Stewardship beginning to narrow its focus

Members ready to discuss natural resources

After one year of discussions about how the Northwest Colorado Stewardship should operate, the group's members are ready to begin discussing natural resource issues.

"It's coming down to the meat of things," stewardship member Wes McStay said.

The stewardship was formed to provide local input for the Bureau of Land Management's forthcoming revision of the Little Snake Resource Area management plan.

A recent survey indicates stewardship members are divided on what issues should take priority in the resource management plan. The BLM periodically revises its management plans to keep them current with the changes of values of the public.

According to the survey, mineral resources and energy issues, wilderness and other special land designations, and wildlife are emerging as the group's top priorities. Wild horses and water resources came in second.

It's the stewardship's goal to reach a consensus on how public lands should be managed.

Members were evenly divided between the importance of energy development and wilderness. Comments written by the members questioned what environmental effect energy development would have and worried that wilderness designations would close segments of public land to multiple use.

"You may be right to see some of those differences and wonder how they might play out," said stewardship member Reed Morris of the Colorado Wilderness Network's Craig field office.

Yet the difference in priorities doesn't necessarily mean there is a rift in the group, Morris said. With 1.3 million acres of surface area and 1.1 million acres of minerals within the Little Snake Resource Area, plenty of room exists to accommodate all uses and interests, he said.

Nor did every vote for a priority indicate the voter favored that priority, member Jane Yazzie said.

"Just because there's a vote for one of those issues doesn't mean it's an entirely positive vote," Yazzie said.

One survey participant who listed wilderness as the No. 1 priority questioned whether wilderness is really good for the land and voiced concern that wilderness discriminates who can use the land and eliminates local income.

Similarly, another survey participant who listed energy development as the highest priority described concerns of environmental damage and water usage and disposal associated with coal bed methane development.

Some other resource interests are underrepresented within the stewardship. For example, only two people listed cultural resources as a priority, and both people listed it as a very low priority.

During the past months, the stewardship has been discussing ways to attract more participants to the group.

Members stressed that the involvement of people not affiliated with a particular company or interest group is needed.

"It is time for people to know that they have a relationship with current and future uses of the land whether or not they walk out and use it daily or weekly," Yazzie said.

Along with representatives for cultural resources, recreation users of all sorts, including off-highway vehicle motorists, kayakers and hikers, are needed McStay said.

Recently, two members of the High Plains Mustang Club joined the stewardship, providing the group with representatives for wild horse interests.

The more people who join, the more pull the stewardship will have with the BLM, McStay said.

"The way (the stewardship) is set up to reach a consensus with all groups will hold more clout with the BLM," McStay said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.