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Environment

Boulder County Celebrates Open Space Anniversary By Purchasing More Of It

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Boulder County Open Space
The property purchased is adjacent to Heil Valley Ranch, pictured above.

Boulder County plans to set aside another big chunk of land as open space. County Commissioners approved a 740 acre purchase of land west of U.S. 36 between Boulder and Lyons for $775,000.

Ron Stewart, director of parks and open space for the county, said the land is significant.

“All of the work that we’ve done over the years, looking, for instance, at things like biodiversity and natural plant communities, indicate that area of the north foothills is one of the most sensitive and important landscapes that we have in the open space system,” said Stewart.

The land was already protected from development by a conservation easement. The purchase means the county will begin management. The land also connects with and expands existing open spaces.

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Credit Boulder County Parks and Open Space
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Boulder County Parks and Open Space
The 740 acre purchase includes the light green portions west of U.S. Highway 36.

“Much of [this] property touches the Heil Valley Ranch property on the west side, and touches other properties that we own on most of its sides," said Stewart.

Within the next five years the county will conduct a management plan of all the open space in that area. That will help them decide whether to add recreation amenities like trails, or whether it is better to keep the land as habitat for numerous species.

“We have a herd of elk that migrate to the Indian Peaks Wilderness area every year and that herd comes through this area,” said Stewart. “There’s also habitat on the property that could sustain the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse which is a threatened species, so it’s important land.”

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Credit USFWS / Flickr/Creative Commons
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Flickr/Creative Commons
The Preble's meadow jumping mouse is a threatened species found only in Colorado and Wyoming.

The purchase comes during the 40th anniversary year of Boulder County’s unique push for open space. The program was started in the mid-60s by residents who were “interested in parks and recreation needs of the unincorporated area and in preserving open space land in the face of rapid county development,” according to the county website.

The open space program became a reality in January 1975, and the first two properties, Betasso Preserve and Walker Ranch, were purchased in 1977.

Between a combination of conservation easements and ownership, Boulder County currently has over 102,000 acres of open space. About 60 percent of that land is owned [.pdf], the remainder is under conservation easements.

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