Commission, BLM discuss constructive relationship for the future |

Commission, BLM discuss constructive relationship for the future

Joe Moylan

Now that the long awaited and controversial Record of Decision for the Little Snake Resource Management Plan in Northwest Colorado is public, local Bureau of Land Management officials said Tuesday they are committed to fostering productive working relationships with the community, elected officials and Moffat County boards.

Wendy Reynolds, field manager for the Little Snake Field Office, and Matt Anderson, associate field manager for the Little Snake Field Office, met with the Moffat County Commission on Tuesday to present an update on BLM activities, but the conversation tilted towards the perceived disconnect between the agency and the county and the inability for various public entities to work together.

Commissioner Tom Mathers said that divide is obvious even to officials outside of the county.

"I talked to one of the commissioners from Carbon County (Wyoming) and he told me he sees a real disconnect between the BLM and the (Moffat) county commissioners," Mathers said. "In Carbon County, the commissioners and the BLM are allies."

Anderson wholeheartedly agrees and says in his experience at other offices, county commissioners and the BLM have had good working relationships.

But, Anderson believes the RMP, which was more than 10 years in the making, probably didn't help build relationships.

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"The environmentalists thought we didn't go far enough on a number of things, and energy thought we went too far," Anderson said. "No side was really happy with us, so I hope that means we're in the middle."

Anderson said the local BLM office manages 1.3 million acres of public land and that everyone has a different opinion of how the land should be used.

"For 1.3 million acres of land, everyone has a different idea of what the uses should be," Anderson said. "Trying to align those views is difficult."

Commissioner Tom Gray said there is a view among the public that the BLM only incites public comments to show they are going through the motions.

"There is a perspective that the community wants to be intricately involved with some of the plans for our county," Gray said. "The perception of (BLM) is you can talk to them until you are blue in the face and then they'll just do what they want."

Anderson said that perception is due in part to the fact that the BLM is a federal agency and a lot of decisions, including some in the RMP, came directly from the top and not necessarily out of the Little Snake River Office.

"Not every land management decision on BLM is made in this office," Anderson said. "We have laws, regulations and policy we have to abide by and we have a lot of direction that comes down from the top.

"We also get a lot of input that comes up locally and sometimes it doesn't jive with what we can do."

But, Reynolds believes now that the RMP is done, it is time to set aside differences and rebuild relationships to move forward.

"I would like to break the mold, start fresh and lay some ground rules on how we work together, how we address each other and how we talk about each other in the community," Reynolds said. "We want to be a part of this community and land is a huge piece, but we need to foster an environment of mutual respect."

Reynolds said the BLM's relationship with Routt County officials isn't always rosy, but cited the Emerald Mountain multiuse project as an example of what can be accomplished when everyone makes an effort to work together.

"Emerald Mountain is a great example," Reynolds said. "It was a strong community effort to develop that resource, and I would really like to see that happen here in Moffat County."

Gray said like anything else in life that is worth doing, rebuilding relationships is going to take a lot of hard work.

"I hear what you folks are saying," Reynolds replied. "I think we need to marry up again, or at least date, and try to make sure our communication is good, honest and open."

Anderson said there is plenty of work laid out in the RMP that will benefit the community regardless of personal feelings.

"BLM has a ton of work to do to implement all of those decisions in the RMP," Anderson said. "A lot of people at the (Moffat County) Land Use Board and the county were involved in this process for 10 years, so they do have ownership in it.

"There's some things in there that they don't like and there's some things in there that we're not crazy with, but the bottom line is there is a ton of economic and public benefit that can come out of this."

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In other news:

At its regular meeting today, the Moffat County Commission also:

• Awarded, 3-0, a bid to Capital Land Services to update county mineral records for $14,800 to $17,800.

• Presented final payment to APH Construction for the grandstand building roof project.

• Approved, 3-0, a $33,668 contract with Visual West to construct the locked horns exhibit for the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

• Heard a monthly report from Bill Mack and Linda DeRose, of the road and bridge department.

• Approved, 3-0, requests for snowplowing from two senior residents.