in a statement.

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Mike Pritchard, director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, declined to comment until RFMBA’s own review was complete.

The document traces most of the elements of its final decision to what was initially designated Alternative 1 — “wildlife and hunting emphasis.” Other alternatives emphasized equestrian access, mountain biking and hiking or no change at all. All called for limiting motorized and mechanized use to designated routes with winter closures, restricted surface disturbance and hunting and hiking access for at least part of the year.

Alternative 1 and the final decision differ from other options in allowing limited livestock grazing through a temporary non-renewable permit. The seasonal closures were also not present in the equestrian and mountain biking alternatives. The language on mineral extraction or disposal was something of a hybrid, closing both properties to salable,  locatable and non-energy use, but leaving it open to fluid leasing (petroleum extraction), except under Alternative 4A.

More information about the proposed plan is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnvM5. Protest submissions need to be received by March 18 and may be e-mailed to blm_co_sutey_haines_rmpa@blm.gov or mailed to BLM, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652, Attn: Sutey Ranch Management Plan.

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