Pitkin County softens its position on winter closure
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County will clarify its call for winter closures on one midvalley parcel overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reflect the recommendations of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The suggested winter closures, particularly on Light Hill – the land mass that stretches between Old Snowmass and Emma, west of Highway 82 – riled denizens of the midvalley and spawned a slew of email exchanges between residents, some of them blasting county government and calling for the ouster of seated commissioners when they come up for re-election.
“I’ve gotten a million emails from my neighbors about this,” said Snowmass Creek Road resident Zoe Lasser on Thursday as she hiked up Light Hill from the Gateway subdivision in Old Snowmass.
The county, in its comments on the BLM’s draft Resource Management Plan, initially called for a full winter closure from Dec. 1 through April 30 for Light Hill and several other areas, proposing a Winter Core Wildlife Area designation for the lands.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, formerly the Division of Wildlife, received an earful of the public backlash as people mistakenly assumed the county’s recommendation was a reflection of the wildlife agency’s own comments on the BLM plan. Rather, Parks and Wildlife recommended continued winter access to the top of the ridge on Light Hill from Gateway and on a road up from East Sopris Creek Road, with a winter closure on the ridge itself, according to Kevin Wright, local district wildlife manager.
The county’s comments to the BLM will be tweaked to reflect Parks and Wildlife’s stand, according to Cindy Houben, county community development director.
“We were trying to say we support what Parks and Wildlife says,” she said.
The wildlife agency supports closing winter access to Light Hill from behind Basalt High School, and the county does, too, Houben noted.
Elsewhere, the county is urging the winter closure of Arbaney Mesa because that’s the Parks and Wildlife recommendation, she said. The popular Arbaney-Kittle Trail outside of Basalt would remain open year-round, but the land to the east, beyond the overlook that is the typical turnaround spot for Arbaney-Kittle hikers, is among the suggested closure areas.
Winter closures on Williams Hill in Old Snowmass and on 9,100 acres on the Crown, at the base of Mount Sopris, are also part of the county’s recommendations to the BLM.
The county also is recommending to the BLM that area-specific management plans for Light Hill, Williams Hill, the Crown and the Arbaney-Kittle area be created. That effort would involve the community.
“When the community gets together on these management plans, if the BLM lets us go that way, I’m sure the community will come out in full force and duke it out,” Houben said.
The BLM is accepting comments on its draft management plan through Jan. 17. It will refine its proposal on how to manage 505,000 surface acres and 707,000 acres of subsurface minerals based on the input of various governments, agencies, conservation and user groups, and private individuals. The acreage, under the purview of the agency’s Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt, includes parts of Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Mesa, Rio Blanco and Routt counties.
In Pitkin County, where county government has focused its input, the BLM manages 27,490 acres of surface and minerals and another 19,537 acres of minerals under private land.
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