The Overland Trail: Plans to Strip Mine Along the Trail--Last Updated 04/01/98

The Overland Trail

Plans to Strip Mine!

A Rebuttal to Colorado Lien's Proposal

Inaccuracies, Contradictions and Questions
regarding Concept Technical Review Submittal
to Larimer County Commissioners
Proposed Rattlesnake Rim Limestone* Mine
by Colorado Lien Company

Prepared by Elizabeth A. Larson
in rebuttal
Submitted to Larimer County Commissioners
February 10, 1998

Note: page numbers refer to the Technical Review document
  • 1. *Limestone is not a mineral; it is a rock.
  • 2. Page 5. "A buried AT&T Cable will not be disturbed." This cable was installed about 40 years ago, at an elevation of about 6000 ft and the vegetation still has not healed. There is no way that the proposed mining area could possibly be restored to its original status. This fragile area is between 6350 and 6400 feet in elevation, and complete re-growth of the natural grasses will never occur.
  • 3. Page 6: "Total depth of excavation is approximately 55 feet in area 1 and 30 feet in area 2." What about the buried gas pipeline that traverses the south portion of Section 1?
  • 4. Page 6: "Maximum area of disturbance at any time: 30 acres." This is totally false as stated throughout the submittal, most particularly on p 23: "…the proposal would permanently alter about 470 acres…" The "revegetation" supposedly would occur concurrently, but reason would dictate that revegetation, if any, would take many years, and therefore the "area of disturbance" would be the entire proposed mining site, in addition to damage caused by the construction of a "haul road."
  • 5. Page 7: "After about 3 years revegetation will begin." Contradicts earlier statements. See also note about the buried AT&T cable.
  • 6. Page 7: "This application promotes open space and can be compatible with open space." The Robert’s Ranch does not need to have its current (over 20,000 acres) open space promoted. It is the intention of the Robert’s Family to work with the Nature Conservancy in order to grant "conservation easements" to preserve the open space.
  • 7. Page 8: "...project is very compatible with the rural agriculturally based nature of the area." How is strip mining "compatible" with agriculture? Agriculture is farming/grazing….strip mining is not.
  • 8. Page 8: "...possible for the land to eventually return to being part of a working ranch." See item 3 above regarding the permanent alteration of the area. How long is "eventually"?
  • 9. Page 8: "The closest residence to the property is located 2.5 miles away." This area is very open, vistas are for miles. The current Colorado Lien mining operation at Owl Canyon can be seen from Interstate 25, a distance of over 10 miles.
  • 10. Page 9: "The access road will cross Spring Gulch and thus will require culvert installation and road construction over the drainage way. This is a temporary disturbance and the area disturbed by construction will be reseeded immediately following the construction of the crossing." This is hogwash!! How can the destruction of a gulch perhaps 70 feet in depth be "temporary?" Impacts natural wildlife who use water in Spring Gulch. How will animals deal with culverts? How can they re-seed the road? Spring Gulch is extremely rugged; a proposed road through there will be detrimental and will definitely permanently alter the landscape. The main spring (for which Spring Gulch is named) would be directly under the path of the proposed "access road."
  • 11. Page 9: "The company may wish to drill a water supply well(s) on the property…" Why? How deep? Do they have water rights? Is water a mineral? How much will they take out? How will that affect the present water supply?
  • 12. Page 9: "Potential water quality impacts from this mine include potential discharge for on-site storage of fuels and other materials." Hazardous waste permeating into the water supply?
  • 13. Page 10: "Mining comes within approximately 1500 feet of the artesian well (owned by Eldon Ackerman.) impacts …are anticipated; however the well will be repaired or replaced if mining significantly reduces the production from the well." What does the word "significantly" mean? Is this with the approval of Mr. Ackerman? I understand that this well supplies 5 residences. What is significant reduction in water with regards to residential use? Is it possible to "repair or replace" an artesian well?
  • 14. Page 10: "The energy of the blasts will dissipate to the point where no impact to the dam is possible." This is Park Creek Reservoir Dam, an earthen dam located approximately 1 mile away; In whose opinion is this? What potential loss of life and livestock is there if the dam breaks? Who is accountable for any water losses and property damage if the dam breaks? Why is there no provision for this possibility?
  • 15. Page 11: "Use of dust control chemicals on access roads and County Road 80." What kinds of chemicals are proposed? It appears that this is just adding more pollution!
  • 16. Page 11: "The company is proposing rapid revegetation…." This is just not possible at an elevation of over 6350 feet.
  • 17. Page 11: "Average number of truck trips could be 160 per day." This could be as many as one truck every five minutes during daylight hours.
