Rifle considers official position on Hubbard Mesa | PostIndependent.com

Rifle considers official position on Hubbard Mesa

Ryan Hoffman
User conflicts in the Hubbard Mesa area continue to be a problem as the types of recreation and number of users also continue to increase. County and city officials hope to organize a meeting with the Bureau of Land Management on the issue.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram file |

Public meetings

Jan. 12, at the BLM Silt office, 2300 River Frontage Road

Jan. 13, at the Grand Valley Recreation Center, 398 Arroyo Drive

Jan. 14, at the Rifle Branch Library, 207 East Ave.

All meetings are 4-7 p.m.

Information: The BLM is accepting comments until Feb. 18. To view the Roan documents, visit http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/land_use_planning/rmp/roan_plateau.html.

RIFLE — City Council intends to submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management on user conflicts in the Hubbard Mesa area, but councilors want more time before submitting official comments.

The discussion last week came after city officials met with the BLM and Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson to discuss the issue. The meeting was largely informational, said Nathan Lindquist, Rifle planning director. Lindquist told Council that the city is a cooperating agency and that it could submit a comment on the issue.

The BLM is hosting three meetings this week to discuss the larger Roan Plateau draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released in November.

That document deals largely with contested oil and gas leases on the plateau, which sparked a lawsuit settled in 2014. However, it also provides an opportunity to address conflicts among user groups, largely recreational target shooting in the area.

Thursday’s BLM-hosted meeting in Rifle will include a special emphasis on the Hubbard Mesa issue. Some worry about the potential harm from errant target shooting. Others don’t want to see the right to any uses, including target shooting, restricted in the area.

But the two people who spoke before Council on Wednesday were there to state their concerns about safety. Thomas Miner, a Rifle resident who recreates in the area, said he does a bit of everything in the Hubbard Mesa area, including target shooting. He urged Council to take a position on the issue and submit the city’s position to the BLM.

The BLM offers several alternatives when drafting land use documents. The alternative identified as the preferred alternative would not change recreation in Hubbard Mesa. However, one alternative proposal suggests prohibiting recreational target shooting within a quarter mile of developed recreation sites and the centerline of the Fravert access road — effectively prohibiting target shooting on 610 acres.

Miner said he liked the idea in the proposal but mentioned the possibility of having designating shooting locations. As a person who target shoots, he said most people want to go out and shoot without much hassle, which typically means using a spot right off the road.

Designated locations might be more effective, he said.

That idea received a positive response from Councilor Joe Elliott, who said he did not want anyone to be denied access or the ability to use public lands but added that safety was paramount.

In putting the alternative forward, the BLM establishes a range of possibilities, said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM Northwest Colorado District. He would not offer much comment on the idea of a designated shooting area, but said that the range of options at the moment spans from closing the area right of Fravert access road to target shooting to essentially doing nothing.

Lindquist recommended that Council try to align its comments with Garfield County, another cooperating agency, to show the BLM a unified opinion among local governments. That is not a bad idea, Boyd said.

“Input from local governments … it carries a lot of weight, and when it’s unified it’s significant,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Lindquist told Council that there appeared to be consensus forming among the various stakeholders, including the White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV Club.

However, Susan Nichols-Alvis, club president and secretary, clarified Thursday that while the club recognizes safety issues in the area, it does not support restricting recreation for any user group. The club is willing to work with others on education to try and make it safer, Nichols-Alvis said, adding that the club will have representation at Thursday’s meeting.

Several city councilors also expressed a desire to attend the meeting.

Council will likely continue discussing the issue and an official position at its meeting on Jan. 20.

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