The Emerald Mountain Partnership has been trying to muzzle the voice of the Citizens Group for some time, and they have now found a way.
For the past two meetings, the bland part of the meeting is for the public, and the substantive part of the meeting is behind closed doors in executive session.
In my opinion, they are using Colorado Statute 26-4-6-402(4)(c) as the legal vehicle to hide the workings of the board from the public. This statute covers "the purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real, personal or other property interests, as authorized by the statute."
This insults the residents of Routt County. I think the primary reason the partnership meets in closed session is to circumvent the success the Citizens Group has had in highlighting the skullduggery of the Emerald Mountain Partnership.
Using Colorado open records laws, we have found documentation that the partnership wanted to find a way to keep the public in the dark about the land exchange. The following quotes from Ben Beall were taken from communication between the partnership, the State land Board, the Bureau of land Management and others:
On Oct. 15, 2003, Beall wrote "The last several months have been difficult due to the attendance of the citizens who are opposed to the BLM/SLB Emerald Mountain Exchange. ... We cannot allow the opposition, just because they are attending the meetings to intimidate us."
On Feb. 19th, 2003, Beall wrote, "The Partnership in order to ensure success of this Exchange did not want at the point of the BLM NEPA process for opposition to arise."
On July 25, 2003, Beall wrote "Removing parcels that have a legitimate public concern would be a good political move for the SLB, BLM and the Routt County Commissioners."
On Aug. 12, 2003 Beall wrote "I felt and understand from your questions that the SLB is uncomfortable with the Exchange Process and in particular the citizens opposition -- with the dropping of all except two of the parcels that the SLB had offered to acquire, we may be putting the entire exchange in jeopardy. With the deletion of 4,000-plus acres, we are down to approximately 15,000 acres."
We have additional quotes identifying the frustration that the partnership has with the public protests. So the partnership found a way to keep the public in the dark -- executive session.
When information is kept from the public, then rumors fly, such as this one -- the partnership decided in executive session to sell 1,400 acres to the Wolf Run Ranch, whose owner will then put the acreage into a land trust for tax advantages. This must be done by March 15.
The other secret is the management plan the board is developing. This plan recommends to the BLM that no motor vehicles be allowed, with the exception of the ranchers who lease about one-third of the Emerald Mountain. This will be closed to the public. The elk herd area will be closed to the public.
The 1,400 acres will be closed to the public. There will be two nature corridors for the public for day use only. No camping. No motorized vehicles, no overnight.
So what Steamboat Springs thought was going to be a wonderful adjunct to open lands for the public will be drastically limited and at the loss of almost 15,000 acres of BLM land in Routt County. All of this is being done without public knowledge or awareness. It's called the executive session.
Citizens to Save Our Public Lands