RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Commissioners welcomed Andrea Jones, acting Deputy Forest Supervisor of Rio Grande National Forest, who was requesting county support in the acquisition of an 800-acre parcel of land located above the community of Jasper in Rio Grande County.
Jones provided an explanation and background for the proposal and a map of the parcel in question.
“We are calling this the Cliff Lake Parcel and some of the history is that it has obviously been private for a long time but for years the public has had access because the private owners had not gated off their parcel,” Jones said.
Jones continued to explain that the public had been able to take ATVs up to the alpine lake located on the parcel and use it for several different types of recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking and more through private inholding.
Recently Jones was approached by the private landowner’s son who requested a permit to access the private property which was approved. It was at this point that the owner put up gates, stopping the public from gaining access to the land.
“We have been trying some different angles to gain the public access to the land but then we found out that there was a potential opportunity through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire these public lands," Jones said. "So, now we are working with the Trust for Public Lands who is working with this owner to acquire that parcel of land.”
Jones provided an overview of their proposal which states, “The Cliff Lake property is an approximately 800-acre inholding surrounded by RGNF lands. The property provides habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife species. The lake itself provides habitat for a healthy recreation population of Rio Grande Cutthroat trout. Private ownership of a portion of the lake (as is currently the case) could threaten this population if the private landowner decided to stock a different species of fish into the lake. The property also provides habitat for, resident and migratory birds, Canada lynx, mountain lion, black bear, elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer.
“The property includes a portion of a road accessing a high elevation alpine lake (Cliff Lake) that has been accessed by the general public and especially by local residents for generations. Due to current private ownership, historic access to this property has recently been restricted. Residents of local underserved communities have been impacted by the lack of access to the Cliff Lake area for recreation purposes such as hiking, hunting, and fishing. In addition, local outfitters and guides rely on this area for hunting and local livestock producers count on adjacent forest lands for grazing. The more developed this area becomes, the more wildlife and habitat will be affected as will access and use for the general public and permittees. If the property were to change to public ownership, opportunities could be expanded for many of the uses listed above.”
Jones said that about 250-acres of the property was located in Rio Grande County with the remainder in Conejos County and they are seeking support of the acquisition from both counties. According to Jones, Conejos County has issued a letter of support to the Rio Grande National Forest and the proposal for funding has been submitted to the appropriate parties.
The Rio Grande County Commissioners gave conditional verbal support for the acquisition of the Cliff Lake Parcel in a unanimous vote and to draft a letter of support.