DOW muzzled on land use proposals |

DOW muzzled on land use proposals

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources is barring Division of Wildlife officers from directly commenting to county governments on development proposals.

Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt says the policy leaves a hole in the county’s land use application review process.

It’s been months since the Division of Wildlife provided input on land use applications, said Garfield County Planner Mark Bean.

“Our big concern is the local DOW office can’t respond,” Bean told the county commissioners Monday. “We rely on suggestions from the DOW on land use applications.”

In the past, comments from the DOW’s Glenwood Springs office prompted changes in land use applications to aid wildlife.

For example, at the 484-acre Spring Ridge II subdivision south of Glenwood Springs, several building envelopes were moved to keep development from infringing on wildlife migration corridors, Bean said.

“We do not have the expertise in wildlife issues, and DOW is the best available resource for that type of input,” Bean said.

The DOW operates within the Department of Natural Resources. Department spokesperson Dawn Taylor said the policy does not prevent local DOW officers from commenting on local projects.

“There is, however, a chain of command through which the comments must be approved,” Taylor said in an e-mail response to a reporter’s question. “The comments are not a reflection of just one person or one office, but the entire Division of Wildlife, and thus, the Department of Natural Resources.”

When asked for more specific information, Taylor referred the reporter to DOW director Russell George, who could not be reached Monday for comment.

Bean said he doesn’t know how long local DOW officers have been required to win DNR approval before submitting comments. Bean didn’t know about the policy until he called the local DOW office to find how why officers were no longer commenting on the land use applications he sent them.

Under state statutes, state agencies have only 21 days to comment on land use referrals, such as the one that prompted the changes at Spring Ridge II.

“If they reply after 21 days, the comments don’t count,” Bean said.

At Monday’s meeting, the Garfield County commissioners instructed staff to draft a letter to the Department of Natural Resources, asking for clarification on the land use comment policy.

A similar Department of Natural Resources policy was in the news in February, when department director Greg Walcher disagreed with DOW staff members on road closures recommendations for the White River National Forest travel management plan.

Walcher’s comments were forwarded to the Forest Service, but not those of the DOW field officers.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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