Yampa River Partnership in purchase negotiations for Moffat County ranch

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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.”

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Comments

Vermillion 2 years, 10 months ago

Commissioner Gray is correct. We should not be using taxpayer money to buy property rights from local landowners. How much taxpayer money has been wasted in buying conservation easements from local ranchers? Millions, I bet. How much taxpayer money has been spent on providing subsidies to the agriculture community? Millions, I bet.

We have socialized medicine right here in Moffat County. The local hospital is now hiring doctors, which compete with private local doctors.

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leroymcgee 2 years, 10 months ago

Yet another example of the Commission thinking the rules apply to everybody but them. The article says they signed an MOU and then blatantly violated it by making this "idea" public. And it's funny how they believe in private property rights except when they don't agree with private property rights. Real stand-up folks. It'll be great to see these weasels hit the high (or more likely the low) road in November.

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yamparob 2 years, 10 months ago

@Leroy: Pretty much right on. This 900 acres of acquisition would provide prime river access to the public. This would increase recreation economic benefits to the county and city from tourists and enhance river opportunities for the locals. A blanket "no net gain" of public lands is an arbitrary position, which seems to be based more on an unrational fear of the local federal BLM than what is reality.

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Jon Pfeifer 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm not sure what the county commissioners have to do with this. Do I think it is wasteful for the federal government to be purchasing land right now? Yes. Do I think they would do anything better with their money? No.

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McGruber 2 years, 10 months ago

So let me get this straight. The Moffat County Commissioners are not in support of increasing recreational opportunities to their constituents? The reason for this opposition is a political position? Could they be any more egotistical and short sighted? One of AGOs objectives is to get kids connected with the outdoors and unplugged from the TV and Xbox. This is clearly a case of Moffat County cutting off its noise to spite its face. If the commissions are not in support of these types of projects then the $ will flow to communities that want it. I am sure the commissioners think they are taking a principled stand but its just a dumb and hurts our community.

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Colette Erickson 2 years, 10 months ago

Right, McGruber. How much public access is afforded to that stretch of the river now, while it is owned by Cross Mtn., which is notoriously protective of their property rights. Which of course, they are entitled to be. Fail to see how Mathers and Grey don't see this as a win-win op for the public. Very short-sighted. They would scream like mashed cats were someone to tell them they could not sell their property to whomever they chose............ So hypocritical.

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