Moffat County Commission approves recommendation for federal acquisitions
In other action ...
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:
• Approved, 3-0, hiring a food service supervisor for the Moffat County Public Safety Center.
• Discussed loss analysis and an insurance pool update with Jon Wagner, of County Technical Services, Inc.
Approximately 60 percent of land in Moffat County is under federal management, and the consensus at Tuesday’s Moffat County Commission meeting was to keep it that way.
Ten people representing the Moffat County Land Use Board, the Bureau of Land Management and the public discussed land acquisitions for more than an hour Tuesday.
Land Use Board members met before Tuesday’s meeting to discuss making a policy recommendation to the commissioners on how to address private land acquisitions by public entities.
Bob Grubb, who serves as an environment representative on the Land Use Board, acted as spokesman during the meeting. He read the recommendation as unanimously passed by the Land Use Board.
“If federal land acquisition is to occur, there needs to be no net loss of privately owned lands,” Grubb said. “Other methods such as easements or access agreements should be considered rather than fee acquisition.
“Land swaps, trades, dispersals tied with the acquisition need to be within Moffat County. Non simultaneous exchanges are acceptable.”
The commission approved the motion, 3-0, with minor changes.
Some of the debate that preceded the motion hung on the vagueness of what “no net loss” means.
Darryl Steele, a former Moffat County Commissioner and one of the original authors of the land use plan, said in the past land exchanges have been conducted in a variety of ways including acre for acre, value for value, and dollar for dollar.
“When we originally wrote the land use plan, we were thinking acre for acre,” Steele said. “If they’re going down the corridor of the Yampa Valley, the value of the land next to the river is worth eight or nine times more than land away from the water, so I think value should play a factor also.”
Another issue raised by those in attendance was the addendum to the motion that states land exchanges don’t have to take place simultaneously. Although the majority agreed, many in attendance felt there should be a defined time period to ensure Moffat County is made “whole.”
Commissioners said they intentionally left specifics regarding time and type of exchange out of its motion to provide negotiating room as needed on a case-by-case basis.
Matt Anderson, associate field manager for the Little Snake Field Office, said his office manages more than one million surface acres in Moffat County. He believes access also needs to be apart of the land exchange conversation.
“When I look at our ownership and all of our isolated parcels there are certainly access issues that we can all agree on,” Anderson said. “If I were king for a day, I would rather look at what the people of this community want access to regardless of (America’s Great Outdoors) or any other initiative.”
The discussion and subsequent passage of the recommendation came in response to talks of the Yampa River System Legacy Partnership negotiating the purchase of a 900-acre ranch near Cross Mountain from a private seller.
The potential purchase is being conducted in conjunction with the AGO initiative, a federal program designed to provide greater public access to the outdoors.
There are AGO pilot programs identified in all 50 states. The Yampa River System Legacy Partnership is one of two AGO programs in Colorado.
Commissioners were concerned about the federal land acquisition in previous weeks because they do not want to see a change in the current 60/40 balance between federally owned and privately owned lands in Moffat County.
However, commissioners also wrestled with the philosophical issue of telling private landowners what they can or can’t do with their property.
“I don’t have a problem with this whole scenario of the BLM buying this property for everyone to enjoy,” commissioner Tom Mathers said. “But I do have a problem with the gain in federal property and a loss in private property.
“I like what we have discussed here today and I want to leave the doors open to work with the BLM."