County assures ATV riders of help with access
Mesa County is open to helping dirt bikers, all-terrain-vehicle riders, jeepers and others who can make a case that roads on federal lands should remain open, commissioners said Monday in a meeting in which differences with some of those activists also were bared.
Commissioners met with about a dozen people, most of them representing various elements of what is known as the motorized community, who hope to enlist county support for keeping roads open as the Bureau of Land Management works on revisions to the travel-management section of its resource-management plan for more than 1 million acres in Mesa and Garfield counties.
A comment period on the plan continues through June 24 and Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said motorized users need to work hard to prevent closures of their favorite roads and routes because other groups will be seeking “widespread closure.”
“The county will go to great lengths” to help organizations and individuals who can demonstrate why certain routes should remain open, Acquafresca said.
The county, however, should do more, said Brandon Siegfried of Grand Junction, who has spearheaded efforts to organize motorized users to protect routes.
The process of evaluating the routes and submitting useful comments is cumbersome and difficult, especially for individuals, Siegfried said, especially when the preferred alternative calls for the closure of 2,100 miles of roads in both counties.
Cities and counties vacate roads on a case-by-case basis, a process that Siegfried said would work better than updating the management plan every 20 years.
Mesa County should conduct a process under which it can assert rights to travel on designated routes under an 1866 federal law known R.S. 2477, in which Congress recognized routes through public lands, Siegfried said.
Other counties began looking at the possibility of closures years ago, Siegfried said. “Did (Mesa County) not know this was coming?”
Garfield County officials, however, have congratulated Mesa County for moving quickly to address transportation issues, Acquafresca said.
The county also has the advantage of being a cooperating agency with the BLM, Acquafresca said.
“We’ll make much better progress by cooperating with the BLM than by fighting them, like you want to do, Brandon,” Acquafresca said.
“I’m just trying to protect our access,” Siegfried responded.
Comments about roads and routes can be offered to the county at MCLRange@mesa county.us.
The BLM will host an April 6 public meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center to discuss the travel-management part of the draft resource-management plan.