The Crestone Eagle, March 2003:

McInnis secures $12 million for purchase of Baca Ranch from Nature Conservancy

by David Nicholas

Congressman Scott McInnis (R—Grand Junction), announced that $12 million was included in the 2003 omnibus appropriations package to acquire the Baca Ranch, the 117,000-acre tract of his Great Sand Dunes National Park legislation.

The $12 million McInnis secured represents a $5 million increase over the Administration’s budget request and a $1.5 million increase over the amount included in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill, and reflects the higher amount included in Interior Appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives.

Only $10 million more needs to be raised by the Federal Government to acquire the ranch from The Nature Conservancy, who through a consortium of private, state and federal sponsors, agreed to purchase the ranch with the intention of conveying the property to the federal government.

Verbal understandings made by Yale University to US Senator Wayne Allard, that it would provide $4 million of the $31.28 million purchase price to the government when it was revealed in April 2002 that the Ivy League Institution had a 50% holding in Vaca Partners—the current owner of the ranch, leave only $6 million to be raised by the Federal Government.

Finding the remainder of the money will not be a problem, Steve Chaney, Superintendent of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve, said at the annual meeting of the San Luis Valley Historical Society. “It is anticipated that the remaining funds will be allocated in the next Federal Budget, which is now being considered by Congress,” said Chaney.

The Nature Conservancy applauded the appropriation of the $12 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for the establishment of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Baca Wildlife Refuge.

“This project would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of many of Colorado’s leaders, including Governor Bill Owens, Senator Wayne Allard, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Representative Scott McInnis,” said Charles Bedford, the Conservancy’s associate director in Colorado.

Only one hitch remains. Vaca Partners has not transferred the ranch to The Nature Conservancy, due to the settlement of a lawsuit by a minor partner in Cabeza de Vaca Land and Cattle Company, Peter Hornick. A decision on this case is expected any day. Hornick claims a 12.5% interest in the former holding company of the Baca Ranch, plus specified damages based on potential sales had the water exportation plan been realized. The only problem was that when the Baca Ranch passed to the Vaca Partners as a result of foreclosure proceedings last year, Hornick filed too late to prevent the sale. As Cabeza no longer has any assets, Hornick’s suit may fall on fallow ground. It is thought that this will not hold up the transfer, which needs to be completed by April 30 of this year.

Said Representative McInnis, “The acquisition of the Baca Ranch is the final step in the grass-roots process to establish the Great Sand Dunes National Park. From the beginning of this appropriations cycle, my goal was to get as much money as possible to create and protect this beautiful area. It has taken a lot of work to secure the funding, but the protection of this beautiful area is well worth the struggle.”