  • 18. Page 11: "Colorado Lien Company will commit to speed control on County Road 80" I live off of County Road 37 near the Wyoming border, a gravel road, and the Colorado Lien trucks traveling on that county road from their site in Wyoming down to their Owl Canyon site, consistently travel faster than the speed limit, in addition to having overloaded trucks that spill excess materials. This gravel road is also in constant disrepair, huge pot holes, etc caused by the large overloaded trucks.
  • 19. Page 11: "...and fair share improvements to County Road 80." Why should the county pay for any improvements and/or maintenance to a road that will be used almost exclusively by Colorado Lien? There is only one residence on County Road 80 between US 287 and the mine site...less than 1 mile from US 287. The next closest residence is almost 3 miles beyond the mine site, and they, and the other residents beyond that point use paved county roads to the east to travel to both Cheyenne and Fort Collins exclusively--it’s closer mileage and a better road.
  • 20. Page 12: "This application provides for reclamation of the mine which will be suitable for its historic use of rangeland. This aids the County goal of preserving the rural, agricultural flavor of northern Larmier County." Plans to mine for a minimum of 50 years is certainly not complying with Larimer County’s "preservation" of agricultural land. Fifty years of non-agriculture on agricultural land seems a bit excessive. The Robert’s Ranch certainly doesn’t need the Colorado Lien Company to help them preserve the ranch!! They will destroy it!!
  • 21. Page 13: The Larimer County Master Plan (LCMP) states: "Land use shall be for and compatible with the environmental characteristics of the site." Strip mining is not compatible with the environment.
  • 22. Page 13: (LCMP): "Natural and cultural resources shall be identified, conserved and protected." J Barton (unpublished author identified in bibliography) is obviously not qualified to identify the cultural resources of this area, having misidentified the Overland Trail Stage Route, established in 1862 by Ben Holladay as the main stage route from LaPorte to Virginia Dale, as the "Old Salt Lake and Denver Stage Road." He is obviously not attuned to the needs and wants of this community. Also missing from the itemization of cultural and natural resources are numerous ancient Indian Teepee Rings, pioneer grave sites, other archaeological sites identified by Colorado State University, Indian burial grounds, medicine rings, buffalo wallows, elk and antelope migration routes, petrified and fossilized flora and fauna.
  • 23. Page 13: (LCMP): "All development shall be located and designed for compatibility with sensitive natural areas." Destruction of vast acres of natural grassland by strip mining will not be compatible with the LCMP.
  • 24. Page 15: A listing of 44 grasses/shrubs. Page 17-18 lists 6 seed types in the "revegetation seed mix", only 3 (three) of which are listed on page 15, i.e. three of the listed seed types will be introduced to the area. In Table 1, page 18, 5 (five) plant material varieties are listed with various seeding rates per acres; only two of those are listed on page 15 as common in the area, i.e. 3 more plant varieties to be introduced. Table 2 lists 6 "cover crops" for use in revegetation. None of these are currently present in the proposed mining area, thus an additional heavy re-seeding of introduced vegetation.
  • 25. Page 15: "No federally listed threatened or endangered plant species are likely to occur in the proposed permit area." Colorado Lien needs to prove that any rare species are definitely not in the area, and will not be affected anywhere in the area, including along and in Spring Gulch, or along any of the haul routes.
  • 26. Page 15: "The potential presence of the Bell twinpod is an unknown." Colorado Lien needs to prove that it does not exist in the area and along the proposed haul routes.
  • 27. Page 16: "Reclamation will restore the soils and vegetation to approximate contours and condition." This statement in contradictory to the one on page 23 which states that "…the proposal will permanently alter 470 acres…" This does not include the permanently altered acreages due to construction of haul routes accommodating two way traffic of semi-tractors.
  • 28. Page 16: Mountain Mahogany, a rare species found on this site, is food for cattle when snow covers grasses. Colorado Lien admits that it will be "impacted." (Damaged/destroyed?)
  • 29. Page 16: Colorado Lien admits that the "…length of topsoil stockpile (27 years) could pose a significant impact to the viability of the initial phases of the reclamation plan." Twenty-seven (27) years will make it next to impossible for their purported reclamation efforts to work. This is unacceptable.
