Steamboat Springs The preservation of one of Routt County's gems is the focus of a Wednesday evening public forum.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership's board of directors is meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Routt County Commissioners hearing room to update the public on efforts to preserve Emerald Mountain for recreation, wildlife, grazing and educational purposes.
Chairman Ben Beall encouraged people to join the discussion.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership, a group formed to conserve and manage the natural resources of Emerald Mountain and its surrounding area, and the Little Snake Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management are considering a proposed series of land exchanges that could ultimately result in the BLM's acquisition of the Emerald Mountain parcel.
"It is kind of an exciting time, with this land exchange, to participate," Beall said.
Selling relatively small and scattered BLM lands to private owners would generate the $17.2 million needed to purchase -- and protect -- the 6,345-acre Emerald Mountain parcel.
Some BLM lands in the county are one- and two-acre parcels that are difficult to manage and inaccessible to the public, Beall said.
"These smaller parcels are a management nightmare," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.
A land exchange would place the Emerald Mountain parcel, a single block of land, under the BLM's protection and give the public an easily accessible tract of land to enjoy, he said.
The Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners has approved the land exchange process.
The partnership and the SLB signed an agreement in August 2000 that gives the partnership an option to purchase the Emerald Mountain parcel until March 2005.
Beall stressed the process posed some challenges and would not happen overnight.
He anticipates the exchange will not occur for another two to two and a half years.
"We have a lot work to do, but we can make it happen this way," Beall said.
Wednesday's annual meeting gives the public an opportunity to comment on the partnership's revision of the existing Emerald Mountain Management Plan. The plan must conform with BLM requirements before the land exchange is completed.
The creation of a plan both the community and BLM can accept presents a challenge, Beall said.
The partnership is looking for people to serve two-year terms on the board.
The terms of three board members have expired and one board member is resigning. People should send letters of interest and qualifications to the Emerald Mountain Partnership at P.O. Box 773598, Steamboat Springs, Colo. 80477 by Jan. 18.