The Crestone Eagle, June 2002:

Baca Ranch sale overcoming hurdles
by David Nicholas

A last-minute attempt to throw more hurdles in the way of the sale of the Baca Ranch to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was rebuffed by lawmakers and ultimately withdrawn by its author in the Colorado House of Representatives, Monday, May 6.

Rep. Mark Paschall (R-Arvada) introduced legislation that would have blocked the State Land Board's $5 million investment in the Baca Ranch, seen as a crucial piece in the process of adding the 100,000-acre Baca to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

Once the Baca has been purchased and turned over to the National Park Service, Great Sand Dunes will earn designation as Great Sand Dunes National Park.

"It sounds like a land speculation deal to me," Paschall is quoted as saying when he introduced the bill, at the request of lobbyist Jim Brandon, who has been involved with Baca Ranch operating partner Gary Boyce and his attempted water speculation deals in the past.

Basically, HB 1466 would have thrown up more environmental analysis requirements and other hurdles in an attempt to delay, or possibly, torpedo the State Land Board's investment in the Baca.

"It's just a smokescreen to try and delay the park," Entz said. While Paschall was the bill's sponsor, Entz said he's "kind of a scapegoat," who was actually carrying the bill at the behest of Brandon and Boyce. "He's (Paschall) taken the lead for Gary Boyce and Jim Brandon.”

By waiting until the last week of the session to introduce the bill, it was apparent that Paschall believed it would be pencil-whipped through the process, along with a plethora of other last-minute legislation.

Entz and Rep. Jim Snook (R-Alamosa) were on their toes and saw the bill for exactly what it was. "They tried to pull a fast one us on, and we rolled them pretty hard," Entz said.

The Land Board is estimated to incur at least that much in legal expenses in order to back out of its contract with TNC. Snook stressed that fact in the House and came up with at least 44 representatives who were prepared to vote against Paschall's measure, causing Paschall to withdraw his bill, realizing it was not going anywhere. And State Attorney General Ken Salazar also opposed the measure, saying it would illegally impair a contract.

Farallon Management Services, the ranch's majority owners in San Francisco, are prepared to sell the Baca over the objections of Boyce. Aiding TNC is the State Land Board, among other groups. Once the ranch is purchased and the title cleared, TNC will sell the property to the National Park Service for inclusion in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Court OKs foreclosure
In a move, which was expected since the agreement to sell the ranch was signed in late February, Farallon Management Services’ holding company, which represents its interest in the Baca ranch, Vaca Partners, foreclosed on the Cabeza de Vaca Land and Cattle Company. The order to foreclose was approved on May 9 in Saguache District Court by Judge Robert Ogburn.

The move detaches the ranch from claims by Cabeza partner, Peter Hornick, and American Water Development, Inc (AWDI), which are yet to be heard in Federal District Court in Denver. And it was no surprise that Hornick opposed the action, claiming that no foreclosure could be taken until all legal issues surrounding the property have been cleared.

Under the agreement for selling the ranch, signed in February, The Nature Conservancy is holding the Baca Ranch in trust until claims to the property are cleared and the ranch can become part of the proposed Great Sand Dunes National Park. However, administration of the property will be through the State Land Board, who loaned $5 million towards the sale, until the ranch formerly transfers to the federal Government in 3-5 years.

The reason cited for the foreclosure order by Vaca Partners stated, “There is litigation pending in State and Federal Court regarding the various issues involving American Water Development, Inc. and Hornick (both of whom oppose the plan to create a National Park). As a result of that litigation, Cabeza and Vaca Partners agreed with TNC that, as a fall back position, in the event of a foreclosure by Vaca, TNC would purchase the ranch from Vaca Partners rather than Cabeza. This permits the sale to go forward so that the National Park can be created while the claims of the various parties are resolved in orderly fashion in other litigation.”

The public trustee, who is Saguache County Treasurer, Connie Trujillo, has set a May 30 sale date for the ranch. The process of foreclosure requires that the sale will have to be advertised, and bids taken. If a higher bid is received, Cabeza, as current titleholder, retains a redemption right. If anyone comes in with a higher bid on the property, Cabeza will be able to match that bid and retain the property. Anyone submitting a bid must have cash on-hand on the date of the sale, or his or her bid is rejected. Once the sale is closed, the debtor has a period of time, about 180 days, to match the sale price and redeem the property.

At time of writing, there have been no inquiries.

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