In 2002, The Trust for Public Land entered into discussions with the previous landowner regarding the conservation of the lands. There was strong local support for the protection of the Ophir Valley from development. The Trust for Public Land purchased the mining claims in 2009 while the U.S. Forest Service sought appropriations from Congress.
The acquisition of the final phase of the Ophir Valley project this month marks the culmination of a land protection effort lasting over a decade.
Funds for this effort came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues from offshore drilling.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said, “The Ophir Valley offers some of the most magnificent scenery our state has to offer,” Bennet said. “Conservation of these lands is important not only to the local tourism economy, but also to the preservation of water and other natural resources.”
The Ophir Valley offers hiking, camping, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, four-wheeling, and fishing are all popular. The Outdoor Industry Association recently reported that outdoor recreation annually contributes $13.2 billion to Colorado’s economy, supporting 124,600 jobs.
Conservation of these lands also protects the headwaters of Howard Fork, which flows into the San Miguel River. It preserves alpine and sub-alpine environments in and around the Ophir Valley.
The Ophir Valley is close to the San Juan Skyway.
The national scenic byway draws visitors to this part of Colorado from all over the world.