Claimjumper and Wedge parcels will go from the Forest Service to Breckenridge in exchange for 407 acres in the San Juans
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Public national forest acreage in Summit County will shrink by about 53 acres, as White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams last week approved a swap that will see the 36-acre Claimjumper parcel and the 17-acre Cucumber Gulch Wedge parcel — both in the Breckenridge area — be transferred from the Forest Service to local ownership.
In exchange, the Forest Service will pick up a total of 407 environmentally valuable acres in La Plata and Dolores counties in the southwestern part of the state.
The San Juan parcels were previously acquired by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation group that often buys private land for eventual conveyance to the U.S. Forest Service. The way the swap is set up, Breckenridge buys the San Juan parcels in order to be able to trade them for the two tracts near the town.
The Cucumber Gulch Wedge parcel will likely be maintained as open space, while part of the Claimjumper parcel has been envisioned as potential site for future affordable housing. The two parcels were appraised for a combined value of $1.71 million for the purposes of the trade.
The non-federal lands were appraised at $1.74 million. To equalize the values, the Forest Service will pay the town of Breckenridge $30,000 in cash.
Both the Claimjumper and Wedge parcels have been proposed for trade twice before; once as part of the Summit land exchange that brought the county commons and hospital area into county ownership, and also as part of the recently completed Snake River land trade, a deal that swapped about 20 acres of slopeside national forest land in Keystone for the Chihuahua Gulch parcel in the Peru Creek backcountry.
The parcels fell out of the first swap partially because of environmental concerns, including contaminated mine waste on the Claimjumper parcel. The heavy-metals-laced piles were moved to a permanent repository site in French Gulch in a somewhat controversial action under then-district Ranger Rick Newton back in 2007.
The two tracts ultimately weren’t included in the Snake River land trade either because they didn’t fit the financial formula used to calculate the value of trade parcels.
In his formal record of decision, Fitzwilliams explained that the Wedge parcel is already surrounded by non-federal lands on three sides and has “lost its national forest character.”
The Claimjumper parcels are completely surrounded by non-federal land and more suited to community needs and local open space values, Fitzwilliams said.
The acquisition of the San Juan parcels will eliminate private inholdings surrounded by national forest lands, bringing highly valuable resources into public ownership, according to the record of decision.
Filed under: Colorado, public lands, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news, US Forest Service, White River National Forest Tagged: | Breckenridge Colorado, Breckenridge land trade, Trust for Public Land, United States Forest Service, White River National Forest