Revised plans will guide management on almost 900,000 acres of land in the Colorado River Basin of northwestern Colorado
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The comment period on a draft Bureau of Land Management plan for a huge swath of public lands in northwest Colorado has been extended through Jan. 17.
The federal agency is in the process of revising two plans. One covers 505,000 surface acres and 707,000 acres of subsurface mineral estate in Eagle, Garfield, Mesa, Pitkin, Rio Blanco and Routt counties, managed by the Silt field office.
Several agencies and organizations asked for more time to review the draft; thus the extension. The plans will define management of the lands for the next couple of decades.
At the same time, the neighboring Kremmling Field Office released an online version of a draft plan covers 377,900 surface acres and 653,000 acres of subsurface mineral estate in Grand, Jackson, Routt, Summit, Larimer and Eagle counties. Both plans are online at this BLM website.
“Our goal from the beginning of this comment period has been to get specific, detailed comments from the public about our draft alternatives,” said acting Colorado River Valley field manager Karl Mendonca. “Several agencies and organizations had requested additional time in order to thoroughly review the draft and provide specific comments.”
including closures of camping areas, restrictions on target shooting and requirements for new permits for a wide variety of uses. The plan revision will also address oil and gas drilling, wildfire mitigation, wildlife habitat and even the preservation of historic cultural sites.
“The BLM lands are often in between private lands and the national forest. It’s where people walk their dogs or ride their bikes or ATVs after work. It’s the viewshed for a lot of people,” Boyd said.
The agency is required by law to update the resource plans every 20 years or so, and the since the plan will set fundamental management direction for the next 20 years, it’s important for residents to take some time, get informed and offer specific comments on areas they’re interested in, he said.
For now, the BLM has identified a preferred alternative that lays out a very specific list of proposed changes, but Boyd said residents shouldn’t get to hung up on the preferred alternative — instead, they should focus on the range of proposed actions as they prepare to make comments on the draft plan.
“We’re required to identify that as part of the planning process … but the final proposed alternative will likely be a blend of the the various options in the draft,” he said. An executive summary and the first four chapters of the draft plan are online here.
A lot of things have changed since the current plan was adopted in 1984. For one thing, Colorado’s population has grown from about 3 million to more than 5 million, increasing demand for all sorts of uses on BLM land, Boyd said.
The draft plan includes four scenarios, including a no-action alternative that would continue current management practices.
Alternative B is the BLM’s preferred alternative and is presented as a a middle of the road approach: A strategic mix of conservation and resource use, allocating limited resources among competing interests and the conservation of natural and cultural resource values.
Alternative C spells out an option that would focus more on resource protection and restoration to sustain and restore the ecological integrity of habitats for plants, wildlife and fish.
Alternative D emphasizes resource use by expanding existing uses and accommodating new uses, while trying to protect land health.
Under the preferred alternative, the BLM is looking at new camping limits, including a maximum seven-day stay during the busy summer season. Alternative B also includes some proposed closures of existing camping areas, including the open off-highway vehicle area south and east of Wolford Mountain, as well as the Confluence Recreation Site and adjacent BLM lands.