The 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 subdivision.”

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:

Advisory Council
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 federal acquisition.

Elk study
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.

Ranch access
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.