Stakeholders find common ground on Hubbard Mesa
A Record of Decision from the Bureau of Land Management on a Roan Plateau impact statement is expected sometime this week, according to a BLM official, and the decision is not expected to alter uses at the popular Hubbard Mesa area outside Rifle.
Speaking at a Hubbard Mesa stakeholder meeting in Silt Tuesday, Colorado River Valley Field Manager Karl Mendonca said he expects the decision regarding the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Roan Plateau, which largely addresses oil and gas development in the area, to come later this week.
The finalization of that process, combined with the increased attention on Hubbard Mesa, which falls inside the Roan planning area, presents an ideal time for stakeholders and land managers to address some of the issues, particularly trash and user conflicts, in the increasingly popular recreation area.
The actual Hubbard Mesa area carries what is commonly referred to as an open designation for transportation. What that boils down to is no one recreation group is given preference or restricted from accessing the area.
As Elliott Hinckley, BLM law enforcement officer, noted at Tuesday’s meeting, very few areas in the state carry that designation.
Those freedoms, Mendonca said, require great responsibility, which was the reason for the meeting.
Along with representatives from Garfield County and the city of Rifle, which BLM considers cooperating agencies, organizations from multiple recreation groups were represented. Those included Garfield Area Gun Enthusiasts, Hi Country 4 Wheelers, Rifle Area Mountain Biking Organization and the White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV Club.
In general, there was agreement that a lack of knowledge and lack of personal responsibility were driving the primary issues in the area.
With use restrictions ruled out for the foreseeable future — restricting uses would require land use changes, which BLM officials are hesitant to do, especially on the heels of the Roan Plateau SEIS — the conversation needs to shift to education and enforcement, Mendonca said.
The more than two-hour conversation covered varying opinions of effective means of education and other measures aimed at curbing illegal dumping and user conflicts.
Those in attendance agreed to meet in smaller numbers in the next several months to discuss language for signs, which Garfield County commissioners previously said they would pay for since a county road runs through the area.
The larger group tentatively agreed to meet again in January to pick up the conversation.
While there was some skepticism on the chances of actual progress regarding the issues, many sitting around the table struck an optimistic tone.
“I’m very optimistic about what we can do as a group because … I think we’re on the same page,” Mendonca said.
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