GarCo board wants BLM to preserve its existing travel routes
Garfield County commissioners are calling on the Bureau of Land Management to close fewer existing travel routes than it is proposing in its new draft management plan for the Grand Junction Field Office, and to provide more time to comment on the plan.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky told BLM staff Wednesday that one of the county’s priorities is keeping as much public access open as possible.
“We feel that more and more access to public lands is being closed down,” he said.
Commissioner John Martin said the BLM’s draft plan cuts off “tremendous amounts of public access to public hunting,” which would effectively turn some public land into private hunting grounds for adjacent landowners with access to it.
He’s also worried about restricting access to historical and cultural sites, and the proposed closures of some BLM roads that connect to county roads on each side.
The BLM’s draft plan covers a million acres primarily in Mesa and Garfield counties.
“People don’t understand that from De Beque to Utah is 50 percent of Garfield County. We want to keep that open,” Martin said.
While it’s not frequently visited, “it’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s worth seeing.”
Katie Stevens, manager of the Grand Junction Field Office, said the agency’s goal in the plan “has been to get folks to places they want to go.”
But she said it also is considering if parts of the existing road network might not meet recreational needs and may damage soil and water.
She said the BLM also is evaluating situations such as ones where there may be four routes going to the same place.
“We want to talk to the public — do you really need all four of those routes or is one well-designed route enough for you?” she said.
Commissioner Mike Samson said the BLM is undertaking a big project.
“It’s going to take quite a bit of time. Don’t rush it, don’t rush this, do it right,” he said.
Stevens said the question of access is coming up often and the agency has received a lot of requests to extend the public comment period for the draft proposal.
“I’m certainly hearing that this is a daunting process for a lot of folks,” she said.
The comment deadline is April 25. Stevens said she thinks there likely will be additional opportunities for comment, through an extension or another comment period.
BLM officials say they also can change specific route designations after a plan is adopted if new information becomes available.