To the Editor:
I'm writing in response to an article in the Craig Daily Press entitled, "County, environmental group clash over land use."
The article addressed a piece I wrote for the Colorado Environmental Coalition's newsletter on roads claimed by county commissioners and other threats to wild lands in Northwest Colorado. I stand by the original article I wrote, which was an effort to alert people around the state of Colorado who also love our beautiful landscapes. I wish these threats were figments of my imagination, but unfortunately, they are very real.
Commissioners have used an old mining law to claim more than 2,000 miles of roads across BLM lands in Moffat County. Why do we need 2,000 miles of roads (enough to stretch from Craig to Boston, Massachusetts)? The answer is not recreational access, ORV play areas, or even agricultural needs. Indeed, from the earliest stages of developing these claims, the Department of Natural Resources has used this 1866 law as a sword to fight wilderness. In notes as early as January and March of last year, the Land Use Board decided "WSAs (wilderness study areas) should be concentrated on first." I encourage you to look about the County's thorough natural resources web page at www.co.moffat.co.us/naturalresources at these notes and maps of road claims.
Wilderness may be a contentious issue in our neck of the woods, but using efforts like these road claims to defeat it is not above board.
In my article, I did address the real danger on the ground to our last wild places. Several counties in Utah have been sued and lost in court when they similarly made road claims and then also decided to bulldoze federal lands without permission. Moffat County's maintenance protocol allows for the maintenance and upgrading of trails and abandoned jeep trails which they have claimed. The document states that there will be a public process if such improvements are deemed necessary. However, considering that the original "public process" on these road claims was less than thirty days and occurred over the Christmas and New Years holidays, I am skeptical as to real involvement from the public.
While we disagree over the meaning of this or that article, the fate of the land lies in the balance. Studies have shown conclusively that higher road densities directly correlate with shorter life spans for deer and elk. Erosion, loss of habitat, and exposure of precious archeological resources to vandals could be very real outcomes of the RS2477 claims Commissioners have asserted in this county. Above all else, the loss of quiet, natural places where we can all find comfort and peace is something we must all consider for ourselves and our children.
I for one, hope that as the community continues to deal with these complicated issues, we can cast aside name-calling and personal attacks. These are serious problems, which have local and national implications, and we should treat them as such. Last fall, many diverse members of the community attended a forum on oil and gas development. We discussed difficult differences in mature, civil conversations. As we work towards solutions and the Stewardship Pilot Project moves forward, we should all strive for open communication and real cooperation.