Crestone Eagle, January 2004:
Sand Dunes Advisory Council creates
committee to study ‘north entrance’ road access
by David Nicholas
A community committee to look at road access
to the soon-to-be national park and other federal lands is
being formed with the encouragement of the federal agencies.
At the Sand Dunes meeting at the Desert Sage on December 5,
Supervisor of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Steve
Chaney, encouraged the community to get active.
Because of the controversy over the so-called north entrance,
vehicle access has been identified as one of the major concerns
the community has. In recognizing this, Chaney stated that
no matter what happens inside federal lands, what happens
outside those areas are local, county and regional issues.
How traffic is managed is not something the federal agencies
have any control over. “We can do things to encourage
or discourage it,” said Chaney, “but I would really
encourage this community to get a public dialog started of
what options may exist and would be effective or would be
acceptable in terms of managing vehicular traffic within the
At his urging, Great Sand Dunes Advisory Council member Chris
Canaly took the names of interested people.
The meeting drew an audience of 12 community members. In
his opening remarks, Chaney said the meeting was held “to
informally get together in this community, which has a lot
interest and a lot at stake in the management of the refuge,
the park and the forest”. Mike Blenden, the Baca Refuge
Manager for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Tom Goodwin
of the US Forest Service also attended.
Other issues addressed were:
Chaney announced that the latest newsletter from the Advisory
Council has been sent out and, if people would like to receive
one and be on the list to receive further updates, they should
contact the Monument. The next Advisory Council meeting in
Crestone will be in the summer 2004.
Baca Ranch acquisition
The acquisition by the Federal Government of the Baca Ranch
is a little ahead of schedule. The $9 million being allocated
in the 2004 federal budget appropriations puts the acquisition
within $2.5-$3 million needed to complete it. The money allocated
so far covers the purchase price of $31.2 million for the
ranch, and the remaining money required is to cover the closing
costs. Most folks expect the ranch to close in the next fiscal
year, which begins in October 2004.
This means that the partnership, which will exist between
now and when the ranch closes, has changed. Because of the
diminished debt load the Nature Conservancy is expected to
incur during this period, it is unlikely that the State Land
Board will have any involvement, and a new management strategy
will have to be worked out.
The ranch will remain closed to the public until after full
A study is going to take place on the elk herd, which at last
count at the end of 2002 numbered around 6,000. The study
involves the National Park Service and is to be funded to
the tune of $500,000 over three years. The NPS is looking
for additional funders to help with the costs of the study.
Chaney disclosed that the Liberty Postal Road would be used
for administrative access after closing for use by the NPS,
US Fish and Wildlife and the US Forest Service. The entrance
used would be at the south end of the Baca Subdivision and
starts where Camino Baca Grande hits the boundary fence.
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