Governor’s West Slope swing includes Rifle stop Monday |

Governor’s West Slope swing includes Rifle stop Monday

RIFLE — Gov. John Hickenlooper will meet with representatives of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado and other area officials Monday during a Western Slope swing to talk about economic development, education and other issues.

The roundtable discussion with AGNC, local elected officials and business leaders, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Riffle Annex, 106 County Road 33-A, across from the Rifle-Garfield County Airport. The meeting will be open to the public

One issue that’s likely to come up in the meeting with AGNC, as well as in meetings earlier that day elsewhere in the region, is the current draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding protections for the greater sage-grouse in northwest Colorado.

The AGNC board, as well as individual boards of county commissioners in the region, including the Garfield County BOCC, have asked the governor and the state Department of Natural Resources to help persuade the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that the measures being proposed to protect the bird are too strict.

Maps used to prepare the draft recommendations in the EIS overstate the bird’s habitat in the region, elected officials from Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Mesa counties also contend.

Hickenlooper, in an Oct. 31 statement issued in response to a news conference organized by AGNC to call attention to the issue, said the state will provide its comments on the sage-grouse plan to the BLM by the Dec. 2 public comment deadline.

“The state is driving for the right balance, one that provides robust protections for the greater sage grouse without the need for a federal [endangered species] listing, while ensuring that northwest Colorado communities maintain economic health and flexibility,” according to the statement from the governor’s office.

Two other public events are planned as part of Hickenlooper’s West Slope tour on Monday, including a 9 a.m. meeting in Naturita with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, state Rep. Don Coram, local elected officials, representatives of the U.S. Department of Interior, Department of Energy, Forest Service, and state mining officials.

At 11:30 a.m., the governor plans to join local elected officials, business and community leaders for a rural community forum discussion at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig.

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