From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 39 - December 23, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

PDRs purchased for $2,000 per acre

by Cat Urbigkit

Those attending last month's informational sessions on purchase of development rights (PDR) programs may be interested in knowing that San Miguel County, Colo., has completed another phase of its PDR program, selecting four projects totaling $700,000 that will protect 900 acres of land through permanent conservation easements.

Josh Sale of the San Miquel County Open Space Commission was one of the speakers at the recent Sublette County informational sessions. Sublette County currently has a citizen group examining whether the tax revenues should be used for a PDR program in Sublette County as a way to preserve agricultural lands.

According to a press release from San Miquel County, Great Outdoors Colorado contributed $400,000 from the lottery program for the four projects, while county taxpayers contributed another $300,000 from a ballot measure last year. The landowners received $700,000 but donated more than $1.6 million in value in the process.

The amount paid per acre in the four projects ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 for the PDRs.

According to the press release: "The Open Space Commission created its innovative PDR program in 1999. The program lets interested landowners bid to sell the county their development rights. Price is established thorough a competitive blind-bidding process. Projects are selected based on published criteria that include: value (i.e., price per development right), urgency, public access, commitment to sustainability, parcel size and significance to wildlife. The county retires all of the development rights it purchases.

"The program's competitive bidding process seems to have proven itself in maximizing the public's dollars. In Phase I, the program paid 25 cents and in Phase II, about 30 cents on the dollar. This compares very favorably to other county's PDR programs that typically pay a fixed 75 cents on the dollar.

"In Phase II, the county received five applications requesting more than $2,100,000. The five projects covered over 2,500 acres. All of the applications were worthy open-space projects. The review committee had to make difficult decisions because the requested projects hugely exceeded the available funding. The four projects chosen were the best value for the money, contained Gunnison sage grouse habitat and had an urgency factor. The four projects include one in which the county paid $20,000 for the transaction costs on a 240-acre easement one family donated. The property is in Naturita Canyon and includes approximately 1.5 miles of river footage. The property contains intact riparian areas and is bordered by BLM land on two sides.

The second project involved an offering of 1,190 pristine acres on Hamilton Mesa at $1,000 per acre. The program purchased the development rights on 240-acres while receiving a five-year option for the remaining 950 at the same price. The property is a working ranch that is also extensively used by wildlife, including Gunnison sage grouse, wild turkey, bald eagles and for mule deer migration.

The third property involved the county purchasing the development rights on 145 acres at $2,000 per acre. The family then donated the development rights on an additional 145 acres, resulting in an effective cost of $1,000 per acre. The county received a new option to purchase the remaining 80 acres, (with a donation of another 80 acres) at the same price.

The final project involved PDRs on 125 acres at $1,000 per acre on active grazing land and Gunnison sage grouse habitat. The property includes a landlocked BLM parcel.

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