Agencies ponder Hubbard Mesa solutions | PostIndependent.com

Agencies ponder Hubbard Mesa solutions

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com
A sign riddled with bullet holes stands by the western boundary of Hubbard Mesa open area just east of County Road 244.
Ryan Hoffman / File |

The Bureau of Land Management is still months away from issuing a decision on a management document for the Roan Plateau area, but local government stakeholders and the agency have started discussions on more immediate methods for improving safety and reducing litter in the Hubbard Mesa area.

Representatives from BLM, the city of Rifle and Garfield County met last week for a site visit intended to gain a better geographic understanding of the area and exchange information, according to the involved parties.

“We were not looking to make any decisions at the site visit,” said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM Northwest Colorado District. “It was really getting on the same page with the city and county.”

Those in attendance discussed possible education methods, such a signs, and the potential for improved enforcement in the increasingly popular recreation area that has seen some controversy resulting from conflicts among user groups.

Specifically, some have stated concerns about the danger of errant target shooting. Others have pointed to the long-running use of the area by target shooters and maintain that access should not be restricted for any user group.

The BLM is in the process of completing its final Roan Plateau draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which deals largely with contested oil and gas leases in the area but also includes the Hubbard Mesa area.

The BLM’s preferred alternative released last November left recreation in Hubbard Mesa unchanged, while one alternative recommended a ban on recreational target shooting within a quarter mile of the centerline of the Fravert access road — effectively prohibiting target shooting on 610 acres.

Last week’s meeting between local agencies did not include discussions on closing any areas to target shooting, Boyd said.

He clarified that restrictions on other uses, such as off-road vehicle riding and mountain biking, are not being discussed and would need to be addressed in a separate planning document outside of the larger Roan SEIS.

Earlier this year, the city and county, which are cooperating agencies in the Roan planning, submitted comments stating that user conflicts in Hubbard Mesa need to be addressed, but not in the larger Roan Plateau planning.

The recent site visit, according to Boyd, was not intended as a closed meeting; rather a continued conversation with those cooperating agencies.

The meeting was properly noticed by the city in the designated posting place at City Hall, said Kristy Christensen, Rifle clerk.

Five members of Rifle City Council attended the site visit, and several commented during a May 4 meeting about the benefit of physically walking the area together.

Discussion on Hubbard Mesa is scheduled to continue at the city level during council’s work session May 18.

There is no set time frame, but the next step will be to continue the conversation with various user groups, Boyd said.

While nearly everyone in attendance at the site visit was affiliated with either a local government or the BLM, there was at least one exception. Susan Nichols-Alvis, White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV Club president and secretary, also attended.

Nichols-Alvis, who personally has opposed restricting any uses currently allowed in the area, said the club looks forward to collaborating with BLM and private landowners on future educational projects and events in Hubbard Mesa.

At site visit, some mentioned possibly creating a more formal group consisting of government and recreational stakeholders, however, that is more an idea than a set direction at this point, Boyd added.

As local talks continue, BLM is moving forward with finalizing its draft Roan SEIS, and all the options laid out in the draft proposal and alternatives remain on the table.

The finalized draft is expected to be completed sometime this fall.


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