Residents active in land use issues | CraigDailyPress.com

Residents active in land use issues

Maybell, Dinosaur residents examine, react to Land Use Plan draft

Ryan Sheridan

Moffat County residents continue to prove that access to public lands for recreational and natural resource use is a critical concern, and the topic continues to bring people flooding to public forums to have their say.

Residents in Dinosaur and Maybell had the opportunity to put their ideas and desired corrections into the Moffat County Land Use Plan draft at open houses on Friday and Monday.

Each meeting was attended by more than 20 residents, and for Dinosaur, that was the largest turnout ever for such a meeting, said Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources Department director.

The main topics for both meetings were access to public lands and wilderness designations. Residents were concerned with what the plan proposed for future uses from biking to fishing to motorized vehicles having access to public lands. In particular, the question of whether pre-existing roads into public lands would be reopened was a subject several residents of both counties wanted to address in their suggestions for the plan draft.

“One of the most important issues for the people who attended was access to public lands,” said Jean Stetson, Maybell resident and Land Use Board member. “Lots of people think their ability to get onto public lands will be less and less, unless it’s something they stay on top of.”

The meetings reiterated the opinion that many residents of Moffat County oppose any sort of land designation that doesn’t include local input into the decision process, Comstock said.

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“People came out very strongly in favor of private property rights and water rights. The plan draft protects those rights, the county wants to protect those rights, and the people who participated realized that,” he said.

The effort to get input on the draft land use plan is, in part, a way to spur interest and participation by the people who live near and are affected by public land and how that land is managed.

“The concept Moffat County is exploring is to see if residents would be interested in taking a stakeholder position in the management of these public lands,” Comstock said. “Would they want to work with private interests, environmental groups, financial interests and local government to come together and figure out a way to manage certain lands, and then present that plan to Congress? Or, if they don’t want to be involved, are they willing to accept the decision being made at a different level?”

The concept of local negotiation between various stakeholders would allow alternate plans created by those who would be affected by management decisions or land designations to be sent to the state and federal level. This would give decision makers at various stages of government more than one option to consider when looking at plans for management or designation decisions other interest groups have presented.

“This is part of what the plan is working towards, but this is a relatively new proposal,” he said. “Just like the open house we held in Craig, a lot of people who came wanted to ask some questions, look at the plan or parts of it, and said that they would send their comments to us soon.”

Many of the comments the Resource Department has received have been through e-mail, and at last count the Web site for the Land Use Plan draft had more than 500 hits.

Residents of Moffat County are encouraged to participate in the public comment process.

“It’s critically important that folks look at this draft plan. This is their voice that we are creating, how public lands will be managed,” Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said. “It’s important to let us know how they feel so we can incorporate that.”

A copy of the plan can be obtained on the Internet, or a hard copy can be sent through the mail.

“We’re still asking for people to take a look at this draft and e-mail us, talk to us, write us a letter or give us a call about their reactions and suggestions concerning this plan,” Comstock said. “The plan is open to comment until July 27, and we’re looking for public comment in any form.”

The information gathered at the past three open houses and through other forms of public input will be incorporated into the next draft, and the revised text will then be published for another round of public comment this fall.

To review and comment on the Moffat County Land Use Plan:

Go to http://www.co.moffat.co.us/-NaturalResources. To comment electronically, write to NaturalResources@co.moffat.co.us.

To request a hard copy of the draft or to send written comments, contact Jo Malizia, Natural Resources Department assistant at: 200 W. Victory Way, Craig, CO 81625; (970) 824-9160.

Call Jeff Comstock, Natural Resources Department director, 826-3400, or any Moffat County Land Use Board member.

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