The Bureau of Land Management has a plan on the table that could radically change how public lands in Northwest Colorado are used.
Let's hope the public is paying close enough attention to make its voice heard before the plan takes effect.
The BLM is giving residents until May 16 to provide feedback on options for its Resource Management Plan, which will govern land use on 1.3 million acres in the region through 2020. The BLM has proposed four options for utilizing the land, but its preferred option would be a steep departure from present uses. The preferred option is called "Alternative C" and it would:
Reduce BLM land in Northwest Colorado that is fully open to off-highway vehicle use to 21,940 acres. OHV would be restricted to existing roads on the remaining BLM land. Currently, 991,920 acres are open to OHV use.
Close 839,940 acres in Northwest Colorado to snowmobiles. Presently, 46,080 acres are closed to snowmobiles.
Close 160,870 acres to oil and gas leasing. Currently, 78,190 acres are closed.
The other alternatives include:
Leaving things as they are. (Alternative A)
Opening all land to OHV use and keeping restrictions on oil and gas leasing to present limits. (Alternative B)
And closing all land to OHV use, oil and gas leasing and snowmobile use. (Alternative D)
BLM officials said it took about a year to put the alternatives together. If the BLM does not get significant feedback, it will move forward with Alternative C with hopes of finalizing the plan and having it in place by fall.
Obviously, there must be a balance between preservation of natural resources and recreational use on public lands. But as far as the alternatives presented go, we would lean toward leaving things as they are. We believe the current use plan has worked well in balancing demands on public lands in Northwest Colorado, and that restricting nearly 1 million acres of land for OHV and snowmobile use goes too far. The resulting impact on recreation-based tourism could be significant, and the plan would create enforcement issues.
But setting aside our stance, the most important thing for residents is to respond to the BLM's request for comments.
The draft Resource Management Plan is available on the Web at: www.co.blm.gov/lsra/rmp. Comments can be submitted on the Web site and via e-mail to team leader Jeremy Casterson at the Little Snake Field Office: firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone at (970) 826-5000, or by mail at Bureau of Land Management, Little Snake Field Office, 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625.
We appreciate the BLM's stewardship of its lands. But these are public lands and it's appropriate for the public to have a say in how they are used. With the BLM contemplating major change in those uses, take advantage of this opportunity to make your voice heard.