Annual Report 2009



“There can be no purpose more inspiring than to begin the age of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us.”
—E.O. Wilson

2009 Highlights

  1. 1)  2009 dominated by our work with the Town of Rico and Atlantic Richfield Corporation to clean-up mining-contaminated soils within the Town;
  2. 2)  Telluride Foundation grant and US Forest Service funding helps identify Ophir mining problems;
  3. 3)  USEPA cleans-up a TLR Priority Site in the Ophir Valley: the North Star Mill
  4. 4)  TLR joins Animas River Stakeholders Group, Silverton Colorado, to track ASARCOsettlement;
  5. 5)  TLR partners with Hinsdale County Colorado for grant proposal for a watershed-wideassessment of mining impacts;
  6. 6)  TLR joins coalition providing information to Senator Mark Udall in support of GoodSamaritan amendment to the Clean Water Act.1


TLR Executive Director Pat Willits

Our Mission

The Trust for Land Restoration’s mission is to heal, restore, conserve, and protect environmentally significant lands, particularly those degraded by mining and other human activities.

Rico Town Staff visit Van Winkle Mine


We are TLR

The Trust for Land Restoration (TLR) is a team of dedicated professionals from environmental consulting, law, conservation, business, government relations, and public policy, who deeply care about the environment, and who have chosen to give back by donating some of our time to help TLR communities. TLR is a non-profit consulting group and land trust, based in Ridgway and working statewide. We are recognized as a leader in understanding and managing environmental liability so that lands degraded by mining and other human impacts can be restored. TLR primarily works in two ways: 1) as a statewide partner to citizen groups, local governments, and state and federal agencies seeking to cleanup and conserve abandoned mine sites in their communities; and 2) as a local land trust, focusing on easement and fee acquisition projects in Ouray, San Miguel, and San Juan Counties that other land trusts lack the expertise or time to undertake.

Since our inception in 1999, TLR has been responsible for winning more than $1 Million in grants and contracts for itself and its partners to characterize and cleanup abandoned mine sites, principally in Ouray, San Miguel, and Summit Counties. TLR’s partners have brought an additional $4.2 M to these projects.

As a land trust, TLR now holds 12 conservation easements totaling 3215 acres of protected land in Ouray and San Miguel counties. Among the easements TLR holds are San Miguel County Down Valley Park that facilitated funding of pond and river corridor restoration at the park using Idarado Resource Damage Fund money; four easements on Iron Springs Mesa northeast of Placerville that protect Gunnison sage grouse habitat; and an easement protecting the historic Yankee Girl Mine near Red Mountain Pass in Ouray County.


The Rico Project:
TLR hired as Town of Rico consultant for Voluntary Cleanup of lead- contaminated soils by Atlantic Richfield Company

Driving through quiet Rico Colorado today, one sees numerous clues to the area’s once vibrant mining past. The hillsides are dotted with abandoned workings. An old water tower sits along an overgrown railroad grade. Large storefronts of buildings constructed over 100 years ago, many today standing empty and unused, remember the time of a mining boom when 5,000 people lived here.

Today, less than 300 people call Rico home year-round, though that number swells by a factor of three during the stunning San Juan Mountain summer months. Located along the upper Dolores River, 60 miles northeast of Cortez and 25 miles southwest of Telluride, the Town of Rico remains a quintessential Colorado mountain town, a quiet town in a stellar setting, surrounded by a rich and colorful mining history, lying in wait of the next boom, be it a resurgence of mining, or development as a resort and residential companion community to Telluride, or both.

As it awaits its future, human health and environmental concerns from Rico’s mining past have come to the forefront. Among those concerns is the fact that much of the soil in and around town contains elevated amounts of lead. Mines and mills left waste rock piles where today people have built their homes and summer cabins. Some streets and parts of the railroad bed were built with waste rock. Though modern testing has shown few residents have elevated levels of lead in their blood, a health risk to people, particularly children, remains.

