Thursday, May 28, 2020

1% For Open Space chips in to Long Lake conservation project

A significant donation to push it to the next phase…

by Mark Reaman

With the help of a timely contribution from 1% For Open Space, the Crested Butte Land Trust’s Long Lake land exchange project is hitting the final leg.

The 1% board of directors decided to contribute $100,000 toward the Long Lake project, and that puts the fund raising effort at about 75 percent complete. The $3.2 million project needs about another $800,000 to finish.

“This was a big contribution for our organization,” commented 1% executive director Molly Susla. “The biggest contribution we ever made was $200,000 to the Trampe Ranch preservation project but this is right up there. Many of our large contributions are around $50,000. But the Long Lake project is the epitome of what 1% wants to fund. It matches what the organization was originally set up to do.”

Susla said the 70 local businesses in the valley that participate in the 1% program generate about $100,000 annually. An agreement between 1% and the CBLT was signed Monday.

“We have always appreciated working with 1% and they are really stepping up,” said CBLT executive director Noel Durant. “We appreciate their faith in the project and think this will show some potential donors that we are getting close to tying this one up.”

The project is a complicated one that benefits open space, recreation, ranching and affordable housing. Under the deal, the CB Land Trust will contribute 628 acres of private property to the Forest Service. In exchange, the Forest Service will give the CBLT 120 acres of property that surrounds the southern and eastern side of Long Lake up Washington Gulch Road. The Long Lake acreage is a Forest Service inholding surrounded by private property, so ownership by the CBLT will protect recreational access, wildlife habitat, scenic views, and ranchland connectivity.

The affordable housing component of the deal comes from a 2010 agreement between Butch and Judy Clark, the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation and The Trust For Public Land (TPL). Butch and Judy originally owned 613 acres near Fossil Ridge that CBLT is purchasing for the exchange with the Forest Service. When this final transaction is complete, the Housing Foundation will receive the proceeds of the sale. That will net the GVHF about $2.5 million to be used to construct and finance workforce housing in the county.

Durant promised that as part of this project, long-term stewardship of the Long Lake property would be a priority.

“This is one of those projects with big impacts,” said Durant. “There are fewer of these coming available, especially in the north end of the valley.”

“The money going to the housing foundation is just icing on the cake,” commented Susla. “When the Land Trust approached us about a contribution, the board never questioned whether or not to fund them. To have a project like Long Lake come to the table is exciting. It is projects like these that 1% was originally founded for.”

“The stewardship piece is important and 1% is helping with that,” said Durant. “That property will be well managed and frankly, the stewardship aspect will be a factor in any land transaction in the future. Long-term stewardship is needed for every piece of land that is preserved.”

The $100,000 1% money will come in at the closing which is expected to take place in October of this year.

Susla said that while that will take a good chunk of the available money from its coffers, there is still enough to consider other potential projects, especially stewardship projects on the horizon.

“This won’t stop us from doing other things,” she said. “We still have money and the businesses that fund the organizations appreciate the variety of things we help fund. And it’s not just the Crested Butte Land Trust we assist. We look at projects from a variety of organizations that come to us as long as the ideas fit within our mission. We’re a funding resource in the valley to help conservation organizations.”

As for Long Lake, Durant said the fundraising is nearing the goal. “We need that final push,” he said. “It’s exciting and such a good project on so many levels.”

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