Emerald use plan

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— Residents gave feedback Thursday night on a draft plan outlining management of the 6,345-acre Emerald Mountain -- a plan that included widening trails, hunting and no motorized vehicle use.

The draft plan is the product of a year's worth of work by the Emerald Mountain Partnership, which introduced it to the public Thursday and asked for feedback. The group heard requests for providing horse trails, bike trails, ski trails and a place for ATVs and snowmobiles. The group also heard pleas to protect elk herds.

Some questioned who would fund much of the project's proposed improvements to the land.

The Emerald Mountain Partnership is facilitating a land swap that would shift ownership of the property from the State Land Board to the Bureau of Land Management.

The management plan will be one of the alternatives the BLM can consider in determining how to manage the mountain, if the land swap is approved. The state director of the BLM would make the final decision on the land swap and management plan, BLM Project Manager Fred Conrad told the audience.

Chris Young, who leads a partnership committee working on the management plan, said surveys indicated the community's highest priority was preserving wildlife habitat on Emerald Moun -tain. The partnership originally set its top priority as maintaining the land's agriculture uses, chiefly livestock grazing.

After wildlife and agriculture, the group looked at recreational uses.

Motorized uses -- such as four-wheeling, dirt-biking or snowmobiling -- would not be allowed because of conflicts with wildlife and grazing livestock, Young said. Unlike U.S. Forest Service land, on which some motor vehicle use is allowed, adjacent private land restricts the movement of wildlife on Emerald Mountain, Young said.

"Historically, there have been no motorized uses up there except for managing things. That is why we were comfortable continuing with that," she said.

Some residents Thursday night said they would like to see motorized vehicles allowed in the plan. Rebecca Rolando, who has long opposed the land trade, asked that it be considered.

"People do other things besides ski and ride bikes. I think it should be opened to all forms of recreation if (the trade) happens," she said.

Under the draft management plan, existing trails would be widened and opened to the public. Instead of single-track, wider corridors would be developed to reduce conflicts among horseback riders, bike riders and hikers.

The plan would limit the use of numerous rough dirt roads, which are not public, serving towers or ranching. Not allowing recreational uses on those roads would help wildlife habitat, Emerald Mountain Partnership Chairman Ben Beall said.

The plan also calls for the seasonal uses, such as grazing and Nordic ski trails, to happen in the same place as hunting and bike trails.

The proposed trails would be far from animal watering holes to keep people away from where animals congregate.

Beall said the partnership would take all the suggestions made at Thursday's meeting and attempt to incorporate them into the plan. The final version will be available online at www.

emeraldmountain.org.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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