Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is about to become a little larger.
The 164,000-acre monument west of Cortez plans to purchase an additional 940 acres from an adjacent landowner.
Two lots owned by Bud Poe on the Monument’s eastern border at Trail Canyon are being negotiated for transfer to the federal government’s local land base.
A 320-acre lot will be purchased for $640,000, and a proposed sale of an adjacent 620-acre lot is still under negotiation, said monument manager Marietta Eaton.
“I know that is not the best news for you,” Eaton told the Montezuma County commissioners, responding to their frequent criticism of such land sales.
Commissioner Steve Chappell emphasized the difficulty of losing private land to federal control.
“We’re 70 percent federal land, so that limits what we can do with the remaining 30 percent. With these purchases, we lose the property taxes that help our schools,” he said.
Commissioner Keenan Ertel insists that according to the U.S. Constitution, such land purchases need approval from the Colorado legislature.
Eaton disagreed, as she has for previous private land purchases for the monument on that point.
“The good news for you is that this looks like the last of the inholdings likely to sell,” she said. “We only work with willing sellers.”
The money for the purchase comes from the Land Water Conservation Fund, a federal pot of money derived from off-shore oil-and-gas taxes.
Archaeological and natural resource surveys will conducted on the land after the purchase is finalized, expected by fall.
“The purchase allows for connectivity at the monument and limits habitat fragmentation for wildlife,” Eaton said. “The goal of the owner was to put the land in conservation.”
Also on the monument this month, Painted Hand ruin was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
The iconic ruin dates to the Late Pueblo II to Pueblo III era, from 1100 to 1300, said monument archaeologist Vince MacMillan.
“It is a good example of Hovenweep-style architecture with a number of towers and sturdy walls that are still standing,” he said. “There is good rock art at the site as well.”
Painted Hand was a small farming village of 30-40 people, he said, and includes three kivas.
“The historic designation will help us get outside funding for additional research and stabilization,” MacMillan said.
Painted Hand is visited by 5,000 people per year. It is famous for 800-year-old wall paintings that include the outline of a villager’s hand.