OURAY COUNTY: Bennet announces Sawtooth Mountain Ranch funding

Special to the Plaindealer
plaindealer@ouraynews.com

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet announced that the Sawtooth Mountain Ranch has received the necessary funds through the Forest Legacy Project to be protected from future development.

The Forest Legacy Program is a U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation program designed to protect environmentally important forest lands threatened by development. The 2,448 acre working cattle ranch on Owl Creek Pass is the largest Forest Legacy Project in the state. The ranch owner and the Trust for Public Lands have been working together for several years to secure legacy funds to conserve the ranch.
Last year, Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall wrote a letter on behalf of the Sawtooth Mountain Ranch, requesting the allocation of Forest Legacy dollars for the project. Bennet visited the site at the beginning of July.
“The Sawtooth Mountain Ranch is a beautiful piece of property.  It’s a state and national treasure,” Bennet said. “Colorado has a legacy of preserving these. It took a team effort from the county, the Trust for Public Land and the owner of the ranch itself. After years of work, we are grateful to know this landscape will be protected for future generations.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity to conserve a spectacular working ranch while also protecting pristine wildlife habitat and big game hunting grounds,” said Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett. “I'm grateful to everyone who has worked on this forest legacy project since 2011 and especially the landowner and Sen. Bennet for their vision, leadership, and perseverance. It is an exemplary Forest Legacy Project."
The Sawtooth Mountain Ranch Project complements 15,000 acres of land already protected along the San Juan Skyway, one of 31 scenic All-American Roads. The ranch is an important habitat for large game and several endangered species and will also protect tributaries of the Uncompahgre River that provides drinking water to over 76,000 people.
In addition to the Sawtooth Mountain Ranch, the Forest Legacy Project Program is looking at funding projects in Vermont, Montana, Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Bennet fought to reauthorize the Forest Legacy Project Program as a part of the Farm Bill.