Off-road information lacking, officials told

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The Bureau of Land Management is taking comments on off-highway vehicle guidelines until Aug. 30. So far, officials say they're pleased with the public direction they've heard about formulating new rules.

Locally, the most popular BLM lands used for four-wheeling are in the Sandwash Basin, west of Craig and fragmented parcels of land in Routt County used for hunting.

Two public meetings concerning off-road rules, held in Lakewood and Grand Junction in July, drew 102 people combined.

Those comments were sent to the BLM's office in Washington, D.C., for review and guidance on writing new regulations.

"A lot of the information was emotional but there also were some substantial ideas on how to deal with off-highway vehicles," said Dennis Zachmon, the BLM's Colorado project manager.

The overwhelming perspective that BLM officials gained from the meetings is that people need better information about what type of recreation is allowed on the land the agency manages.

The BLM oversees 62,500 acres of land in Routt County, 1.5 million acres in northwest Colorado and 8.3 million statewide.

Nationally, the agency is responsible for 264 million acres of land.

Officials are reviewing the off-highway vehicle guidelines because the 11-year-old existing plan is out of date, Zachmon said.

Officials want guidelines that give better direction to BLM district managers, who make decisions about use of the open spaces, Zachmon said. The existing rules left room for interpretation, which resulted in officials allowing different motorized uses on similar BLM lands across the country.

Specific guidelines mean the type of use on similar lands will be consistent, district by district and state by state.

Also, much of the BLM land that allows four-wheelers has an open policy. That means the vehicles are allowed on all portions of the land not just trails.

"Recently, it's been a point of contention," Zachmon said.

Forest Service officials say they've learned people are passionate about the issue.

"We just need to look at what the people are thinking," Zachmon said.

If a restriction of off-highway vehicles does come out of the new guidelines, it most likely will limit the machines to trails on some lands. Because that would change the use of publicly-owned land, the BLM needs to gather public input, Zachmon said.

Comments will be taken through mail or over the Internet until Aug. 30.

Federal officials are expected to finish the guidelines by Nov. 30.

Comments wanted

A comment mailer will be sent to people who contact Bureau of Land Management at:

1849 C Street N,W,, LSB204

Washington D.C. 20240

Attn: Correspondence

Or, log on at www.blm.gov

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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