County takes stand on BLM plan

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Although the Moffat County Commissioners applaud the efforts by the Bureau of Land Management on gathering public input for a proposed plan to determine public land use, there are some areas of disagreement between the two entities.

Wilderness designation is one such disagreement to the BLM's Resource Management Plan, the document designed to oversee land use on the bureau's 1.3 million acres in the Little Snake Resource Management area.

Commissioners presented a letter to the BLM on Tuesday, the day before the public comment period on the plan ended, to voice some of their concerns on the four different alternatives presented in the proposed RMP.

Proposed alternatives include keeping the plan as is, opening it up for more recreation and oil and gas options, limiting land use in an effort to preserve the land and a mixture in between land use and environmental concerns.

The 14 members of the county Land Use Board, representing a variety of interests from agricultural to environmental, worked on the county's comments to the BLM during their past three meetings.

"They are proposing seven wilderness sites and scenic byways, and I was disappointed that they are lowering the wilderness designation below 5,000 acres," Commissioner Saed Tayyara said. "I think the wilderness areas are more than adequate now. The BLM should not strip land from public use."

Three specific portions of the proposal drew objections from the commissioners.

Wild and scenic

river designations

Commissioners agreed with the Juniper Water Conservancy District's comments that the proposal to name parts of the Yampa River as "wild and scenic" ignores the impact of future water rights, as well as the ability to manage the segments where private landowners own both sides of the river.

Wilderness

management

Commissioners believe the BLM is using outdated regulations to identify and propose management for "lands likely to contain wilderness character," and may be acting illegally in managing such areas as a wilderness.

Mineral land

withdraws

Commissioners are concerned the BLM is not meeting reporting requirements to Congress when it "defers" areas of greater than 5,000 acres from oil and gas leasing for the life of the plan, as opposed to "withdrawing" the land, which needs to be reported to Congress. Areas in question include Cold Spring Mountain and Dinosaur North.

Other concerns

Other areas addressed by the county's letter to the BLM include requesting a significant increase in reclamation bonding for companies using new or unproven techniques for mineral extraction, as well as companies who do not have a solid reputation for conducting reclamation.

The county requests the BLM work with the Off Highway Vehicle community to define "existing routes" in the plan, as well as actively pursue weed control on BLM lands.

The county would like to see a "wild horse goal" plan be written to manage herds to Rangeland Health Standards, not solely to Allotment Management Levels.

Also of concern to commissioners was the lack of division between off-highway vehicles and over-the-snow vehicles when discussing areas with restricted riding in the plan.

As the chair of the commission, Tayyara, delivered a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorn during a recent visit to Washington D.C. stating the county's position on the wilderness characteristics and the mineral deferrals.

"I'm concerned about any plan that may undermine the economy of Moffat County," he said.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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