Rifle, county aim to address Hubbard Mesa conflicts | PostIndependent.com

Rifle, county aim to address Hubbard Mesa conflicts

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 on Roan SEIS

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.

County and Rifle city officials intend on requesting a meeting with the Bureau of Land Management to discuss user conflicts related to target shooting in the Hubbard Mesa area north of Rifle.

Those officials hope to organize that meeting, and involve representatives from various user groups, prior to a series of public meetings in January dealing with the larger Roan Plateau draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released in November.

That document, which deals largely with contested oil and gas leases on the plateau that sparked a lawsuit settled in 2014, puts forward a preferred plan that does not alter recreation in Hubbard Mesa. However, an 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.

Nothing is set in stone, though, said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM Northwest Colorado District. Rather, the intention was to open the discussion on recreation in the area while the BLM is undergoing the larger planning process of conducting the SEIS.

“It may be that [recreational shooting] is not something that we address in this specific land use plan,” Boyd said. “It may be there’s other things we could do, but we want to start to the discussion.”

County and city officials — both are cooperating agencies in the matter — appear eager to start that discussion sooner rather than latter. The issue was one of several brought up last week during a joint meeting between county commissioners and Rifle City Council.

Conflicts among some users have become a more common occurrence as the types of recreation and the number of users have increased in recent years.

As previously reported, several mountain biking enthusiasts stepped forward earlier this year to raise concerns about errant target shooting in the Hubbard Mesa area.

That led to what was intended to be an informational meeting with Rifle City Council, during which members of various user groups spoke out about safety, historical recreational usage in the area, and trash — a long-running issue in the area which has served as a dumping ground for decades.

Citing a desire to wait for the BLM to put forward a proposal, the topic was largely avoided at City Hall. The release of the draft SEIS served as a jumping off point for the issue last week.

Safety continues to be one of the largest issues in the area, said Councilor Dana Wood.

“I personally would like to see the safety issue get addressed,” Wood said. “I don’t know how, but if there is some sort of partnership that could happen, if it’s between BLM, the city and the county … there are a lot of people that live in Rifle who use that area — multi-use — it’s just a matter of safety … “

Historically, many people used the area to target shoot, and some of the trails being used are relatively new, Councilor Annick Pruett said. Some of those people who have been shooting there for years might not be aware of these trails.

Commissioner Mike Samson said he is among the many people who recreationally shoots in the area. In agreeing to take the lead on organizing a meeting with the BLM, Samson said safety has to be the key.

As for how to balance safety with maintaining access to all user groups, few answers were offered at the meeting.

Mayor Randy Winkler suggested the issue seems to stem from a lack of public awareness and that more could be done to inform the public.

While safety is the top priority, Wood said she did not want access taken from an individual user group. Agreeing, Samson said that is why it is important to include representatives from the user groups in the meeting with BLM.

For the BLM’s part, Boyd said the agency is more than happy to sit-down with stakeholders and the two cooperating agencies prior to the three meetings in January.

Although the public can comment on any component of the Roan SEIS at any of the three meetings, the Hubbard Mesa issue will be a specific area of focus at the Rifle meeting scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Rifle Branch Library.

Hopefully, Samson said, the users and cooperating agencies can gain a clear understanding of the actions that could be taken and try to come up with some ideas prior to those meetings.

As of Friday, the meeting with the county, city and BLM had yet to be scheduled.

To view the Roan documents, visit http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/land_use_planning/rmp/roan_plateau.html.

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