Whoa on BLM land map

More time is needed to analyze the proposed changes to roads that criss-cross 1 million acres in western Colorado, the Mesa County commissioners decided Wednesday.

The commission will write to the Grand Junction Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management seeking a 90-day extension of the current comment period that ends April 25.

“We’re bogged down in it,” Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said of the county’s efforts to analyze the roads that would be closed under each of the alternatives proposed by the BLM as part of its once-every-two-decades drafting of a resource-management plan. “It’s a lengthy process.”

The travel-management aspect of the proposed plan has drawn the most public interest because the bureau opted to close off a spaghetti-like network of roads, trails and routes under the three versions of the plan. The preferred alternative among the three plans seeks to find a middle ground between approaches aimed at allowing more development and placing greater emphasis on conservation.

The plan drafted by the federal agency recognizes almost all roads already recognized as county roads or considered “vested” roads, which means that while they’re not maintained by the county, the county considers them valuable.

Analysis by the county, however, could increase the number of roads that the county considers important, commissioners said.

The commission also will stress its role as coordinating with the federal government, which commissioners said would give them more heft than they would enjoy as mere cooperating agencies.

The commission also will stress the need for additional socioeconomic study of the various alternatives, especially the extent to which the off-roaders such as all-terrain-vehicle riders, dirt bikers and others contribute to the local economy.

“This may be a very different situation than the typical BLM model” because of the Grand Valley’s popularity as a destination for off-roaders, Acquafresca said.

The resource management plan in intended to guide administration of public lands for at least 20 years and it encompasses a wide variety of management issues, from oil and gas development to preservation of historic or cultural resources.


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