Moffat County Commission concerned about wild land order


Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray thinks a recent order from the federal government could jeopardize multiple use lands and energy development in certain areas across the nation, including Moffat County.

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Gray and the Moffat County Commission discussed and agreed to write a letter opposing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s Order No. 3310, which directs the Bureau of Land Management to identify and inventory lands with wilderness characteristics. The order was signed Dec. 22.

Once local BLM field offices have identified those wilderness characteristics, Gray said, the order directs the BLM to manage those areas to preserve their distinct qualities by adjusting or eliminating some, or all, of the other uses it has.

Before the order, the BLM could inventory the land for wilderness characteristics, but only a Congressional vote could secure the protection afforded from a wilderness designation, Gray said.

“This will highlight and pedestal wilderness characteristics above all others because it says specifically … that where the BLM determines that some other use detracts from or somehow impedes that wilderness characteristic, then it will be stopped,” the commissioner said. “Up until now, unless Congress takes action, all characteristics were deemed to be equal.”

Such uses could include energy development, grazing and motorized access, among others, Gray said.

Although lands identified under the new order will not receive a “wilderness designation,” they will be named “wild lands” and managed to protect those same characteristics.

That, however, “is the same outcome,” Gray said.

“We do have to acknowledge there are other values besides just drilling that have to be acknowledged, but let’s not place those values as the premiere value of the land,” Gray said. “Let’s use a balanced approach, and that’s what I have always advocated.

“This order will allow imbalance to take place based on what the administration in Washington wants to do.”

Lands with wilderness characteristics provide visitors with “rare opportunities for solitude and personal reflection,” have “culturally significant and sacred sites,” and are “important for their scientific, cultural and historic objects,” according to the order.

Gray said he is concerned there are many areas in Moffat County BLM officials could recommend for wilderness characteristic protection.

One of those areas, he said, is the 77,000-acre Vermillion Basin, which is currently off limits to energy development.

Commissioner Tom Mathers said if Vermillion was recommended in the BLM’s plan, it “would take it out of ever drilling it.”

Moreover, Mathers said he was tired of “having the top-down (approach) crammed down our throats.”

“I understand how they can try to do this, but nobody should have the power with the swipe of his hand to turn government lands that we all use into private refuges for the state,” he said. “They shouldn’t have that power — they should have to come and talk to the counties that it is in (and) the state.”

Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources director, said Tuesday that local BLM officials told the Moffat County Land Use Board the order “absolutely was a new direction” to managing lands.

“It is kind of funny — they said that, but then they said they didn’t think in their office it would affect much, but they haven’t gotten their final directions,” he said. “Never have we had BLM tell us this is a shift before. They have always minimized different kinds of policies, but this one was drastic enough that they’ve told us that directly.”

Commissioner Audrey Danner said she would keep an eye on the issue as it develops and the BLM should be “careful how we move quickly to wilderness.”

“I do not think it is an appropriate plan to develop more wild lands,” she said. “We have many in the process for wilderness and we have … over half of our land in county being managed well and much of that is with multiple use, and I believe that keeps it viable within the community.”

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kathleenpost 6 years, 1 month ago

No one should have the power to "with the swipe of a hand" approve well drilling,without comments and approval from the people.That is what happens now.Last month in Routt county ,two wells were rushed through ,with no comment period from the public.Is that a better way?Is anyone protecting the water underground at all legally concerning this gas fracking?On the western slope where they have it going on,one story of a lady who could light her water on fire.What is going on legally to protect the under ground water?Could it be legal to authorize fracking when it is a known ,proven fact that it causes pollution of the underground water table?That should not happen.If it is indeed known to ruin water(cause earthquakes,Arkansas has 700 last year along with the fracking)Why are they even asking to continue the operation as they are potentially unsafe?Hold up and find out first.Will it end in disaster?Personally I think Craig is a great town and much more self sufficieny than any other area in northwest Colorado.Nice town.You dont need the oil industry that is for sure,you also dont need rotton undergound water forever.Does the pollution ever go away?We dont need oil wells in the National Forest,that is for sure.End of story.Vehicles,bikes ,boats ,any thing else is fine and dandy.No toxic industry, works for me.In fact ,besides removal of beetle kill,no other industrys at all .They are wild wilderness areas,they belong to the people,if it stays unchanged and protected .


onewhocares 6 years, 1 month ago

Why should the (3) less than holier than thou commissioners have any right at all to endanger the wilderness areas managed by the Federal government? Those lands were set aside for EVERYONE--not just 3 commissioners who would financially benefit from oil leases being on them compromising the health of their ecosystems and water systems.

It really is scary how blinded by greed and short sightedness you three commissioners really are. When our wild areas are destroyed, what next??? Your ranches, cause there will be nowhere else to rape and pillage the land.


Frank Estey 6 years, 1 month ago

A half-truth is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may utilize some deceptive element, such as improper punctuation, or double meaning, especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame or misrepresent the truth. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Facts ARE important. COLORADO OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION MISSION Because an informed public debate requires accurate information.


Terrie Barrie 6 years, 1 month ago

GreyStone, I agree. Facts and accurate information are important. I see, however, legitimate concerns about energy development in Moffat County raised on the paper's blog.

Onewhocares - came across this website for the Department of Energy's Environmental Justice office. Perhaps you can reach out to the office to see if they have anything to offer the citizens of Moffat County.


Frank Estey 6 years, 1 month ago

Tbarrie ,

About LM

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or Department) is committed to managing its responsibilities associated with the legacy of World War II and the Cold War. This legacy includes radioactive and chemical waste, environmental contamination, and hazardous material at over 100 sites across the country. This Office is responsible for ensuring that DOE's post-closure responsibilities are met and for providing DOE programs for long-term surveillance and maintenance, records management, work force restructuring and benefits continuity, property management, land use planning, and community assistance.

Looks to me like they don’t do a lot with Oil & Gas of fracking. Not a lot of pertinent information…. Thanks anyway….


Terrie Barrie 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes, DOE Legacy Management is limited to those facilities used to manufacture the nuclear weapons. For instance, LM is responsible, as I'm sure you have read, for the Maybell Uranium mine.

However, what caught my attention on the Environmental Justice webpage was the first paragraph (I wish I knew how to bold onthis blog). The sentence that begins with "Fair treatment means..."

What Is Environmental Justice?

Environmental Justice is fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no population bears a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations, or from the execution of Federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies. Meaningful involvement requires effective access to decision-makers for all, and the ability in all communities to make informed decisions and take positive actions to produce environmental justice for themselves.

I think this may be a resource to pursue. It may not pan out, but...



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