South Beach river access at risk for removal from Stewardship Trust | CraigDailyPress.com

South Beach river access at risk for removal from Stewardship Trust

Janelle O'Dea

— As the Colorado State Land Board considers removing Craig's South Beach public river access land parcel from its Stewardship Trust, Craig officials and community members disagree.

"It's an important access point on the river," Craig Mayor Terry Carwile said.

The Stewardship Trust "is comprised of state trust lands possessing outstanding beauty, significant natural values, critical wildlife habitat and/or important open space … as such, state trust lands designated into the Stewardship Trust are subject to a higher standard of care, planning, and management," according to a letter from Mindy Gottsegen, stewardship trust/conservation services manager, to Chuck Woodward, former district wildlife manager of the Craig-South District for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Woodward now is retired, and Evan Jones is the district wildlife manager for the Craig-South District.

John Husband, Craig community member and previous Bureau of Land Management field manager, said he isn't sure the explanation makes sense to him.

"So, let me get this straight. This parcel has been in the Stewardship Trust for 15 years under 'a higher standard of care, planning and management,' yet it is in a 'moderately deteriorated condition,'" Husband said. "And the solution is to remove it from the Stewardship Trust? It sounds to me like the 'higher standard of care, planning and management' has not been very successful."

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In addition, the State Land Board included maps and photos of views from the parcel with the letter between Gottsegen and Woodward.

But few photos of the parcel itself were included in the letter.

"The parcel actually consists of nearly a mile of river front available for open space, fishing and other day use activities. Much of this riverfront is native cottonwood forest," Husband said.

Husband and Carwile agree that removing the parcel could set a dangerous precedent.

"I don't want to see the stage set for limits on public access down there," Carwile said.

In the same letter, Parks and Wildlife provides its rationale for proposing removal of the land from the trust. The rationale explains that the land is in "moderately deteriorated condition" and is "surrounded by heavy industrial uses."

"Industrial uses" is an umbrella term for Craig Station and the nearby mines, as well as "high-tension power lines" and Craig Station's water intake facility. In addition, the board said the site is "highly impacted" by weeds and invasive species.

"Although the site was included in the proposed critical habitat for the Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, the actual current vegetation conditions are marginal at best," the board said.

Husband said this industrial usage and placement should make the parcel more valuable, not less.

Yampa River State Park Manager Ron DellaCroce said he has been in direct contact with the State Land Board about the potential removal.

"An issue that arises for me is CPW will (be) looking at a variety of properties, most with critical habitat or species of concern and those will take priority for the agency," DellaCroce said in an email discussion with Carwile and Husband, among other concerned community members, about the possible parcel removal.

Comments on the decision can be sent in writing, addressed to the Board of Land Commissioners and submitted to the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners, Attn: Mindy Gottsegen, 1127 Sherman St., Suite 300, Denver, CO 80203.

Comments must be received no later than Wednesday, and the State Land Board will make a decision at its meeting April 9.

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