Stewardship Trust removal does not threaten South Beach public access | CraigDailyPress.com

Stewardship Trust removal does not threaten South Beach public access

Janelle O'Dea

— The issues surrounding the Greater sage grouse continue to give Moffat County and state officials something to talk about.

Recently, the possible removal of the South Beach land parcel from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources State Land Board's Stewardship Trust concerned local officials. The removal would be a part of a realignment project Craig Mayor Terry Carwile worried the removal from the trust may threaten public access to the Yampa River.

The Stewardship Trust cannot have more than 300,000 acres and the realignment project will allow for removal of parcels to make room for others. Smith said a lot of the land nominated for inclusion in the trust right now is Greater sage grouse habitat.

After a presentation from the State Land Board's Northwest District Manager Jerod Smith, Carwile felt differently. Smith's presentation showed there is no threat to public access by removing the land from the trust.

"It's good news that removal from the trust won't threaten public access," Carwile said in a text message.

The State Land Board is conducting a realignment project of the Stewardship Trust to review and assess the lands currently in the trust. The realignment is the first of its type since voters passed an amendment designating the State Land Board as trustees of lands held by the state.

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According to the State Land Board's website, the realignment project "ensures that the stewardship vision of Colorado’s citizens is being met for the lands held in perpetual trusts."

The last opportunity for parcel be nomination closed in 2001. Right now, 111 properties are nominated for addition with 14 nominated for removal.

"There are also other wildlife habitat values," Smith said. "We have some rare plants and some archeological sites, as well. But the majority of it is sage grouse."

Smith said removal of the parcel changes only its level of management.

"It'll have less oversight compared to other parcels in trust," Smith said. "But it'll have the same amount of oversight that 90 percent of the State Land Board's lands have."

Smith said under the Stewardship Trust the land has a management plan coordinated between the State Land Board and the lessees on the property. The land still has to be monitored even if it is not protected under the Stewardship Trust.

The removal of the parcel from the trust could potentially better protect public access in a way, Smith said.

"If there are any determinations of resource degradation or we're having issues with public access on that parcel, like leaving trash or cutting down trees, then because it's in the Stewardship Trust, that would just provide us another tool to stop public access again if it's causing an issue," Smith said.

But Craig resident and former Bureau of Land Management employee John Husband still wants to convey the message that it is important to keep the parcel in the trust.

"They're describing it as impacted by gravel pits and there is no description of the real value of that parcel as far as the native cottonwood forests go," Husband said. "Yes, the surrounding area is impacted, but perhaps that parcel is even more valuable because of the surrounding impacts."

The public comment period for the Stewardship Trust ends on Feb. 28. To submit a comment, fill out the comment form on the State Land Board's website or email Mindy Gottsegen at mindy.gottsegen@state.co.us.

Final State Land Board action on the matter is tentatively expected for April 9.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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