Raftopouloses seek conservation easement for Cold Spring Mountain area

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In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Signed a contract for Bad to the Bone to cater the county employee Christmas Party.

• Reviewed and signed a letter withdrawing for Instream Flow hearings for Willow Creek in northeast Moffat County.

• Made a motion to offer a new contract with the Bureau of Land Management concerning Moffat County Regional Airport. The contract would last one year but would lease a terminal office and airport use for six months, $300 a month. The BLM wanted to renegotiate the contract because it does not use all the utilities it originally contracted for, and only uses the airport for the six months during the fire season.

• Approved supplemental budget requests from the District Attorney's Office for $10,375. Of that money, $3,375 will pay salary and benefits to a private investigator position through the end of 2007, and $7,000 will go toward purchasing the investigator a vehicle.

— The construction signs indicating new development may be seen around Craig, but John Raftopoulos doesn't want office parks or condos around Cold Spring Mountain.

"That's a pretty special place, that mountain out there," John said. "One place that hasn't been (tainted) by development.

"I think this is a good deal for the public, too."

The Raftopouloses, including John's brother, Steve, want to establish a conservation easement of 3,300 acres on nine parcels around Cold Spring Mountain in northwest Moffat County, an area rich in sage grouse and big game, such as elk and deer. By selling the easement to the Divison of Wildlife they are selling the development rights to the state.

Under the laws of conservation easements, the land will be permanently unavailable for development.

Marianna Raftopoulos, John's wife, presented a letter from the Colorado Division of Wildlife to the Moffat County Commission at its meeting Tuesday. The letter is a formal notice from the state to the county so the commissioners are aware of what's going on in their jurisdiction.

John hopes the DOW will clear the easement application next year. The process has lasted about six years, he said.

Commissioners Tom Mathers and Tom Gray went on record saying they will not prevent a landowner from doing what he or she want with his or her property. Commissioner Saed Tayyara was absent from the meeting.

"It's their property, and I wouldn't want to tell anyone what to do with their property," Mathers said. "They'll still pay the taxes on it, and it's a piece of ground I don't see ever being developed for housing."

The land is going to preserve a habitat and a way of life, John said. He doesn't want to see the land sold off in 40-acre parcels, or his family to have to abandon ranching.

"We're in the ranch business, and we want our children to be in the ranch business," John said.

Marianna agreed.

"We want to preserve what we have in ranching and preserve the open spaces," she said. "They are values we want to sustain."

The land is also part of Colorado Game Management Unit 201, one of the most sought-after elk licenses in the state, John said. If the easement passes, the DOW plans to open 1,000 more acres to hunters.

"You have to apply for about 18 years just to be able to hunt there," John said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime hunt if you apply long enough."

There won't be any more available licenses, the opening is just to preserve what's there and enhance the area, John said.

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