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Bush Administration Land Sale - Boulder Falls and Dream Canyon?

Submitted By: John McNamee on Mar 2, 2006


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The Bush administration is proposing to sell off a number of Forest Service parcels of land, ostensibly to fund rural schools. Many of these lands contain crags and the sales will undoubtably affect access. For example, much of the USFS land around Boulder Falls and Dream Canyon is on the list, the ?attached map? shows the specific areas.

You can look at the all the areas proposed using the viewer:Land Viewer

Get involved, call your congressmen.

Thanks to Adam Tschida for sharing this.


Comments on Bush Administration Land Sale - Boulder Falls and Dream Canyon? Add Comment
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 27, 2006
By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Mar 2, 2006

I guess I am not Topo-smart, but I couldn't make much sense of any of it. Does someone or some organization have the skill and time to translate this to a crag access map?
If so, are there any other parties interested in working to cooperatively purchase land and potentially donate it to the Access Fund or Nature Conservancy with an 'open to climbing' clause on it?

By Jason Himick
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 2, 2006

Before we get too worked up about this there are a few things to consider:
Are there any amenities or resources on this land that would interest a private buyer?
Does the City of Boulder have any interest in purchasing the land as part of Mountain Parks and Open Space? If not does it make sense to encourage them? If not the City, can the County be encouraged to look at purchasing this land?
The biggest consideration is whether or not there is any private interest here. Just because land is for sale doesn't mean someone is going to buy it. And although the land may be for sale now, it may not be in 5 years.

By John McNamee
Administrator
From: Littleton, CO
Mar 2, 2006

Hopefully the Access Fund can provide some comment, I emailed them the news as well.

By Buff Johnson
Mar 2, 2006

This is a good post - many thanks to Adam & John!! Comments due by March 30:

www.fs.fed.us/news/2006/releases/02/srs-federal-register.sht>>>

Some more info from the CMC & Dvr Post. This affects a good part of Colorado for which the CMC Conservation Dept is actively pursuing this matter.

previous.cmc.org/cmc/conservation/publliclandsale.htm
previous.cmc.org/cmc/conservation/publandsalelet.htm

www.denverpost.com/ci_3524632

By Bruce Pech
Mar 4, 2006

Tony,

The two 240 acre parcels west and northwest of Boulder Falls almost certainly encompass all -- or almost all -- of Upper Dream Canyon (e.g., the Oceanic Wall, Dream Dome, and Lost Angel) as well as the access corridors to the Canyon. The parcel straddling Highway 119 in the Narrows appears to include Bell Buttress, the Bowling Alley, and, perhaps, Avalon and Vampire Rock.

I agree with Ben that a real estate developer is unlikely to purchase the steep, rocky terrain in the Narrows for a subdivision or trophy home. The 400-480 acre Dream Canyon parcels are another matter. Since they include meadows suitable for homesites as well as the crags and creek, they're prime real estate for a multi-million dollar private estate or "ranchette" subdivsions. And, considering property values in Boulder County, I doubt that the Access Fund or any other climbers' coalition could out-bid a wealthy developer interested in buying the Dream Canyon parcels. Nor is it clear that the City or County have the money or inclination to purchase the property as Open Space.

Fortunately, many Western legislators -- including Republicans -- oppose the sales scheme. Add your voice to theirs by submitting a comment to the USFS. The e-mail address for submitting comments is SRS_Land_Sales@fs.fed.us

By Greg Hayman
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 4, 2006

FYI, here is an excerpt from the Boulder Daily Camera's March 1st article:

"The proposal, which was published Tuesday in the Federal Register, would give states, counties and land trusts the first chance to buy Forest Service land offered for sale, Rey said. Remaining parcels would then be sold to the highest bidder."

So, I'm not sure states, counties, or land trusts would necessarily have to outbid a private developer since they have "the first chance to buy".

With that said, I have no idea how the gov. would determine a price for these agencies.


