Meeting draws those with differing land-use interests to the same table

If you have a strong opinion on how Moffat County's public lands should be managed, or if you want to learn more about what's at stake, you should plan to attend a potentially influential meeting Monday night.

Richard Whitley of the U.S. Department of the Interior is scheduled to present a plan that seeks more community input in the decision-making process regarding public land management.

The meeting is sponsored by the Northwest Colorado Stewardship, a coalition of local groups who represent different interests in the county -- from oil and gas development to preserving portions of public land for wilderness status.

The planning process, described as "out of the box" by the Bureau of Land Management, could have vast implications on local land-use policies.

"We're talking about an opportunity for citizen-centered involvement," said John Husband, the BLM's Little Snake field officer. "Land management is being considered in ways that were not possible before. The beauty is we're getting support from the top down to build (a plan) from the bottom up."

The best way to manage public lands in Moffat County has long been up for debate among residents, local government and state and federal land managers.

Currently about 344,000 acres of public land is proposed for wilderness in the county. Other groups, such as the county's land use board, have expressed an interest in expediting a planning process that would welcome oil and gas development in some controversial areas in the hopes of boosting county coffers.

The Northwest Colorado Stewardship was formed last spring to offer equal footing to the wide range of groups interested in the future of Moffat County's public lands.

Monday night's meeting is touted as one of the first efforts to work toward a collaborative effort on public land use planning, said Jeremy Casterson of the BLM. Casterson is also the facilitator for the stewardship group.

"What we're looking for is a wider involvement of the public," he said.

Resident Jane Yazzie agreed it would be a good chance for many to speak up.

Recent developments in the Bush administration have changed the face of public land management and residents should work to become aware of its local implications, she said.

"Collaboration would be good, otherwise it becomes so complex a process that it stays in the hands of just a few people," she said.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.