County to BLM: We have say on roads, too

Mesa County commissioners voted unanimously Monday morning to adopt a resolution aimed at keeping rural routes open by reaffirming the county’s claim to local control of public roads and rights of way within the county.

The resolution asserts the county is authorized by federal Revised Statute 2477 and state statute to have a say in management of local roads and rights of way and keep them open even when that land is also managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

The resolution also requests the federal government develop legislation to clarify the reach of local power under R.S. 2477.

The resolution was drafted primarily as a response to the transportation portion of the Grand Junction Bureau of Land Management Field Office’s resource management plan, which proposes closing several routes on public land in Mesa County.

That proposition has been met with negative reactions from numerous public lands-users in the county, including sportsmen, all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts and members of the Public Land Access Association.

Association Director Brandon Siegfried told commissioners Monday that he worries recreation-related revenue would take a dive if routes are closed in accordance with the BLM plan.

“We definitely need to step up and protect our local economies and this is the way to do it,” he said.

None of the 14 people who stepped forward from the crowd of 45 audience members at Monday’s meeting testified in opposition to the county’s resolution. Several expressed support for more local control of public lands, including 3rd Congressional District candidate David Cox of Palisade.

“This action is long overdue,” Cox said. “It couldn’t be clearer that this overreach by the federal government is harming our local communities.”

Grand Junction BLM Field Manager Katie Stevens told commissioners the local office values its relationship with the county and plans to be “very mindful” of the feedback it has received from residents. BLM staff just finished reviewing public comments turned in last summer on the management plan, she added.

“Access is important to us as well,” Stevens said.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said he appreciates the county’s relationship with the BLM, too. He said the challenge for the county’s relationship with the local office is that directions “come from above” in Washington.

“This is going to be a difficult management scenario going forward,” he said.


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