By Bruce Pech
Mar 5, 2006

Greg,

I'm not sure the March 1st Camera/AP story is entirely correct. The Federal Register Notice and Request for Comments doesn't say that municipalities, counties, and land trusts will have a right of first refusal when the parcels are sold. Moreover, Mark Rey, the Undersecretary of Agriculture responsible for the Department's SRS legislative initiative spoke twice on February 28th -- first to the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and second at a "media briefing." His direct testimony before the Committee was silent on the issue. (I don't have a transcript of his answers to the Committee members' questions.) However, during the media briefing he said, first, that the land would be sold to the highest bidder and then, in reply to several questions asked by Pamela Purdy of the Denver Post, said that a right of first refusal for municipalities, counties and land trusts *might* be an option. To quote from the transcript of the briefing:

"REPORTER [Pamela Purdy]: Let me restate my question, Mark. ... What I'm concerned about is that some of these parcels based on some of the stuff that has happened here in Colorado could be candidates for these nonprofits or government open space programs for them to acquire them from the Forest Service. But if they're being up for public auction going to the highest bidder which could include these trophy home developers, TPL and Nature Conservancy and our open space programs, they're not going to be able to come up with the bucks in time. So what I'm concerned about is ... that these other government agencies and private groups will not be able to buy them and therefore we're going to see Trophy Homes springing up along the banks of the Colorado River. That's the concern.

SEC. REY: I think that's a concern that is well identified and one that will have to vet during the public comment process. It may be that as we go forward with this proposal we provide a mechanism if there's a bid from an NGO or a local government that we hold it until they can assemble the money. But I'd rather wait and see how many parcels, if any, fit that categorization before we start spinning off options from this proposal. Because the other option is just to delete those kinds of tracts from the list."

Hopefully, Congress won't enact the legislation authorizing the sales. If it does, comments submitted to the USFS before the end of March *may* encourage the Forest Service to delete parcels like Upper Dream Canyon from the list. The best USFS web page for learning more about the proposal and the comment process is: www.fs.fed.us/news/2006/releases/02/secure-rural-schools.sht>>>

By Dan Brockway
From: Boulder
Mar 5, 2006

There most certainly will be demand for the land across Hwy 119 and the Dream Canyon parcels. In looking for a comparable parcel I found a 175 acre property for sale for $1,900,000 in the Nederland area. You don't have to build over the entire area. Just be able to get a house on the the most accessible portion of the property and you have a marketable piece of property. If the land goes for sale I promise you it will be quickly bought and eventually developed. The new home owner will quickly realize that climbers are on this land and the liability will be unacceptable and they will be forced to close the area to climbers.

Ya, maybe some organization can come up with a couple million dollars to buy the land but... we (the public) own it now! This is our country why let Bush sell it. We need to stop the land sale in the first place.

Thanks to all for the information on the project. I need to get busy writing some letters.

By Buff Johnson
Mar 6, 2006

Dan, I completely agree that this idea is not at all good for Colorado, this land sale is being questioned by many groups. It seems to be a short term benefit in release of public lands for the benefit of something (such as educational needs) that could be better served with something like a bond issue.

One thing though:

"The new home owner will quickly realize that climbers are on this land and the liability will be unacceptable and they will be forced to close the area to climbers."

As long as the landowner doesn't charge for climbing on land in CO, there is typically no liability concern.

Some exception examples are gross negligence, failure to warn against a known dangerous condition, & maintaining an attractive nuisance. While a mine shaft is an issue (see CO House Bill 1049 - Access to Recreational Areas - for proposed revisions), natural occurring vertical features such as rock cliffs and ice flows are not.

By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Mar 6, 2006

Multi-million dollar home owners might not close the land just for liability. They may do it because they don't want strangers around.

Even where there is non-private-land access to a public cliff with housing developments nearby, there have been cases where the homeowners do not want to see or hear people nearby, so they lobby to close an area.
I don't even need to address territorialism do I? But look at what happens all over the country when trophy homes go in near crags. Sunset Rock, Buzzard Point, etc...

Gated communities exist all over. It is human nature.

Cigarette Butts, Tape, and TP at the base of any cliff will also not help, but are practically a guarantee at any modern climbing venue.

By Buff Johnson
Mar 6, 2006

All the more reason to support conservation-wise organizations & adhere to leave no trace ethics.

