Billionaire businessman Bill Koch organized a tour last fall for western Colorado residents to survey property he is offering in a multifaceted land swap that requires an act of Congress to complete.
The idea was to convince the public that a new ranch he’d acquired would make a fine substitute for a stretch of federal land that slices through his 5,000-acre paradise, where he is building his own private frontier-themed town complete with a saloon, train station, firehouse and as many as 50 buildings.
But no one bothered to mention that the land Koch is offering, Buck Ranch, could soon be flanked by gas wells and pipelines — hardly the ambiance sought by hikers, mountain bikers and ATV users.
“There was absolutely no mention of gas wells. There was talk of how wonderful the trails would be and how they would put in a separate trail for the ATV users,” Paonia resident Hal Brill, who went on the tour, said in a recent telephone interview. “They were trying to extoll the beauties of that place. Nothing was said at all about the potential for industrial-scale development.”
Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Koch and his coal company Oxbow Corp., said many properties in the area have mineral rights beneath the surface that the owner of the land does not control.