BLM seeks public comment about management plan at Grand County meetings | SkyHiNews.com

BLM seeks public comment about management plan at Grand County meetings

Steve Christianson, left, and Joe Kelley take a lap during the opening weekend for the High Altitude Motocross Track on Sunday west of Granby. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

GRAND COUNTY – Two tough questions: How will transportation be managed so that natural and cultural resources are protected; yet motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities still exist? And how will recreation be managed so that recreation sites and trails continue to be maintained and improved?

These are just two topics that will be discussed at three public meetings to be hosted by the Bureau of Land Management to present to the public proposed changes to the agency’s Resource Management Plan for parts of Grand County and beyond.

The goal of the BLM meetings is to orient the public to this document, which will guide land use on BLM land for decades to come.

The last update to the plan was in 1984. According to the document many resources have changed, including more recreational users.

“As the result of changing regional and local economies, rapid population growth, shifting demographics, and the expansion of residential areas, recreation is the center of both conflict and opportunity,” the document states.

Meet the experts

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The meetings will allow resources area experts at the BLM to discuss with the public four alternatives to each action, and to answer questions one-on-one.

At each meeting BLM representatives will have tables set up with details of the plan, the four alternatives, and detailed maps.

The public has until January 17, 2012, to submit comments.

Once comments are received, BLM officials including wildlife biologists, oil and gas experts, and a travel management specialist will acknowledge all specific comments in a final document.

However, public comments do not constitute a vote, according to David Boyd, BLM public affairs specialist for Northwestern Colorado.

“We will respond to all specific comments from the public, city and county representatives, and other related agencies in the final document, which will take about a year to draft,” he said.

Boyd is adamant that the BLM is looking for very specific comments about each area.

“We want comments to state if something is not included in an alternative or if there is missing information; we want to know about it,” he said.

“We understand that management of BLM land has a tremendous impact to the community. There are impacts on whatever we do,” he added.

“We want to know how it impacts the public and then evaluate it in the common analysis section of the plan. An effective comment is one that addresses a specific part of the plan and how it will affect your business or activity. However, there are a lot of competing interests and we can’t give everyone what they ask for.”

Travel management

Travel management is a hot topic, and officials are expecting the most comments about travel and recreation.

“We have to balance usage with protecting resources. A road might need to be closed in order to protect a resource.” said Boyd.

Another area of management action is wilderness areas. There is an option to manage and protect three areas of land in Grand County for their “wilderness characteristics.” Boyd says it is not as strong as a wilderness designation but it restricts land use in order to preserve it.

Clint Roberts of Hot Sulphur Springs plans to attend the Granby meeting.

“The public needs to be educated on the measures,” he said. “The more you know and understand, you can support the right thing.”

Roberts said he hopes to keep an open mind and see both sides.

The open house format operates differently than other public comment forums.

“It is not oral testimony,” Boyd said. “We will discuss the plan with individuals. Answering questions this way is far more effective. We hope to encourage more specific comments this way.”

Growing demand

As Colorado’s population grows so does the need for services on public land. The Resource Management plan states that “the public lands must be managed in a manner that protects the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values; and that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition, provide food and habitat for fish, wildlife, and domestic animals, provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use; and recognize the Nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals, food, timber, and fiber from the public lands.”

“Public scoping showed that some people want new or improved facilities for, and improved signage and information about, recreational opportunities; while others do not,” the document states. “Some people want more structured recreational opportunities for specific activities; while others want the BLM to manage for dispersed recreational activities.”

Motorized recreation

Off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation on public lands has increased along with the overall population growth and the increased popularity in OHV activities. The plan states: “In response to increasing recreational use, the Kremmling Field Office (KFL) has had to limit motor vehicle use in many areas; limit motor vehicle use by season; increase signage, field staff, and visitor services; create brochures and maps for visitors; apply more rules and regulations in order to maintain natural resource settings; and direct recreational use and protect resources.”

Joe Kelley, general manager at Power World in Granby, plans to attend the meeting.

“Motorized users have been trying to find compromises for over 20 years,” he said. “Many OHV users have been attending meetings for years with trails still being closed and no new trails being created. OHV users are willing to compromise but there is a lot of frustration.”

He added that many OHV users will have a voice through organizations such as The BlueRibbon Coalition and AMA.

The Kremmling Draft RMP/EIS planning area encompasses 377,900 acres of BLM-managed lands and underlying federal mineral estate in all or parts of six Colorado counties: Jackson, Grand, Summit, Larimer, Eagle and Routt.

This land use plan will provide the management direction for the next two decades.

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