To the dismay of Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Chas Cartwright, the Moffat County commissioners approved preliminary plans to subdivide more than 400 acres of property at Dinosaur National Monument Monday morning.
"If these parcels were to be developed the impact on the park would be severe," Cartwright said. "I'm paid to have a long-term view of what's best for Dinosaur National Monument. I realize this is private property, but I feel this would affect the natural resources of the monument."
The land being subdivided within the monument belongs to the Mantle family.
The plan would divide the land into more than 80 different lots.
Cartwright said he is concerned the process is moving forward too rapidly and will be completed before the park service has an opportunity to make the Mantles an offer to buy out their land.
"My concern is this action is moving quickly and will be completed before we can get an offer on the table," he said. "I would like to wait and see if we can pursue a deal. Sometime in May we will have an offer on the table."
But Lonnie Mantle said the family has been negotiating with the park service for ten years and the family wants to move forward with the process.
County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said she understood the concerns of the park service, but said the Mantles are following the necessary process in subdividing the land.
"They've been trying to negotiate with the park service for more than 10 years," she said. "They're following the proper process. As commissioners we just take the information that is presented to us at the time. Because it is private property the Mantles have a right to do what they're doing."
The preliminary plans were approved Monday with conditions. One of those conditions includes the commissioners conducting an on-site visit to examine the county road leading to the property.
The second condition is the road would continue to maintained by the county as it has been historically, which is twice a year.
"The increased traffic leading to the property will have an impact on the road," Raftopoulos said. "Emergency vehicles will have to be able to get back there, but we don't want the county to absorb the cost of upgrading the road. If the road needs to be upgraded we might have to ask the subdividers to help with the upgrade."
The commissioners said they want to make sure all issues regarding the road leading to the property are addressed before any definite decisions are made.
"You can sell all of these properties and then we're sitting here with the problem of what to do with the road," said Commissioner Les Hampton. "We have to establish that the road will be maintained as it has been on a historical basis."
Moffat County Planning Department Director Sue Graler said the plans are not yet final for the subdivisions.
"This is preliminary," Graler said. "They will have to come back to us with a final plan. This is only the second in a three-part process."
The Mantle family has long been involved in a battle with the Park Service over grazing rights within the Dinosaur National Monument.
Raftopoulos said the grazing battle has driven the Mantles to subdivide the land.
"They keep cutting numbers down," Raftopoulos said of the amount of cattle that can be allowed to graze. "Essentially the numbers get so low that people can no longer make a living."
Cartwright said he understood the Mantle's reasons for subdividing.
"I realize the Mantles feel they need to subdivide to regain some money," Cartwright said. "But this is one of the last major pieces of undeveloped land in the lower 48. I would like to see if we could pursue a deal."