BLM Approves Blue Valley Land Exchange

BLM Approves Blue Valley Land Exchange, Increasing Public Open Space and Creating Two New Recreation Areas in Summit and Grand Counties

The exchange will protect Green Mountain and San Toy Mountain from future development, opening 1000+ acres of upland lands for outdoor recreation.

Two new recreation areas along the Blue River, with miles of new walk-in contiguous fishing access.

Kremmling, CO — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released its Notice of Decision approving the Blue Valley Land Exchange, netting hundreds more acres of open space in Summit and Grand Counties for outdoor activities. The deal also provides for millions of dollars worth of recreation and ecological improvements, including development of two new recreation areas — the Confluence Recreation Area and the Green Mountain Recreation Area — with trails, walk-in fishing access, picnic tables, wheelchair accessible fishing platforms, and more. The BLM found the exchange is overwhelmingly in the public interest.

The Blue Valley Land Exchange allows 1,830 acres of private land owned by Blue Valley Ranch to be transferred for 1,489 acres of public land. Under the deal, both Green Mountain and San Toy Mountain are protected from any future development. As a result, there is a net gain of approximately 1,100 acres of public upland lands providing a variety of recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking and wildlife viewing.

“For nearly 30 years, Blue Valley Ranch has been committed to the environmental health of this beloved region. This exchange allows us to not only make major investments improving safety and accessibility around the Blue River and Green Mountain for the public, it’s a milestone for our conservation efforts too,” said Rob Firth of Blue Valley Ranch. “The BLM has delivered a great win for Grand and Summit county residents with this decision, and we’re excited to start making these long-awaited benefits a reality for the community.”

At the Confluence Recreation Area, where the Blue and Colorado rivers meet, “checkerboard” ownership is consolidated by adding one mile of private river ownership to one mile of BLM ownership, creating two miles of contiguous public river access. Roughly three-quarters of a mile of that stretch will be restored to support a Gold Medal fishery. The Confluence Recreation Area will also have 2.3 miles of newly constructed walking trails, picnic tables, wheelchair accessible fishing platforms, parking and a new take-out for river floaters. A permanent rest-stop and take-out for floaters will be created at Spring Creek Bridge. A second permanent rest-stop will be created about 3 miles downstream of Spring Creek.

The exchange will add 756 acres of Green Mountain, including the summit, to the public domain to create the Green Mountain Recreation Area. There will be 1.65 miles of contiguous walk-in fishing access in the lower Green Mountain Canyon, walking trails, an improved access road to Green Mountain and two parking areas. Summit County open space on Green Mountain will be transferred to the BLM, and the County will receive $600,000 for future open space acquisitions.

The new recreation design features and improvements, including the Confluence Recreation Area and the Green Mountain Recreation Area, are being funded by Blue Valley Ranch. The investment is projected to be $2-3 million. The ranch will establish an endowment for the long-term operation and maintenance of the new recreation design features.

“The Lower Blue River Valley extends from Silverthorne in the south to the confluence of the Blue and Colorado River at Kremmling. It is a vital link to the overall Colorado River system.” said Jonathan Knopf, Executive Director of Friends of the Lower Blue River. “The Lower Blue offers the public tremendous recreation opportunities, and the exchange only adds to those opportunities while maintaining the ranching and agricultural heritage of this very special part of Colorado.”

“Consistent with our mission and guiding principles, Colorado Wildlife Federation applauds the approval by BLM of the Blue Valley Ranch/BLM Land Exchange,” said Suzanne O’Neill, Executive Director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “We believe the land exchange truly is in the best interests of the public. The Ranch has a proven track record of wildlife habitat conservation and applies best management practices on all of its property. We are confident that the Ranch will continue its conservation ethic and practices with its procurement of the BLM’s isolated in-holdings. The parcels offered in exchange to the BLM will provide extraordinary value to the public. The public will gain coveted access to this stretch of the Blue River and adjacent land and enjoy the habitat restoration as well as creation of a wonderful recreation area.”

“We’re thrilled with the BLM’s decision to approve the Blue Valley Land Exchange,” said Kirk Klancke, President of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “Access to Green Mountain Canyon and to stream improvements at the Confluence is an extremely exciting development. Bottom-line, that means we’re going to see more access to the river for more people, which is what it’s all about.”

“The Blue Valley Sportsmen Club applauds the approval of the Blue Valley Land Exchange, which brings new public lands on Green Mountain and San Toy Mountain for public access and hunting. Green Mountain and the river canyon are unspoiled, they are beautiful,” said Steve Schake, President of Blue Valley Sportsmen Club. “This is a common sense decision that shows how recreation and conservation can go hand-in-hand.”

“BLM’s approval of the land exchange is welcome news for kayakers,” said Patrick Tooley, a longtime volunteer for and member of Colorado Whitewater and American Whitewater Associations. “For years, we have been working to secure a permanent take-out at Spring Creek Bridge.”

American Whitewater’s Stewardship Director for Colorado and the Southern Rockies, Hattie Johnson, agreed, noting that “a permanent takeout and rest stop at the Spring Creek Bridge is a win for boaters and advances and protects river access. It is great to finally see this happening.”

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