BLM aims to boost community involvement

County commissioners, land use board members, environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts and archeologists came together Tuesday at a meeting hosted by the local Bureau of Land Management Little Snake field office.

While their opinions differed on how federal land in Moffat County should be managed, everyone at the public meeting agreed that they wanted to maintain the essence and beauty of the open spaces in Moffat County. And they all agreed that they wanted to have a say in how that is accomplished.

BLM Little Snake Field Manager John Husband told the group that a new plan should provide concerned citizens with that opportunity.

Husband and Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton gave a presentation on the Northwest Colorado Stewardship Partnership to the 25 people in attendance.

The Stewardship Partnership is the latest draft in a string of plans developed in Northwest Colorado to give residents a say in how land is managed.

It began as the Northwest Colorado Working Landscape Trust and later evolved into the Pilot Project. Now, it has become the Stewardship Partnership.

The attempts to develop a plan began after a proposal was made in the mid 1990s to turn thousands of acres of land in Moffat County to wilderness, Hampton said.

When the question was brought before Moffat County residents, Hampton said, a majority said they preferred multiple use on public lands, not wildlife designation.

The proposals made by the county to give concerned residents a say in those wilderness considerations have hit many roadblocks, but those in Tuesday's meeting thought the latest plan might be a viable option for all interested parties.

A few goals of the project include:

  • Improving land health.
  • Incorporating social and economic concerns into land use decisions.
  • Building trust between agencies.
  • Empowering people in planning, decision making and implementing.

"We want to get some long-lasting involvement from people closest to the issues," Husband said.

David Blackstun, the supervisory natural resources specialist with the BLM, described the new plan as "outcome-based management."

Moffat County Land Use Board member and former Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson has been involved with land management plans being developed since the process began in the 1990s.

He supported the plan laid out in the meeting Tuesday and explained why he thought local input was vital in land use decisions.

He said Craig needs a new middle school, hospital and wants to build a new recreation center.

"A good deal of that money comes from multiple use of public land," he said. "We want to be able to use these resources and protect them at the same time."

Craig resident Mike Frazier said he thought the local agencies were moving in the right direction in their plan, and said he hoped the plans would help to preserve the open space he cherishes.

"The food for soul is what's in the wilderness," he said. "If we use it all up, what's going to be left? I don't want to be here when that happens."

Dickinson told Frazier that concerns like his were the reason the county and BLM are working together to do what they're doing.

"That's what we're talking about doing in this process," he said. "How can we sit down and protect all these values that we cherish yet still meet our economic needs?"

According to a form distributed Tuesday at the meeting, The Northwest Colorado Stewardship Partnership will involve several phases to be determined by stakeholders in land-use decisions.

Those phases will involve public forums and meetings, scientific research and monitoring and partnering to accomplish on-the-ground management.

In the end, the goal of the Stewardship Partnership is to provide for sustainable communities, economies and ecosystems in Northwest Colorado, Husband said.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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