Garfield County comments on proposed BLM road closures
June 18, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County commissioners are preparing comments to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management stating their concerns regarding a proposed resource and travel management plan for federal lands including the far western part of the county north of Grand Junction.
Earlier this year, commissioners objected to the BLM's proposal to close several roads that have provided historic public access to private lands and national forest areas northwest of De Beque and in the Bookcliffs area north of Fruita.
Many of the roads proposed for closure would impact motorized and nonmotorized recreation, hunting and fishing access, as well as access for energy development and other resource extraction, the commissioners said.
The plan will also eventually encompass any forthcoming protections for the greater sage-grouse, and could potentially affect oil and gas leasing and grazing allotments in the far western reaches of the county.
The BLM's Grand Junction Field Office extended the comment period until June 24 on its draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The EIS includes a preferred alternative that would close several roads that officials in both Garfield and Mesa counties, as well as several off-road vehicle groups on the Western Slope, have said they believe should be kept open.
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Garfield County commissioners are scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. today in Glenwood Springs to finalize a letter to be sent to the BLM in advance of the Monday deadline.
"The [travel management] component remains a leading issue for Garfield County, primarily because of the county's overriding belief that historic public access routes need to be kept open for access to our public lands, which may sometimes cross private lands," reads the draft letter from the commissioners.
Various alternatives being considered by the BLM could close anywhere from about 35,000 acres to 379,000 acres to motorized use.
Doing so, "would have a significant impact on a wide variety of users of our public lands … resulting in a huge loss of enjoyment of these public lands and a substantial impact to local economies," the letter states.
Garfield County requests that the BLM take no action to change the existing management plan.
The letter also asks that the resource management plan acknowledge Garfield County's proposed habitat definition and mapping for the greater sage-grouse habitat, as well as the county's conservation plan for the bird.
The county has been an active participant in the BLM's Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, which is expected to be released for comment in August.
In addition, the letter requests that the resource management plan preserve existing oil and gas leases and the future ability to issue new leases for both oil and gas and coal.
"Garfield County supports limitations on this activity only when the surface or subsurface use may directly conflict with a property that has unique environmental or recreational values," the county's draft letter states.