Thursday, January 1, 2004
The Emerald Mountain Partnership is expecting the BLM at the federal level to approve a land exchange that could preserve Emerald Mountain.
Partnership Chairman Ben Beall said the Bureau of Land Management already has approved the plan at the state level, and the group is awaiting federal approval before the official public process begins.
The proposal, which has been in the works for almost two years, would put more than 14,000 acres of scattered BLM parcels in Routt County into private ownership and preserve the 6,380-acre Emerald Mountain, which is owned by the State Land Board.
State BLM Director Ron Wenker approved the plan in mid-December, Beall said.
Once federal approval is given, which Beall said should be imminently, the official public process will begin. That process will have the BLM holding public meetings and gathering feedback on which parcels should be sold to private landowners.
Feedback already has been given through the opposition group Citizens to Save Our Public Lands. Formed last May, the group is opposed to the trade, which it fears will take away public access to BLM land used by county residents.
The group has come before the Hayden Town Board, Oak Creek Town Board and county commissioners citing their opposition.
This fall, letters were sent back and forth between the citizens group and the partnership. At the request of the Hayden Town Board, the partnership sent the citizens group a letter asking it to meet to discuss which parcels with public access they would like to see removed from the proposal.
The group sent a letter in reply refusing to talk to the partnership saying all parcels that have public access including difficult access are inappropriate for the land exchange.
"By sitting down with your group and discussing the details of which parcel is in or out, you assume concurrence from the Citizens Group that the BLM/SLB Emerald Mountain Land Exchange is valid and that only the details need to be worked out," the letter stated.
"We consider this an arrogant position that you have taken and that it is inconsistent with the ranchers and citizens of Routt County and inconsistent with the BLM procedures for the orderly process of a land exchange," the letter stated.
In reply, the partnership said the citizens group was being irresponsible with its intent in destroying the entire exchange. Exchanging small, land-locked, isolated, difficult to manage or odd-shaped BLM parcels for Emerald Mountain would be a long-term benefit for the majority of residents, the partnership said.
Beall said the partnership remains open to meeting with the citizens group. The partnership is going to resume working on a management plan for Emerald Mountain, which would be used if managed by BLM.
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