Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Steamboat Springs A plan to protect Emerald Mountain was presented to the public Wednesday night, but supporters of the plan stressed their proposal won't happen overnight.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership Board of Directors held its annual meeting to update people on efforts to preserve Emerald Mountain for wildlife, grazing, recreation and educational purposes.
The partnership is working with the Little Snake Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management to begin a series of land exchanges that could ultimately result in the BLM's acquisition of the Emerald Mountain parcel.
"It will probably take a couple of years, but we will get it done," BLM representative Wendy Schmitzer said.
The exchange of relatively small and scattered BLM lands in Routt County to private owners would generate enough money to purchase the 6,345-acre Emerald Mountain parcel.
A preliminary appraisal of the parcel put the land value at about $16 million.
Some BLM lands in the county are 1- and 2-acre parcels that pose management problems for the BLM. The public cannot access certain parcels because they are landlocked by private land.
A land exchange would turn over a number of impractical BLM parcels to private landowners and place the Emerald Mountain parcel, a single block of land, under the BLM's protection.
"The BLM wants to get rid of (the parcels) because they can't manage them," said Ben Beall, chairman of the partnership.
A single block of land would give the public an easily accessible tract of land to enjoy.
The Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners has approved the land exchange process.
The process will occur under an agreement the partnership and the SLB signed in August 2000 that gives the partnership an option to purchase the Emerald Mountain parcel until March 2005.
The partnership formed to ensure the conservation of Emerald Mountain's natural resources and surrounding lands, as well as to create a plan to manage those resources.
The partnership's earlier effort to purchase the parcel for the community failed. Now an existing plan that outlines how the community would have managed Emerald Mountain had the partnership purchased the property needs revision.
Changes to the Emerald Mountain Management Plan must reflect the BLM's priorities because the BLM will manage the property if the land exchange happens.
The partnership is asking for input from the community on how it would like to see the parcel managed.
Coming up with a plan that suits local and federal interests presents a challenge, Beall said.
Chris Young, the partnership's chair pro tem, presented a draft of some key elements identified by the partnership, BLM and community.
"Our primary purpose is to safeguard the land for the wildlife and agriculture," Young said.
Recreation and education are also important, she said, but those uses should not disrupt wildlife habitats and livestock grazing.
People who would like to comment on revisions to the management plan can visit www.emeraldmountain.org or mail their suggestions to the Emerald Mountain Partnership, P.O. Box 773598, Steamboat Springs, 80487.