The Crestone Eagle, September 2005:

County transfers lots to Crestone/Baca Land Trust for additional open space

by Kim Malville

At its meeting on August 16, the county commissioners transferred 51 lots to the Crestone Baca Land Trust to protect important wetlands and riparian corridors in the Grants. This was an historic transfer, which enables the Land Trust to expand greatly its efforts to maintain the quality of the natural landscape in the Baca.

White Wing Wetland
Part of the transfer gives the Land Trust ownership of 32 acres of an important area known as the White Wing Wetland, located to the west of Heatherbrae Road between Camino Real and Birch Road. The unusually high water table in the area has made it an important grazing area for elk. The grasslands and moist soil also support unusual plant and animal communities, which have been identified by the recent biological survey funded by a grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Land Trust has been working to prevent development in the area and especially to avoid any fencing.

Spanish Creek Wetland
The large pond that formed for two to three months during the summer of 2005 at the crossing of Camino del Rey and Spanish Creek is a remarkably rich biological habitat. John Sovell of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, who directs the biological survey that we commissioned, reports an abundance of animal and plant life in the wetlands, such as Brazilian free-tailed bats, tiger salamanders, chorus frogs, Mountain Plover, Wilson Phalaropes, and the San Luis Valley subspecies of the northern pocket gopher (Thymomys talpoides agrestis).

The Land Trust has particular concern about the threat of development and septic systems on the margins of this wetland. Specifically, we wish to prevent any construction on Stallion Trail, which would have negative consequences to the health of the wetland. We are attempting to work with owners of lots along Stallion Trail as well as those adjacent to the White Wing Wetland to assist them in making trades for less fragile land elsewhere in the Baca.

We are very grateful to the County Commissioners for their interest in working with us to preserve wetlands, especially during this time of tight budgets. Wendi Maez, Connie Trujillo, and Jackie Stephens in the County administration played important roles in facilitating this transfer. Locally, both Tamar Ellentuck and Maggie Mesinger of the POA worked hard with us on this project.

We also are very appreciative of the support and encouragement we have received from the current POA Board of Directors. Tony Ross, Richard Enzer, Lee Mitchell, and Greg Griffin have consistently backed our efforts to preserve and expand open space in the Baca. Land Trusts across Colorado are struggling to stay ahead of development. Funds for this kind of work are scarce, and there are few Land Trusts in Colorado who have benefited from this kind of enlightened support from their county and local leaders.