Public lands meeting today at Howelsen

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People interested in the future of 1.3 million acres of public lands in Northwest Colorado have a chance to influence their management from 3 to 8 p.m. today at Howelsen Hill's Olympian Hall.

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking the public's ideas about issues such as recreation policies, mineral leasing on 1.1 million of subsurface acres and wilderness status of roadless areas. The meeting is part of the process of drafting a new Resource Management Plan that will guide the BLM's stewardship of lands in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

The process is being undertaken by the BLM's Little Snake Field Office in Craig. Successive meetings will be held Wednesday in Craig and Thursday in Maybell.

"We hope the public will find time to attend one or more of these meetings to help us determine the major issues driving management on BLM lands in the area," Little Snake Field Manager John Husband said.

Husband added that the BLM periodically revises its management plan to ensure it reflects the values of nearby communities. The Little Snake office has been working closely with the Northwest Colorado Stewardship, a grass-roots group with a membership that represents a range of interests in the area.

The BLM's Jeremy Casterson promised an informal meeting today with ample opportunities for people to ask questions of BLM staffers. There will be several ways for people to record their comments, including a computer set up to allow those in attendance to add remarks directly to the BLM database. People are welcome to drop in on the meeting at any time, Casterson said.

"This is less like a formal public hearing," Casterson said. "It will be a good exchange and a chance for people to learn about the issues."

Casterson said today's meeting will not deal with Emerald Mountain land swap issues.

Reed Morris of the Colorado Wilderness Network said his organization hopes the BLM will strike a balance among mineral leasing, grazing interests, wildlife habitat, scenic values and human recreation in its revised management plan.

"In this resource area, there are seven areas proposed for wilderness, including Vermillion Basin and some scenic canyons on the Yampa River," Morris said. "We would ask those areas be withdrawn from mineral leasing. But we are not saying drilling is inappropriate in all cases."

Morris said he hopes people will take the opportunity to have their opinions heard early in the BLM process. The formal public scoping period will run through Jan. 31.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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