By Bruce Pech
Mar 6, 2006

Since posting Saturday, I've compared the USFS maps to Topo! quads and Google Earth satellite photos of Boulder and Dream Canyons. The only important crag in the Narrows that's definitely within the boundaries of a sale parcel is Bell Buttress. The Bowling Alley is just to the north of the parcel that straddles the highway. Unfortunately, the two Dream Canyon parcels clearly include the Oceanic Wall, Dream Dome, and Lost Angel as well as North Boulder Creek and the approaches from Sugarloaf/Lost Angel Road. Midnight Rock and the Vanishing Point are too close to the boundary to call.

By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Mar 6, 2006

Agreed, we should all be thinking about private land trusts and conservation. You can't trust the government to protect things for you. I consider this issue proof if the bill passes and these come up for sale.

I am a member of the Access Fund and a donor to the Flatirons Climbing Council, the Action Committee for Eldorado, the Utah Open Lands Trust (which purchased Castleton Tower) and also the Nature Conservancy. Note that the Nature Conservancy is climber-friendly; they purchased extensive Indian Creek lands and the Onion Creek towers and has left them all open to climbers.

I am seriously interested in purchasing the Bell Buttress area with the cooperation of the Access Fund and other donors. I am just a donor of cash though and not a logistical coordinator. Note: A tract of land across the road, just west of the Bowling Alley just sold for a few thousand dollars- it sold a few days before I contacted the seller to offer on it, unfortunately.

In summary, if this really materializes, I am seriously interested in participating in a real solution to the issue and should be taken seriously- I'll put some money where my mouth is.

By Dan Brockway
From: Boulder
Mar 6, 2006

Mark, I heartily agree with the "leave not trace ethic." That will help and is an excellent point. However, I still believe that the liability issue is huge and will lead to closure if territorialism, privacy issues, or exclusivity doesn't.

Tragically, a lot of people have died in Boulder Canyon in climbing accidents. I can just see an attorney explaining to an owner "well how can you be sure that you have adequately warned the people on your land of the risk". The landowner has everything to lose and nothing to gain (financially at least) in leaving the area open to climbing.

Lastly, even if there is no clear basis to sue it don't mean you won't get sued. The park service has been sued by people or their estates that were hit by lightning and by rock slides. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to win a lawsuit and people that can afford million dollar homes have attorneys that are well aware of this.

I can not think of any private land in Colorado where climbing is specifically allowed. Is there?

By Kirk Woerner
Mar 6, 2006

I also will put my money where my mouth is and donate, as I have in the past. Does that mean it's OK for me to complain now about the fact that some short sighted twit is selling off the countries public land cheap to his buddies so he can also lower their tax bills and provide convenient justification for the action?

By Bruce Pech
Mar 6, 2006

Dan, Liability IS a big issue -- but as Mark pointed out, sections 33-41-101 to -106 of the Colorado Revised Statues afford landowners who freely allow the public to use their property for recreational purposes pretty comprehensive protection from liability for any resulting injuries or deaths. You've made a good point about the costs and hassles of being sued, but it's addressed by section 33-41-105.5 which allows the prevailing party (almost always the landowner) to recover costs and attorney fees from the losing party (almost always the injured climber, hunter, etc.). This kind of fee-shifting provision generally discourages all but the most obtuse attorneys and litigants from filing shaky lawsuits -- and is probably one reason that the Access Fund has been able to persuade private landowners to reopen crags that they've closed because of liability concerns (e.g., Cat Slab after the fatal accident a few years ago). I think that Tony's right; the biggest threat to access will be the new owners' aversion to dirtbag climbers despoiling (figuratively and maybe literally) their trophy estates.

Tony, if push comes to shove, I'll chip in to bid on Bell Buttress. But I'm even more concerned about the threat to Dream Canyon. It's one of the few remaining semi-wild canyons in Boulder County -- and, excluding Eldo, has some of the area's best multi-pitch climbs.

By Buff Johnson
Mar 7, 2006

"I can not think of any private land in Colorado where climbing is specifically allowed. Is there?"

Yes, the S. Platte has such areas, some just have a different view in using the outdoors in these areas (as some owners are generational natives to the SPlatte backcountry areas) & climbers are welcome at certain climbs provided common sense & leave no trace is the ethic; some owners will grant permission to climb if they are just asked in a respectable manner. Otherwise, some of these landowners have no problem with their method of trespass enforcement.

