BlueTriton conservation easement on track

Larry Lawrence provided an update on the status of the BlueTriton Brands conservation easement at Tuesday’s Chaffee County Commissioners meeting, stating, “We will meet our Dec. 31 deadline.”

Completing the conservation easement by the end of the year is a requirement of the Chaffee County 1041 permit that allows BlueTriton to use local groundwater for its Arrowhead brand bottled spring water.

County Attorney Daniel Tom reminded the county commissioners that the BlueTriton report was scheduled because of concerns expressed during the 1041 permit renewal hearing.

He also acknowledged the need to resolve legal details needed to simultaneously satisfy the terms of the 1041 permit and Colorado Parks and Wildlife requirements for the conservation easement. “I think it’s just making sure we’re on the same page,” Tom said.

Lawrence, who is the natural resource manager for BlueTriton’s Western Region, said the company is “well on our way to being complete” and has focused on the “physical work” on the land that will be protected by the 120-acre easement.

“We’ve got the parking lot completed, the viewing area completed, the trail is completed … . It’s open. It’s not locked up right now, so anyone can go in and look at it,” Lawrence said. “We’ve completed the conservation easement management plan,” which “was sent to the county back in May.”

Lawrence indicated some of the sign installations have been completed and that CPW is still working on some signs.

“Right now we have a raptor sign, we have a bighorn sheep sign, and then we have a wetland sign,” Lawrence said. “We also have a fishing easement sign that’s going in at … a new entrance location” at the south end of the property.

Lawrence also pointed out that BlueTriton has dedicated some of its land to a project to widen County Road 300, the main entrance to Browns Canyon National Monument, so that it will accommodate two-way traffic. “The conservation easement does not include any of the property that will be affected by the CR 300 improvement.”

“The last component of the conservation easement that needs to be completed“ is the conservation easement deed, Lawrence said. “Once that draft deed is finalized, it will come to the county for approval.”

CPW Area Wildlife Manager Sean Shepherd also provided an update. “From the Colorado Parks and Wildlife perspective, we are pretty much ready to go. We are really just waiting on this conservation easement and for it to get approved through all of the entities that are working on it right now, and so that includes the county.”

Shephered suggested that the only potential delay in finalizing the conservation easement is the elimination of land needed to widen County Road 300.

Commissioner Keith Baker pointed out that Chaffee County is not a party to the conservation easement agreement but a “coordinating agency,” as is the Federal Highway Administration because of the Federal Lands Access Program, which is providing funding for improvements to County Road 300.

Baker said the “federal lands” that qualify the county to receive federal funding for road improvements are in Browns Canyon National Monument and noted that County Road 300 has “some pretty unsafe aspects.”

As the former executive director of Friends of Browns Canyon, Commissioner Baker played a critical role in the designation of Browns Canyon as a national monument.

County Attorney Tom assured the Commissioners that he would inform them of any potential problems in meeting the 1041 requirement.

Lawrence suggested having a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the spring to celebrate completion of the easement.

Joe Stone