  • 30. Page 16: "The North Road (and)…South Road makes some use of existing roads which may also require reconstruction, i.e. resurfacing, widening, or storm water drainage structures and grading, some modification, and some portions will require new road construction." This statement is ludicrous! On both January 29, 1998 and January 31, 1998, I spent over 3 hours in a 4 wheel drive vehicle negotiating, or trying to negotiate over the "existing" roads (the planned haul roads,) some of which were no more than a cattle trail. A mountain bike enthusiast was with me who stated that they would make "challenging" mountain bike roads—rocky and steep. According to the map provided by Colorado Lien, the haul road would also have to cross Spring Gulch…a very steep, rugged gulch, and site of an 8000 year old Indian habitation. Major road construction would have to occur. What is the width of the proposed haul roads? If a trail can hardly accommodate a 4 wheel drive vehicle, able to go less than walking speed, how much reconstruction or new construction is required?
  • 31. Pages 6, 16, 17, 23: All contradictions regarding the revegetation and disturbance. Page 6 states that maximum disturbance at any one time is 30 acres; page 17 states that the 30 acres of disturbance will be after the initial pit development takes place; Page 16 states that it will be 27 years before reclamation is started, and that will be unsuccessful; page 23 states that the area will be permanently altered. Which is correct? Apparently there is no chance of proper reclamation.
  • 32. Page 18: "…a botanically qualified person will formally survey the permit area and identify any areas where species on the Larimer County or the State of Colorado list of noxious plant species occur…." Who will be the noxious plant identifier? To whom will they report? Under whose supervision? Also stated is the fact that chemicals will be used to control the weeds. What is the potential impact of these chemicals?
  • 33. Page 19: "Haul roads will use existing roads to the greatest and most reasonable extent possible…" There are no existing roads on the Robert’s Ranch, and therefore all proposed roads will have to be totally constructed over fragile terrain.
  • 34. Page 19: "…assessment was based on (2) a November 20, 1997 reconnaissance survey of the project area and haul road corridors…" This entire assessment was based upon the observations occurring on just one day? This is late fall when nothing is blooming. How can a competent and complete assessment be done of an proposed mining site that will have lasting impact (see p. 23…"permanently altered") be complete in only one day?
  • 35. Page 20 & 21: The assessment states that the entire project area is populated by pronghorn, mountain lion, mule deer, Canada goose, bald eagle, and black near, yet they claim that there are "no human/animal conflicts." There may not be presently any "conflicts" as by their own admittance on page 20 "…the habitats are … not habituated to human presence…", but what will occur when upwards of 160 trucks per day, plus other workers and staff are in the area? This sounds like the potential for an inordinate number of human/animal conflicts. What actions are proposed to safeguard these animals from blasting and other dangerous activities? NOTE: Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a species proposed for federal listing, "…has been recently found in the general vicinity of the project area." Colorado Lien must prove that Preble’s meadow jumping mouse will not be impacted by the proposed destruction of 470 acres of habitat. 36. Page 22: The author of the assessment admits that there are golden eagle nests in the area. Unfortunately, the limited assessment possible on one day did not reveal the presence of additional eagle nests on Campbell Mountain identified by land owners in the area. How many other species and habitats were missed in the cursory investigation of the site? The Red-tailed Hawk, for example, is not mentioned in this assessment, yet is seen frequently in this area. The applicant claims that the existing eagles are used to "current haul truck use", yet in other paragraphs of the assessment they claim no human/animal interaction. How can this be? "….nest appears to be adequately buffered form the existing County Road…" What is the hunting range/habitat of the golden eagle? How can 1600 feet be "adequate"?
  • 37. Page 22: "The project’s impact on wildlife would be severe on the project area…but minor when considered in a larger landscape area." How can the destruction on any wildlife or their habitat be allowed?
  • 38. Page 24: "The only cultural resource of note is the Freight Road…" Cultural Resources NOT LISTED include numerous ancient Indian Teepee Rings, a medicine wheel, possible pioneer graves, an 8000 year old Indian habitation site, and an Indian Burial ground. The "Freight Road" as named in this assessment is in fact the Overland Trail Stage Route, established in 1862 by Ben Holladay, and used by both stage and freight travel starting in 1862 and continuing quite heavily until the late 1870’s. This route has never in academic or other publications been referred to as the "Old Salt Lake and Denver Road."
  • 39. Page 24: "...which was an alternative route of the Overland Trail." Not true! This was the Overland Trail established in 1862 by Ben Holliday as the main route of the Overland Trail Stage Company. The Trail went from Park Creek Overland Trail Stage Station near the intersection of County Road 21 and County Road 70 in Section 16 Township 9 North Range 69 West to the Cherokee Overland Trail Stage Station in Section 5 Township 10 North Range 70 West, a distance along the trail of about 10 miles.
