“I’ve always liked Moffat County because it’s a landscape that lets you rest your eyes. You spend your time looking at things up close or on a computer all the time, but Moffat County provides for that opportunity to stretch your field of vision and I’ve always liked that.”
— Jim Wurz, Colorado State University faculty member
In 1990, the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University launched a month-long course to address a lack of experience among public land managers in Latin America.
Each year, students enrolled in the program spend a day touring public lands in Moffat County managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Little Snake Field Office.
It’s an annual tradition that not only wows first-time foreign visitors, but also has become one of the highlights for CSU faculty members.
“Visiting Moffat County is great for us because there’s such a variety of (land management) issues and opportunities situated a relatively short distance apart,” said Jim Wurz, a CSU faculty member and one of the directors of the Spanish-taught course. “I’ve always liked Moffat County because it’s a landscape that lets you rest your eyes.
“You spend your time looking at things up close or on a computer all the time, but Moffat County provides an opportunity to stretch your field of vision, and I’ve always liked that.”
On Wednesday, 24 public land managers representing Spanish or Portuguese-speaking nations in Latin America and Africa arrived in Craig to receive an education on how multiple use lands are managed in the U.S.
In addition to indoor presentations from Little Snake Field Office staffers on how the BLM blends energy extraction, recreation, fire management and grazing on public lands, the visitors took a tour of some of Moffat County’s most treasured sites.
Among the stops was a surprise visit to a private 900-acre ranch adjacent to the BLM’s Cross Mountain wilderness study area.
The ranch boasts 2.8 miles on the Yampa River and provides access to the mouth of Cross Mountain Canyon.
Wendy Reynolds, Little Snake Field Office field manager, told the visitors the BLM was in negotiations to purchase the ranch with funds through President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
“The U.S. Department of the Interior has tasked us to develop a project that would help us acquire and conserve property, and allow people to enjoy rivers in Northwest Colorado,” Reynolds said. “We chose this project (the Cross Mountain ranch) as our America’s Great Outdoors project.
“Right now, the public can’t come here unless we buy it, and we want to develop a recreational site for hunting, fishing, hiking, horses and to provide access to the wilderness study area.”
Though fieldwork may be one of the perks of the profession, the visiting land managers rarely strayed from their purpose of the trip — learning how the U.S. manages multiple use public lands.
The group, Wurz said, appeared to be more in tune with the idea of multiple use management than any other in the 22 years of the program.
“Later in the trip we’ll visit Flaming Gorge Dam, and we’ve always had people question why we were visiting some of these places that are being managed for resource use and resource extraction rather than conservation,” Wurz said. “This group seems more aware of the need for multiple use areas than some groups have in the past. They’re not so much questioning the concept as they are asking questions on how multiple use (lands) are managed.”
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