Into this picture has stepped the Atlantic Richfield Company, heirs to much of the liability of mining-related contamination within the Town by virtue of ARCO having purchased the Anaconda Mining Company over 30 years ago. ARCO, in cooperation with the Town of Rico and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), has agreed to voluntarily cleanup lead contaminated soils in Rico, and is working with CDPHE’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCUP) to do so. The Town of Rico, with funds provided by ARCO, has hired the Trust for Land Restoration to provide technical and legal consulting to the Town, and to act as intermediary between the Town, ARCO and the State, as the cleanup is being planned and carried out. ARCO has already completed much of the on-the-ground work, but the complete VCUP plan itself should be finalized by 2011.

Howard Fork/Ophir Valley:
Telluride Foundation Grant, US Forest Service Funding Aids in Mining Site Characterization
Cleanup of the North Star Mill

Thanks to USFS, the Telluride Foundation, the Town of Ophir, and San Miguel County for providing funds to TLR to support our work in the Howard Fork watershed and the Ophir Valley. In 2009 TLR coordinated with the US EPA Office of Emergency Response to complete the cleanup of the North Star Mill, on private property, at no cost to the landowner. EPA’s own projected cost of the cleanup of the site is $750,000.

The Howard Fork of the San Miguel River, running through the Ophir Valley, south of Telluride, has been a TLR priority since 2001. The Howard Fork had been the site of a productive mining boom that lasted from the late 1880s up to the early 1950s, leaving in its wake dozens of abandoned mining sites, several of which continue to degrade water quality. The three-year San Miguel River Restoration Assessment identified the Howard Fork as the top restoration priority in the San Miguel River Watershed. In May of 2001 TLR convened and facilitated the “Howard Fork Roundtable”, bringing together landowners, local officials, state and federal regulators, and citizens to prioritize cleanup opportunities and identify information needs. All of TLR’s work in the Ophir Valley since 2001 has been to focus on furthering the implementation of the goals and objectives identified by the Howard Fork Roundtable.


EPA contractor at the North Star Mill

Currently TLR has a Participating Agreement with the United States Forest Service (USFS) to provide stakeholder outreach and facilitate multi-agency coordination for the cleanup of abandoned mines contributing heavy metals to the Howard Fork. In 2009 our efforts led to the $600,000 cleanup of the North Star millsite by the USEPA Office of Emergency Response, at no cost to the landowner.

North Star Mill Before



North Star Mill After

Elsewhere in the Ophir Valley:

  1. 1)  The US Forest Service (USFS) completed site design and hired a contractor to perform consolidation and capping of the Carbonero Tailings site, including consolidating and capping 18,000 cubic yards of mill tailings along the Howard Fork. Work is scheduled for 2010. TLR helped USFS coordinate stakeholder outreach and public involvement;
  2. 2)  To facilitate water-quality data gathering in the entire Howard Fork watershed, TLR hired locals to collect water samples on a monthly basis at a number of pre-determined sites throughout the valley and ship to EPA labs for analysis. EPA is picking up the lab costs;
  3. 3)  TLR coordinated with the landowner of the Carbonero Mine to allow the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) to plan to drill a monitoring well into the mine workings to determine the feasibility of reopening the adit and/or plugging it.The Howard Fork/Ophir Valley7


Silverton, San Juan County: ASARCO Silver Lake settlement

In a case of national significance, a consent decree has been signed settling claims against ASARCO, with money set aside for cleanup of sites in eleven states. The settlement includes $4m for cleanup of Silver Lake and adjoining properties, in San Juan County. TLR and the Silverton-based Animas River Stakeholder Group are conferring with the State of Colorado, with the goal of developing a combination of on-site and off-site remediation to satisfy the terms of the settlement. Stay tuned!

Asarco exits bankruptcy under Grupo Mexico deal

Silver Lake, San Juan County