Tuesday, November 6, 2001
Steamboat Springs The City Council stood strong Tuesday night in upholding a resolution to support a statewide proposal that would designate 1.6 million acres of federal land in Colorado as wilderness.
The city had been challenged by Moffat County to rescind the resolution because it did not take into account that county's concerns. None of the new acreage proposed is in Routt County, but more than 300,000 acres is being proposed for Moffat County.
"I am very comfortable with the belief that I represent my constituents when I ask the City Council to uphold the decision it made," said Councilman Jim Engelken, who had originally proposed signing the resolution.
Wilderness areas are restricted to motorized and mechanical uses and to new drilling, but the areas can be used for practices like cattle grazing if they have been used for those things in the past. They can also be drilled on if the leases are already in place.
Some Routt County residents have sided with Moffat County, opposing the city's resolution to support the wilderness designation. Others have implored the city to stand strong as the commissioners attempt to convince the council to recant.
More than 50 people packed Centennial Hall Tuesday, many of them representing the twenty-something demographic usually absent from City Council meetings.
"The people of Steamboat Springs do support the Citizens' Wilderness Proposal," said Ann Vail, an organizer for Clean Water Action who has spoken to numerous locals about the proposal.
The city did express regret at not having contacted Moffat County before making its decision. The city will meet with the Moffat County Commissioners next month to further discuss the issue.
Two Moffat County Commissioners present explained why they were "deeply hurt" at the position taken by the city, which did not contact the commissioners before approving the resolution. Moffat County is presently attempting to pass federal legislation that would allow the county's residents to gain control over the way federal land is used in the county.
They said Steamboat's stand was made without considering its neighbor's concerns.
"We were deeply hurt by the actions council took by not bothering to call us," said Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson.
The commissioners have threatened to pull $12,000 in funding for regional transportation from Craig to Steamboat if the resolution holds up.
They also threatened to drop joint funding operations in telecommunications and other community development projects, which they said could be put in jeopardy by Steamboat's stand on wilderness.