Yampa River Partnership in purchase negotiations for Moffat County ranch
In other action ...
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:
• Approved, 2-0, Moffat County and Museum of Northwest Colorado December 2011 mineral sales leases.
• Approved, 2-0, a $46,516 bid from Craig Ford for two Ford Expeditions for the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.
• Heard monthly reports from Bill Mack and Linda DeRose of the road and bridge department.
— Commissioner Tom Mathers was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
The Moffat County Commission engaged in a philosophical discussion Tuesday about the legitimacy of the federal government purchasing land from private owners.
The discussion was spurred a week ago when the commission learned the Yampa River System Legacy Partnership is negotiating to purchase a 900-acre ranch in Moffat County near Cross Mountain.
The Legacy Partnership convened last week to discuss the acquisition, but because of an email mishap commissioners did not receive notice of the meeting and therefore did not attend.
The potential purchase is being conducted in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which has been championed by Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
At least one AGO project has been identified in all 50 states. The Yampa River System Legacy Partnership is one of two in Colorado.
Commissioner Tom Gray said Tuesday he’s torn over the issue because he believes in the rights of private property owners to do what they want with their land, but is against the federal government purchasing more land simply because “it can afford to.”
“Philosophically, I have a problem with this because I believe there needs to be a balance between public and private lands,” Gray said. “It is my belief that there should be no net loss of private lands.”
In addition to the concern of increased federally owned lands, the commission questioned the motives behind the potential acquisition considering portions of the ranch run adjacent to the Cross Mountain wilderness study area.
The commission’s concern is the Bureau of Land Management will acquire the ranch under the guise of maintaining it for public access, only to have it absorbed by the already existing Cross Mountain WSA in the future.
Wendy Reynolds, field manager of the BLM’s Little Snake Field Office, addressed the commission’s concern over WSA expansion.
“Congress is the only authority that can designate a wilderness study area,” Reynolds said. “The intent of the America’s Great Outdoors is to provide access, not preclude it.
“The talk of a wilderness study expansion is totally off the table.”
Reynolds could not comment further on the proposed acquisition because it is not yet intended to be public.
“Any land acquisition was supposed to remain confidential and any discussions violates the code of ethics stated in the Legacy Partnership’s (memorandum of understanding),” Reynolds said. “They (the commission) have an obligation to uphold the confidentiality clause of the MOU, particularly when it involves a private seller, to protect the private landowner’s interests.”
The Legacy Partnership encompasses representatives from Moffat and Routt counties, the cities of Craig, Steamboat Springs, and the Town of Hayden, as well as the BLM, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and a variety of representatives from the environmental, agricultural, business and recreational sectors.
“This is a Legacy project, not a federal project,” Reynolds said. “We’re working with the AGO with the purpose to reconnect people with the outdoors, enhance fishing and other forms of recreation, and to conserve the rivers, in our case the Yampa River.”