Garfield criticizes BLM’s regional plan

Leave it like it is, Garfield County commissioners last week essentially told the Bureau of Land Management when it comes to its Grand Junction Field Office resource management plan.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to support the agency’s “no-action” alternative, saying in a letter that none of the other alternatives the agency is considering meets its multiple-use management objectives and that all would have “a measurable socioeconomic impact on Garfield County.”

About 30 percent of the land managed by the Grand Junction office is in Garfield County. According to its letter, the county is particularly concerned that all the action alternatives would close what it calls “significant amounts of acreage and specific public access to routes to public lands.”

The travel management portion of the BLM draft alternatives has attracted the most public criticism, and Mesa County also has been critical of the amount of routes the BLM is considering closing. The deadline for commenting on its draft document is today.

Garfield’s letter cites numerous motorized-user, hunting and fishing and other groups that the county says would be affected by the proposal.

“Loss of access will result in a tremendous loss of enjoyment of these public lands and a substantial impact to local economies,” the letter says.

It also contends that the BLM’s planning maps fail to recognize that the agency’s routes connect with county and state routes rather than just hitting dead ends.

The county also is concerned that the new plan could unduly restrict livestock grazing and oil, gas and coal development.

“The ability to graze livestock on public lands is an important part of the local Garfield County economy and therefore the Board (of Commissioners) recommends the BLM maintain the current inventory of grazing allotments and acreages devoted to those allotments,” it said.

For the same reason, limits on oil and gas development should occur only in wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern and special recreation management areas, and coal leasing also should be allowed everywhere but in these areas, the county said.

It also calls for the preservation of rights to develop existing oil and gas leases under current rules.

David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, told Garfield County commissioners last week that those rights could be affected under the BLM proposal, potentially reducing drilling-related activities and resulting revenues to the county.

The BLM will be responding to comments on its draft document when it produces its final version.


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