Listen to this

As summer attractions go, meetings featuring federal bureaucrats “listening” to public comment — with no guarantee of specific action — wouldn’t seem to be high on many people’s list.

So it’s a testament to the public’s intense interest in how their public lands are managed that more than 250 people showed up for America’s Great Outdoors Listening Tour at Two Rivers Convention Center last Friday. Evidence that the interest is also high around the country is the fact that the Obama administration has had to continually expand the number of listening-tour stops to meet public demand.

“What started as five or six meetings has greatly expanded” to more than 30 meetings, Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey told The Daily Sentinel. With U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell, Abbey headed up the meeting in Grand Junction.

One of the things the federal officials are hearing repeatedly as they attend the meetings is about ways the government can work with private landowners to protect open space and undeveloped land, Tidwell said.

“Conservation in America is not just on public lands,” he said. But keeping private lands undeveloped doesn’t mean simply having the government write checks to purchase private lands. It means working with private land trusts, property owners and others to come up with innovative ways to preserve the private lands, he added.

Scores of traditional public-lands issues — from off-road vehicle use, to roadless designation, to mineral development to water questions — are also being discussed at the meetings, which are expected to continue into autumn.

While those issues are important, the federal officials hope to also hear ideas for long-term management, not just positions on current public-lands disputes.

“What we’re talking about is not so much for today,” Tidwell said, “but to set the course for conservation for many years to come.”

We applaud the Obama administration and the leaders of its public-lands and environmental agencies for taking the time to come to places like Grand Junction to ensure they hear from a broad range of public interests.

It’s equally important that so many citizens are willing to take time from their busy schedules to provide input to the agencies on conservation.

May their efforts lead not just to some large report that collects dust on shelves, but to better methods for managing public lands and preserving private ones.


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