BLM meeting draws residents

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Steamboat residents and visitors came to a Bureau of Land Management meeting Tuesday night for one overriding reason: They care about how their public lands are managed.

"This is your public land, this is your back yard," said Leslie Lovejoy, director of Friends of the Routt Backcountry, who attended the open house.

The BLM is drafting a new Resource Management Plan to guide the long-term future of 1.3 million acres of public land, as well as mineral leasing on 1.1 million subsurface acres, in Northwest Colorado. The most recent plan was drafted in 1989.

The plan outlines decisions such as what types of uses -- including hunting, motorized recreation, livestock grazing and mineral extraction -- the BLM will allow in various areas.

For Lovejoy, a priority is to reign in the use of off-road vehicles, which have seen surging popularity in recent years, and to provide more hiking or biking trails.

The people who came Tuesday had various opinions about what types of uses should be allowed where.

What's most important, Lovejoy said, is that the process is about the public deciding how to use public land.

"It's us telling them what we're going to do, what we want to see," she said.

David Ford, a Steamboat Springs resident, said he didn't know much about what the planning process entailed, but came Tuesday because he wanted to learn.

Resident Bert Kempers said he uses the land as a hunter and fisherman and has been involved in land-use issues in the past, so thought it was important to come. Often the people who end up complaining are those who aren't involved, he said.

Jennifer Seidenberg, a former resident who was visiting the area, said she feels federal lands have significance to everyone in the nation.

"I hope that everyone realizes what special values they have out here," Seidenberg. "We used to have them in California, but they paved over them."

John Husband, field manager for the BLM's Little Snake Field Office, said he was pleased with the turnout Tuesday and that there are plenty of other opportunities to comment, he said.

"This is important," Husband said. "We're affecting the long range for the next 10, 15 years."

Public comments on general concerns and ideas will be accepted until Jan. 31, at which point the BLM will start to analyze those comments and draft a plan. The plan will be open for more public comment and should be finished in 2007.

There is another open house today from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Shadow Mountain Clubhouse in Craig and Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Maybell School gym in Maybell.

More information is available at www.co.blm.gov/lsra/rmp, and comments can be given to Jeremy Casterson, Little Snake Field Office, 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625, or (970) 826-5000.

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