Commissioners did not attend important meeting

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Commissioners did not attend important meeting

To the Editor:

I read your story of Moffat County's opposition to Congressman Mark Udall's RS 2477 bill with great interest (3/19/04: Officials Not Giving Up Road Claims). According to the story, Commissioner (Les) Hampton voiced his opposition via teleconference to members of Colorado Counties Incorporated (CCI). A little over a month ago, Rep. Udall came to Northwest Colorado to discuss this same bill at an event sponsored by the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley in Steamboat. Rep. Udall outlined the need for national clarification as to what routes counties could legitimately assert and what process is necessary. Although invited, no Moffat County Commissioners attended this public discussion.

Last week, the Colorado State Senate echoed Rep. Udall's concern, passing a resolution with overwhelming bipartisan support (34-1) calling on Congress to give guidance on RS 2477. Sen. Jack Taylor, citing feedback from Commissioner (Marianna) Raftopolous, was the lone vote in opposition. It is disappointing that a local government chooses to use conference calls to the Colorado General Assembly and to Colorado Counties Incorporated (CCI) and spends local county monies they don't have to further their personal agenda over the needs of their local constituencies.

Under the purported grant of authority of Revised Statute 2477--the 1866 mining law repealed by Congress in 1976 -- Moffat County has claimed "ownership" to more than 2,000 miles of roads, including cow paths and overgrown trails that have never been maintained. These assertions are found mainly in some of the county's most pristine lands and prime wildlife habitat located in Dinosaur National Monument and Vermillion Basin.

The concept of "abandonment" of these claims seemed to upset Commissioner Hampton. Looking at possible abandonment is not an attack on Moffat County's rights, but rather protecting and preserving public lands for all Americans (which includes the citizens of Moffat County.) Abandonment is more than just a legal concept because these lands are still open to the public for use, both personal and commercial. From this point of view, it is hard to believe that Moffat County NEEDS 50 miles of roads in the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge and another 1,900-plus miles throughout the county. Commissioner Hampton seems to have missed this point.

Sincerely,

John Spezia

Vice-chair, Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley

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