The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has received about 70 written comments regarding the Wexner land exchange, according to an agency spokesman, including 20 that were submitted at an open house in Carbondale on Thursday night.
The public’s opportunity to give feedback on the controversial swap ends June 20.
With that deadline nearing, Pitkin County officials are exploring alternatives to the swap proposal that is moving through the BLM’s public process. The Board of County Commissioners has scheduled a closed-door meeting to discuss the issue on Tuesday.
“We’re exploring our options to see if there’s any opportunity to work with the Wexners to achieve what we consider a better public benefit from the exchange,” County Manager Jon Peacock said Friday.
The county also submitted a request to the BLM on Friday to hold a public meeting on the land exchange in Aspen, before the public comment deadline.
Pitkin County has not yet submitted any official public comment to the BLM on the exchange.
The deal would make public the 557-acre Sutey Ranch, just outside Carbondale in Garfield County, and privatize more than 1,200 acres of public land on the flanks of Mount Sopris in Pitkin County, along with 195 adjacent acres in Eagle County.
In 2010, Pitkin County failed to back a campaign for congressional support for a similar swap, due largely to the net loss of public lands proposed in the county. The county gave the Wexners a proposed alternative swap — with equal acreage — at that time. The lack of local government support from Pitkin County derailed that campaign.
It had already garnered public support from Garfield County, Eagle County, the town of Carbondale, and the Aspen Valley Land Trust.
The Wexners then submitted it, in February of last year, through an “administrative” process with the BLM, which does not require a congressional vote.
The swap has been proposed by Leslie Wexner, founder of Limited Brands, imprints of which include Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. He and his wife, Abigail, live full-time in Ohio and part-time on their ranch in rural Pitkin County outside Carbondale. The land they seek to privatize splits their existing 3,944-acre Two Shoes ranch there.
The Wexners have pledged $1.1 million to the BLM as part of the deal. All of the land traded to the Wexners would carry conservation easements, meaning it would be protected from any future development.
Dale Will, director of open space and trails for Pitkin County, said he hoped the terms of those easements would be disclosed during the public process. He said he’s been requesting more information, including the easements, beyond the basics of the swap that have released to the public.
“It’s kind of annoying that we’re deep into the public comment period and there’s only one page of info they’ve put out on disposing two square-miles of public land,” Will said.
BLM officials will use public feedback as they decide whether to approve the land exchange, and will release an environmental assessment of the deal. A final decision is currently expected on the proposal in 2013.
Agency spokesman David Boyd encouraged locals to make their comments as specific as possible, because they direct the BLM’s evaluation process.
“The more specific the comment can be,” he said, “the more effective it will be. ... The exchange potentially has benefit for the Roaring Fork Valley and that’s why we’re discussing it. Public input is a really important part of that.”
Written comments can be emailed to BLM_CO_SI_CRVFO_Webmail@blm.gov  or mailed to BLM, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652, Attn: Sutey Ranch Land Exchange.