Commissioners protest land grab |

Commissioners protest land grab

Officials address monument, Brown's Park expansion by feds

Tyler Baskfield

In a move to defend western Moffat County from further monument designations and from a recently proposed expansion of Browns’s Park National Wildlife refuge, the Moffat County Board of Commissioners claimed all public rights of way within the contested land Monday.
The move was brought on by strong talk about a rash of executive orders that may be passed by the Clinton administration. Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson instigated the claim after attending a Club 20 meeting late last week regarding the state of the presidency.
“We are very concerned about what we’re hearing,” Dickinson said. “We have heard that there are 25 executive orders concerning issues like monument proposals ready to be dropped in the hat.”
Dickinson said the claim is supposed to be a kind of shark repellant for the federal government a way local government can take complete control of the land.
The claim was based on revised federal statute 2477 that gives the rights to all roads, trails, walking paths and two tracks on federal land to the county, Dickinson said. The county will have the responsibility of putting together a process of cataloging the roads and their locations.
Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, said this is a volatile time for the proposed monument in the Vermillion area.
“It’s a very powerful move,” said Raftopoulos. “Once we claim the public rights of way it forces those roads to have multiple use. They have to consider that the roads now have public passage in all of their documentation.”
With the presidential decision still looming, the current presidential administration could make a quick move with the designation depending upon who ends up in the Whitehouse, she said.
“It has been said that if Gore doesn’t get in, Clinton will start designating monuments across the west and if something turns around and Gore does get in, we are aware of his policy on these monument proposals and he has said that he wants to have more monuments.”
Jeff Comstock, natural resources policy annalist for Moffat County, said that the statue is a strong move, but can’t completely stop a monument designation.
“It focuses agencies and environmental groups to recognize that there are these rights to the existing roads in the area,” Comstock said. “All counties have these rights. It positions the county in a point of leverage and it is a strategic move, but it can’t completely prevent it from happening.”
Comstock said that the county will need to inventory the rights of way and the process may take several years.
A copy of the resolution to claim the rights of way for the roads will be finalized and sent to the different agencies involved on Monday.

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