Advisory council hears feedback on BLM issues

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Moffat County resident Jane Yazzie voiced concerns about excessive drilling and asked that land groups take a regional perspective on conservation issues. Craig resident Dave Watson lobbied for more land to be set aside for motorized recreation.

In between, they were introduced to the new field director for the Western Slope branch of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

The Northwest Resource Advisory Council had a busy morning Thursday during its meeting at the Holiday Inn. The RAC, a group that advises the Bureau of Land Management, meets once per quarter.

Its agenda Thursday varied from receiving updates from the Little Snake, White River and Kremmling field offices to an overview of BLM oil and gasoline leasing. About an hour of the meeting was set aside for public comment.

Yazzie, a newcomer to the RAC, voiced concerns about drilling and conservation. She also said that land management officials need to be patient when deciding whether to allow resource extraction in Northwest Colorado. Especially, she said, because so many have taken interest in the area.

"Clearly, we're in a situation where development could get out of hand," Yazzie said. "It's unpredictable. ... A proactive approach would seem wise from a number of perspectives."

She also said that thorough communication among agencies is necessary in dealing with land use and conservation issues in the future. Issues, she said, that could have "recreation and socio-economic ramifications."

The RAC, a panel consisting of 15 area residents, agreed with Yazzie and said they're taking a serious look at drilling and keeping in contact with other agencies about issues that may affect Northwest Colorado.

RAC member T. Wright Dickinson said the Northwest RAC is "one of the more vocal" groups in the state, which demonstrates "how we think beyond our borders.

"We don't just think about home," Dickinson said.

Watson asked the RAC to consider remedies to the increasingly dwindling number of acres designated for motorized recreation use.

"It seems to me like there are more and more areas shut out to motorized recreation," he said.

The advisory council also met Joe Newhoff, the new Western Slope field director for the environmental coalition, based in Grand Junction. Newhoff and RAC members said they were committed to strengthening the working relationship between their two organizations.

RAC members, who are appointed by the Colorado Secretary of the Interior, represent a range of public land interests including environmental, local government and commercial activity. The Northwest RAC advises the Grand Junction, Little Snake, Kremmling and Glenwood Springs BLM field offices.

David Boyd, a public affairs specialist with the BLM, said the RAC meetings, particularly the public comment portions, are vital in gauging opinions on existing projects or issues.

"It's a link to the public for us," Boyd said. "(Their input) carries a lot of weight with how we manage land."

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