Dinosaur subdivisions approved

Monument superintendent calls plan a 'bad idea'

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The Moffat County commissioners unanimously approved final plats for the Mantle Ranch and Red Rock Ranch subdivision last week in spite of protests from Dinosaur National Monument staff.

The two ranches, which cover about 500 acres, comprise the Mantle family's holdings within the monument.

Tim Mantle said his family is tired of dealing with park officials at Dinosaur National Monument, while monument Superintendent Chas Cartwright says he is willing to work with the family in the future regarding land use.

Cartwright admits he is running out of time, and his window of opportunity closed even further on Friday.

"The National Park Service opposes both subdivisions," Cartwright said. "We believe it reflects a short-sighted view of what's best for the monument."

Mantle said his family is tired of the attitude of park officials who have continually tried to cutback the amount of grazing the family has a right to in the park.

"For 42 years we've been told by the National Park Service that 'You don't belong here,'" Mantle said. "I don't have any use for it. I've been whipped by the federal government and I can't take any more."

Which is why the family has chosen to subdivide the property, Mantle said.

Cartwright, who inherited the dispute with the Mantles when he took the job as monument superintendent last year, insists that he brings a different attitude than park officials in the past and would be willing to cooperate with the Mantles on grazing issues.

"I believe this subdivision is a bad idea," he said. "It appears a conservation easement might be the only option we have left."

Under a conservation easement, the monument would pay the family 40 to 60 percent of what the land is worth. The family would retain ownership of the property, but the monument would be buying away the owner's right to subdivide.

Cartwright said he believes there is a chance that a conservation easement can be accomplished.

"My understanding is most of the family wants to maintain these holdings as part of the family legacy," he said.

But Mantle said he is tired of dealing with the situation and said the family has turned over the responsibility of the Dinosaur property to another party.

"We've hired a Realtor and he's going to be the negotiator," Mantle said. "If and when he wants direction, he gets it from us. That's the way we've elected to handle it."

One problem the monument has had, Cartwright said, is it can't offer the Mantles the same amount of money for the property that they can get through subdivision.

"The real issue is every time we've made an offer it falls short," Cartwright said. "What it comes down to is the appraisal, and the government is constrained to what an appraiser says the property is worth."

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said the commissioners had no choice but to approve the subdivisions.

"The Mantles have dotted every 'I' and crossed every 'T,'" she said. "It's their private property."

Raftopoulos, who belongs to a ranching family, said ranchers everywhere are being forced into situations like that of the Mantles.

"We all agree that we don't want to subdivide," Raftopoulos said. "But the economics of it bring us to the point where we don't have a choice in the matter."

Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson, who is also a rancher, told Cartwright in Friday's meeting that the responsibility rests with him.

"Chas, that mantle rests on you," Dickinson said. "I don't believe the family wants to sell either, but it's the park service's attitude that is forcing them to do this."

Cartwright responded by saying it's going to take cooperation on both sides.

"I disagree with the painting of the picture of bad federal government and good Mantle family," Cartwright said. "This is going to be about the park service and the Mantles coming together to work something out. I don't think the Mantle family or the people want this property subdivided."

But Mantle said he is skeptical about dealings with the park service, and maintained that what has been forgotten is the property within the monument belongs to his family.

"It's not the U.S. citizens' property," he said. "It's the Mantle's property. We've never been asked to be a neighbor."

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