And I'll go along with the other responses that, yes, liability is a big issue, that's a main reason why the CO Rec Use Act was drawn up and is being reworked. However, a land owner need not warn the general public of a naturally occurring physical feature such as a vertical/technical rock cliff. The duty to warn & an attractive nuisance definitions do not fall upon natural features. Eldo would have been closed a long time ago (however, there are issues with the man-made multi-use trail systems; which is why you see some type of "climbing access" terrain signage in some spots; this would be different as to a "social trail" that could arbitrarily run through private land - no duty required unless the owner had installed the trail system).

As some have pointed out, this land sale by the USFS has serious questions about its nature. I appreciate some are willing to step up and make a purchase in certain instances, but you could be competing with housing development. Are you all willing to bid these lands at whatever cost the market will bear? What if the USFS bundles parcels to make them more marketable?

Also, these monies are being touted to be used for a certain purpose, but is there really any oversight to these funds? Wouldn't something like a bond issue better serve the needs of something like an educational purpose? For the use in developing education in a rural environment, maybe not, so I take it a budgetary measure was/is necessary; is selling off lands the best solution or just a way to draw up some quick cash?

I see this more as a lobby effort to develop land (than to improve our nation's rural education or solve a budget deficit) that people in Colorado will no longer get the recreational and conservational benefit once this sale is approved.

Is this really going to serve a greater good? The more I think about what this sale is going to do to ownership of lands in Colorado, the worse I feel about it.

By Bruce Pech
Mar 7, 2006

Don't shoot the messenger, but another parcel straddling 119 between Blob Rock and Boulder Falls looks like it may include Happy Hour, Sherwood Forest, and the Bihedral. (Upper and Lower Security Risk, Blob, and the Bitty Buttress are east of its boundary). And just FYI if any of you are backcountry skiers, three big parcels to the south encompass the St. Mary's Glacier and eastern approaches to James Peak. Kirk's and Mark's posts are spot on.

By Buff Johnson
Mar 7, 2006

That's alright Bruce, the price of ammo just went up anyway.

No problem Dan. It's good that we all are able to discuss these issues.

By Dan Brockway
From: Boulder
Mar 7, 2006

Thanks to Bruce and Mark for the information, I was not aware of the legal details and am glad to hear it. Still we have a threat on our hands and it is good that people are starting to realize it.

By Mark Dinkelman
From: Fort Collins
Mar 14, 2006

I would guess as hot as real estate is in Boulder County these parcels will get snapped up REALLY fast. I would recommend voicing your concerns to the county commissioners. They will have considerable say as to what can happen up there...

By John McNamee
Administrator
From: Littleton, CO
Mar 16, 2006

I am Joe Garner, a reporter at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.

I am trying to find people to interview about the Bush Administration's plan for the Forest Service to sell 21,652 acres in Colorado to raise money for rural schools and roads.

Please call me at 303-892-5421 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thanks

By adam tschida
Mar 25, 2006

FYI...

Among other crags, the land sale includes all of Dream Canyon, Security Risk, and Bell Buttress. The deadline for comments is March 30. If you have a comment, please email it to:

SRS_Land_Sales@fs.fed.us

Thanks

By Jason Himick
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 27, 2006

If you would like to voice your opposition to this land sale, be sure to see Heidi's post if you haven't already.

By Bruce Pech
Mar 27, 2006

According to the latest maps posted by the USFS, the parcel that included the Bihedral, Happy Hour, Sherwood Forest, and, perhaps, Security Risk, is no longer for sale. However Bell Buttress and most of the important crags in Dream Canyon -- e.g., Lost Angel, Dream Dome, and the Oceanic Wall (as well as North Boulder Creek and the parking pull-out above the Canyon) are still on the auction block. Submit a comment to the Forest Service with copies to Senators Allard and Salazar and your Representative by the end of the week. Since the Forest Service can't proceed with the sale unless Congress passes enabling legislation, letters to Colorado's senators and congressmen are as important as submitting comments to the USFS. Congress killed the Rep. Pombo's "mining amendments" public land giveaway earlier this year; hopefully it'll kill this firesale as well.