  • 40. Page 24: "This special cutoff route…from the Overland Trail at LaPorte…" This was not a "cutoff!" The trail from La Porte to the Cherokee Station was the Cherokee Trail, established in about 1849 by a group of Cherokee Indians on their way to California. The Cherokee Trail was used mainly by freight traffic after the establishment of the Overland Trail in 1862 from Park Creek Station to the Cherokee Station, although some freight traffic was found on the Overland Trail. Stage travel was predominantly located on the Overland Trail. The Bonner Springs Station (located along the old Cherokee Trail) was abandoned in early 1863 after the establishment and substantial travel on the Overland Trail Stage Route.
  • 41. Page 24: "The Freight Road (sic) is not considered as retaining significance as it has been used for a ranch road for many years." A misnomer as stated in item 34. In addition, this road has been rarely used by the Robert’s Family or by ranch personnel. The Colorado Lien Company in recent months seemed to have been the major users of the road. Also within 6 feet to the west of the Overland Trail (called here a Freight Road) are the ancient Indian Teepee Rings, still retaining the stone circles. There are at least 11 (eleven) clearly delineated Indian Teepee Rings just to the west of the Overland Trail ruts. They range in size from 17 feet in diameter to over 24 feet in diameter. These all have stone circles and fire pits. In addition there are two other rings, one about 45 feet in diameter, the other is 38 feet in diameter, and are more than likely Indian Medicine Wheels. The Trail at this point is just two jeep ruts across the grass, to the east is the severely rugged Spring Gulch. There is no way that the ancient Indian Teepee Rings will not be totally destroyed by truck traffic. This trail (two jeep ruts) will have to be vastly increased in width to accommodate just one semi-tractor trailer, let alone two going in both directions. The desecration and permanent destruction of the ancient Indian Teepee Rings must not take place.
  • 42. Colorado State University has conducted major research on the Robert’s Ranch since 1970, identifying more than 40 "excavated and reported archaeological" sites in the immediate area.
  • 43. One major archaeological site is located on the east cliff of Spring Gulch, right above a spring, and would be totally destroyed by the proposed "haul road."
  • 44. Page 24: "Quarry personnel have received and continue to receive training on procedures in case of discovery of subsurface archaeological or paleontological resources, even though such resources are not expected." Which "quarry personnel"? Truck drivers? Earth moving equipment personnel? Are they qualified as archaeologists? What kind of training? How will they "discover" delicate Indian bones or pioneer grave sites using heavy equipment?
  • 45. Page 25: "Cultural sites will be assessed for significance…for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places." It is extremely difficult for sites to be included in this register.
  • 46. Page 25 begins discussion on Visual Impact. Colorado Lien does not have a good track record here. They, in years past, dumped tons of debris on the west side of Table Mountain, clearly visible from US Highway 287, violating an agreement which stated that they were not to do so. The new quarry road through the 2000 year old Piñon Pine Forest Natural Area has destroyed many pinion pine trees, and is an eyesore from US Highway 287. They claim that they will use "existing roads" but these are clearly not engineered to handle heavy truck traffic. They are but mere jeep trails at this point.
  • 47. Page 32: "...area shall be returned to a state that closely approximated the visual and ecological condition that existed prior to mining." What about the new roads constructed destroying cultural resources? What about the new roads constructed right through delicate wildlife habitat areas? At their own admittance (page 23) the mining area will be permanently altered. This appears to me to be "doublespeak."
  • 48. Page 33: "Significant historical or archeological sites that are encountered during mining shall be subject to cultural resource plan protocol." What is this? Also, what about the significance of ancient Indian Teepee Rings and ruts of the historic Overland Trail mentioned above? Are these to be destroyed and then permanently forgotten?
  • 49. Page 33: "The applicant agrees to monitor other aspects of the project within reasonable parameters." What’s "reasonable"? In whose eyes?

    Larimer County Commissioners:
    Cheryl Olson (970) 498-7002
    Jim Disney (970) 498-7003
    John Clarke (970) 498-7001

    Planning and Zoning:
    Larry Timm (department head)(970) 498-7683
    Robert Helmick (Sr. Planner) (970) 498-7682
    PO Box 1190
    Fort Collins, Colorado 80522

    For snail mail information:

    Elizabeth Larson

    Send comments, suggestions or inquiries: Elizabeth Larson

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