By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
The Moffat County Commissioners have asked the Steamboat Springs City Council to reconsider its resolution supporting wilderness designations on Bureau of Land Management areas. The Steamboat City Council recently passed Resolution 2001-21 supporting the designation of 59 areas covering approximately 1.6 million acres in Colorado as Wilderness, as proposed in the Citizens' Wilderness Proposal. Nine of the proposed areas fall within Moffat County, totaling 319,051 acres of public land.
"It's unbelievable that the Steamboat City Council would make a decision like that without speaking with us first," Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said. "We've been working on our Land Management Plan and our Land Trust proposal for quite some time, and they should have picked up the phone and asked about this decision before going forward. If we were in a similar position to comment on something Steamboat was doing, we would have done that. We absolutely feel it is necessary that communication happen, and that the city council respect that," she said.
Moffat County is working through a grassroots effort to address wilderness issues an issue that has "a huge impact" on Moffat County and the Steamboat City Council should work with the Moffat County Commissioners on an issue of this magnitude, Raftopoulos said.
The Steamboat City Council will work with the Moffat County Commissioners to resolve this issue, and the relationships the communities have will facilitate those conversations, said Ken Brenner, a Steamboat City Council member.
"We will have an opportunity to talk, so we can be better informed about [Moffat County's] point of view," he said. "When this came forward at the meeting, it was on the consent calendar and was discussed for less than five minutes.
"There should be an opportunity for the council to discuss this decision again, especially to look at any information the [Moffat] County Commissioners want to bring forward."
Wilderness is the "bread and butter" of the recreation industry in Routt County, but Moffat County will have a different criteria on the issue, and the council is willing to look at those differences, Brenner said.
In response to the resolution, and some communications with the Steamboat City Council, the Commissioners have written a letter asking the city council to "reconsider and remand this support," Raftopoulos said.
If the issue isn't resolved, the partnerships that Moffat and Routt counties are joined in, partnerships concerning telecommunications, transportation and other community development projects, will be re-examined with a critical eye, said Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton.
"We are weighing our options about a response," Hampton said. "Everything is on the table."
The Steamboat Springs City Council was not aware that their action would elicit the reaction it did from Moffat County, said Steamboat Springs City Manager Paul Hughes.
"I am positive that the city council was not aware of the [Moffat County] Commissioners' position when they voted," Hughes said. "We were asked to support the position of the Colorado Wilderness Network, the council said fine, we voted to support it and moved on.
"They were quite surprised at the reaction," Hughes said.
The Steamboat City Council asked for the letter from the Commissioners so they could better understand what Moffat County's position was and why, Hughes said.
"They are expecting the letter. This council's last meeting will be on Nov. 6, and it would be appropriate that they reconsider the resolution and deal with this issue at that meeting," he said.
The Colorado Wilderness Network (CWN), a proponent of the Citizens Wilderness Proposal, has collected support from several communities around Colorado, including Denver, Gunnisson County and Pitkin County, said Jennifer Seidenberg, CWN Northwest field organizer.
"We started our efforts with folks we felt were more supportive of the proposal," Seidenberg said. "In Steamboat, we have 15 businesses that support this wilderness proposal. The people of this community showed their support, so this was an easy decision for the city council.
"The city has a right to represent their citizens' views."
The CWN thinks the decision of the Steamboat City Council should stand as is.
"We will definitely encourage the council to stand by this decision that people supported," Seidenberg said. "Over the last couple of months, we've heard only positive support from [Steamboat Springs]. The city council should want to accurately represent the people.
"The two sides should be able to agree to disagree and keep wilderness issues separate from shared projects like transportation," she said. "We hope it turns out well, and ends with each group respecting the other."