Farris responds to opinion with the facts | AspenTimes.com

Farris responds to opinion with the facts

Aspen Times writer

By Dorothea Farris(Editor’s note: This letter is a response to a column by Gary Hubbell, “Commissioner Dorothea Farris has got to go,” in the Sept. 4-5 Aspen Times Weekly.)I have been expecting a letter of complaint from Gary Hubbell since he threatened me with retribution following a public meeting of the BOCC. His column was so full of inaccurate statements that I feel compelled to respond. Some facts are needed.Issue 1: Regarding a request for a “Limited Bull Elk License.” Any citizen may request designation from the Division of Wildlife for restrictions in a hunting unit. Hubbell and other outfitters have permits from the U.S. Forest Service to operate as hunting outfitters in the White River National Forest. Hunting guidelines are set by the Division of Wildlife.Hubbell requested a change in restrictions from the DOW to limit the number of licenses that could be issued for hunting bull elk in two units in which he holds an outfitter permit in the White River National Forest. Hubbell asked, in a letter, for the Pitkin County commissioners to support his request. The commissioners directed staff to review the request, gather information, and return to the board with a recommendation. Review by staff and by BOCC members indicated that a change to “limited bull elk hunting” was NOT in the best interests of the residents and visitors (including hunters), and that the change was NOT the best procedure for managing the elk populations.Approximately 185 outfitters for a variety of activities are licensed to operate in the White River National Forest. The Board of County Commissioners has been consistent in its support for appropriate access for the general public to the public lands in the county and in its opposition to the privatization of the public lands for the benefit of a few and limited or no access for the general public. The Board indicated a lack of support for Hubbell’s proposal to the Division of Wildlife, the decision-making body.Hubbell then demanded a public hearing on the issue, and a public meeting was held. Approximately 30 individuals spoke against the change in restrictions, and Hubbell and Mike Schilling, another outfitter, spoke in favor of the restriction. Commissioners did not change the earlier decision NOT to support the request, but asked the DOW to review thoroughly the concerns raised regarding best elk herd management practices, genetic impacts to the elk herds, and impact on the communities from limited licenses. Copies of the letters to the DOW are available. The Division of Wildlife, as the decision-making body, will hold two more hearings on this issue and will make a decision regarding the requested change in December.Issue 2. Commissioner representation. Although a candidate for the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners must live in one of five designated districts, defined by population, he/she runs and is elected at large. As a member of the Board, I am obligated to represent issues, discuss options, consider pros and cons, and make decisions as they affect the entire county. I expect my fellow board members to do the same.Issue 3. Trail through Filoha Meadows. Recently purchased by Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Board for its wildlife and conservation values, Filoha Meadows contains the historic railroad bed once used by rail cars running between Redstone and Carbondale. For years, residents of Redstone, Carbondale and the Crystal Valley have expressed an interest in and need for a safe pedestrian/bike trail between Redstone and Carbondale. When the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway Commission was able to obtain a grant, it commissioned a study of the feasibility of such a trail between Crested Butte (on the Byway) and Carbondale. The purpose of that study was to determine potential routes for a trail along that corridor. Special attention was given to identifying routes within publicly owned land. Any development would then be subject to extensive review of conditions along any specific route. No such detailed study regarding a trail through Filoha Meadows has yet begun. As with any development in Pitkin County, wildlife habitat, wetlands, review of potential hazards and other impacts would be required and mitigated, if possible, prior to any plan or commitment to a particular design. Extensive review and public hearings are required before such a decision can be made.Issue 4. Wild Rose easement. A plat, filed in Pitkin County for the Wild Rose Subdivision, indicates that a trail easement, sufficient to connect the Redstone North Bridge to Filoha Meadows with a pedestrian/bike trail and belonging to Pitkin County, exists through the subdivision. Since the ownership of this easement, as stated on the plat, is being challenged, the County has submitted the information to the courts and is waiting for a judge to make a decision regarding interpretation of the ownership of the easement.Issue 5. Sustainable Settings Mautz Ranch. Several years ago, when “For Sale” signs for eleven 35-acre sites on the Mautz Ranch appeared along Highway 133, I received several calls from residents who were concerned about the impacts of eleven 15,000-square-foot homes, caretaker units and associated buildings along that section of highway. Counties have limited jurisdiction regarding 35-acre subdivisions. Preservation of rural character is a goal not only of the Crystal Caucus but also of other caucus groups in Pitkin County. Characteristics of that ranch fit the description of lands preserved, protected and conserved by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board. A unique plan for protection was created with cooperation from The Conservation Land Trust and Sustainable Settings. As a result, agricultural development with a research/educational component will occur on the west side of the highway, and the land to the east and along the river will be preserved as riparian habitat and open space.My appreciation to The Aspen Times for allowing “equal time.”Dorothea Farris is chair of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners and is running for a third term.