BLM meeting in Rifle will likely focus on Hubbard Mesa
When: 4-7 p.m.,Thursday, Jan. 14
Where: Rifle Branch Library, 207 East Ave.
Information: The BLM is accepting comments until Feb. 18. To view the Roan documents, visit www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/land_use_planning/rmp/roan_plateau.html.
The Bureau of Land Management will wrap up a series of public meetings on the Roan Plateau today, Jan. 14, at the Rifle Branch Library and the discussion will likely focus on user conflicts in the Hubbard Mesa area.
The meeting is the third hosted this week by the BLM to answer questions on Roan Plateau draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which deals largely with contested oil and gas leases on the plateau. The issue sparked a lawsuit that was settled in 2014.
However, it also provides an opportunity to address conflicts among user groups, largely recreational target shooting in the area. 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.
Early on at the first meeting this week, hosted in Silt on Tuesday, most of the people in attendance were technicians with the BLM or other agencies.
Garrett Hanks, field coordinator with the Southwest Colorado Trout Unlimited branch, was one of the few in attendance who was not affiliated with the BLM. Hanks said he was mostly there to learn more about the issue. He added that Trout Unlimited does not have a position on the target shooting issue.
Another man who attended the meeting was there specifically to learn more about the issue of target shooting, according to David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM Northwest Colorado District.
Like others who target shoot in the area, Boyd said the man wanted to know why there are talks about restricting shooting. Hubbard Mesa has been a popular target shooting location for decades, and many have stated that the increase in conflicts has come as other user groups flock to the area.
The BLM offers several alternatives when drafting land use documents and the preferred alternative would not change recreation in Hubbard Mesa. However, one alternative proposal suggests prohibiting recreational target shooting within a quarter mile of the centerline of the Fravert access road — effectively prohibiting target shooting on 610 acres.
Two other people arrived later at the Tuesday meeting and expressed a concern for safety in the area, according to Boyd. One person identified as a mountain biker and the other as an OHV rider. About a dozen representatives from conservation groups also attended.
More people are likely to attend the Rifle meeting specifically for the Hubbard Mesa issue.
Susan Nichols-Alvis, White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV Club president and secretary, said her club will have representation at the meeting.
Nichols-Alvis said 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, she said.
Those comments came after Nathan Lindquist, Rifle planning director, informed City Council at a Jan. 6 meeting that there appeared to be consensus forming among the various stakeholders on restricting target shooting.
At that meeting, Council heard from several residents concerned about safety issues regarding target shooting. 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 formal position on the issue.
In putting the alternative with the shooting restriction forward, the BLM establishes a range of possibilities, Boyd said. The range spans from closing the area right off Fravert access road to target shooting to essentially doing nothing.
Council stopped short of taking an official position on the issue, but several councilors expressed a desire to attend the meeting in Rifle. Council will likely continue discussing the issue at its meeting on Jan. 20. Comments on the Roan Plateau draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement must be received by Feb. 18.
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