BLM seeks public input on public lands
CARBONDALE Got a favorite place to hike, ride, fish, hunt or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management?Now’s the time to tell the agency it shouldn’t change a thing, or that it should manage things differently.That was the message Wednesday in Carbondale, where the BLM held one of six open houses, or scoping sessions, scheduled this week to elicit input. Those in attendance received a comment form they can mail or fax to the agency; the public is also welcome to comment online by May 2.The BLM is preparing an update to the resource management plans for lands its field offices in Glenwood Springs and Kremmling manage – roughly 1 million acres in all. The scoping sessions are an early step in the process, but a key one, BLM officials stressed.”This is where we ask folks what they like, what’s going on now, what they’d like to see change,” said Brian Hopkins, BLM community planner. “We’re just at the brainstorming step of the process.”The existing plan, with a few exceptions, dates to 1984.The Glenwood Springs field office manages a 567,000-acre swath of public land – generally at lower elevation than the national forest – that stretches along the Interstate 70 corridor from Debeque almost to Vail, encompassing the Roaring Fork Valley from Glenwood to Aspen, and stretching north to Toponas.Oil and gas development is a predominant interest in the western part of the district; recreation interests reign across the rest. But even in Rifle, in the heart of energy development country, residents pressed for protection of their recreational uses at a scoping meeting on Tuesday, Hopkins said.Maps outlining everything from greater sage grouse habitat and elk winter range to grazing allotments, recreational uses and gas leases lined the room at Carbondale Town Hall. Balancing competing uses and interests is the goal – and the challenge – in drafting a new management plan, said Jamie Connell, field office manager in Glenwood Springs.Travel management – generally motorized use, hiking, biking and horseback riding – in a particular area is always “a biggie,” she said.The BLM’s identification of several rivers and streams that qualify for Wild and Scenic River consideration has also drawn interest.A draft plan next year will offer several management alternatives and could include varying proposals for protecting some of the identified waterways for Wild and Scenic protection, according to Kay Hopkins, outdoor recreation planner. The final plan – due out in late 2009 – will make recommendations, but the designation is ultimately up to Congress.Rivers are deemed eligible under certain criteria – the scenic features of Glenwood Canyon on the Colorado River, for example, or the historic aqueduct and flume that grace the canyon walls above No Name Creek.”It isn’t eligible just because we think it’s cool,” Hopkins said.The designation doesn’t threaten existing uses on a river – rafting on the Colorado, for example – she said.During the comment period, the agency welcomes “big-picture” views – how the BLM should manage the Crown, for example, said Brian Hopkins, referring to an area at the base of Mount Sopris. It would be managed differently if the focus were recreation versus protection of wildlife habitat, he said.Red Hill, a popular mountain biking and hiking area near Carbondale, is an example of a site where the BLM has refined what uses are permitted. Its one area of the management plan that has been updated since adoption of the overall plan in 1984.Red Hill excludes motorized uses and designates trails to prevent creation of bandit trails that degrade the landscape.There may be other areas that are suitable for that sort of stricter management, as well, Brian Hopkins said. The scoping period is the agency’s effort to find out what the public thinks.”What would they like to emphasize on a piece of ground?” he asked.Information on the BLM’s management plan revision is available online at http://www.blm.gov/rmp/co/kfo-gsfo. A link to submit comments is there, as well.Additional scoping meetings are scheduled from 4-7 p.m. Thursday (today) at Gypsum Town Hall and at the Wattenburg Center in Walden.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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