USFS announced that the purchase of land around #Colorado’s Sweetwater Lake is among its top 10 acquisition priorities for 2021 #LWCF

Sweetwater Lake, Garfield County, Colorado. Photo credit: Todd Winslow Pierce with permission

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

A promise of support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund bolsters the year-long campaign to protect the Garfield County lake and its surrounding acres from development

The U.S. Forest Service last week released its list of top priority land acquisitions for 2021 and the purchase of 488 acres around Garfield County’s Sweetwater Lake made the top 10.

After a year-long campaign to acquire and protect the lake and surrounding acreage in the shadow of the Flat Tops Wilderness, the Forest Service ranked the Sweetwater Lake acquisition ninth among 36 projects and asked for $8.5 million in support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund…

For almost four decades, a rotation of six deep-pocketed owners floated big plans for the 488-acre property. They dreamed up a golf resort, private mansions and even a water-bottling plant.

Coulton Creek Capital in Greenwood Village took over the property when a Castle Rock entrepreneur’s 12-year plan to bottle and sell “Vaspen” water from a local spring evaporated. Coulton Creek listed the property in 2017 for $9.3 million.

The Conservation Fund in 2018 approached Coulton Creek Capital with a proposal to buy the property for protection. The investment firm welcomed the idea and is under contract with the fund in a deal set to close this summer.

The fund borrowed some money from Great Outdoors Colorado to support the acquisition, with the plan to transfer the property to the White River National Forest.

Federal lawmakers still need to discuss Land and Water Conservation Fund support for the Forest Service’s list of priority projects for $87.1 million worth of land acquisition. The list includes 36 ranked projects and the Sweetwater Lake property is the largest request at $8.5 million.

“While the list looks really favorable, we are paying close attention to the budgeting process,” said Justin Spring with The Conservation Fund’s Colorado office. “We are a far cry from having money in hand, but we are excited with the momentum we are seeing.”

Acquisition is only the first step in a longer plan for Sweetwater Lake. The Forest Service wants to improve a deteriorating campground that doesn’t quite reach the water’s edge. The property needs investment to host the expected increase in visitors that will come if the land around the lake is open to the public.

From The Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The agency’s list released last week ranked the purchase in Garfield County ninth among 36 land acquisition projects.

The forest service requested $8.5 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund…

The Sweetwater Lake property is the largest request on the forest service’s $87.1 million list of priority projects.

“What often makes these things successful, in addition to being appropriate parcels, is having broad-based support and that is something we feel really good about,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said. “We have a wide range of governments, agencies and groups supporting this.”

Fitzwilliams hopes to partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to improve and maintain a campground and boat launch at the property if federal funding is approved.

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