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County: No support letter

Commissioners concerned about proposed Emerald Mountain land swap

Susan Cunningham

Routt County commissioners voiced concerns about the proposed Emerald Mountain land swap Tuesday during a presentation by the Emerald Mountain Partnership, which is facilitating the swap.

County commissioners said they would not send a letter supporting the BLM’s proposal to amend its management plan. Amending the management plan would help the BLM prepare for the possibility of a successful land swap.

The Emerald Mountain Partnership requested such a letter, as it would show support for a collaborative process to amend the plan, said Ben Beall, chairman of the Emerald Mountain Partnership.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said she did not see any reason for the county to write a letter of support for the process. Such a letter could create the perception that the county supports the land exchange. The county has not publicly supported the exchange to date, she said.

Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said it would be difficult to write a letter of support for the process without working through some of the concerns that commissioners had about it.

After the meeting, Beall said a letter of support from the county was not necessary to the success of amending a management plan.

The Emerald Mountain Partnership’s request came after a public meeting last week in which the partnership introduced a draft plan outlining management of Emerald Mountain, including widened trails, hunting and no motorized vehicle use.

That management plan could be one of the alternatives the BLM considers when deciding how to manage the mountain if the land swap is approved.

During Tuesday’s meeting, county commissioners said they supported the overall goal of the land swap, which is to preserve Emerald Mountain. But they said they did not support the process taken so far to try to sell parcels of BLM land across the county and purchase the more than 6,000-acre Emerald Mountain.

Stahoviak said her concerns are the same that she voiced a year ago at one of the county’s public meetings on the land swap. One of her concerns was that potential purchasers of the BLM parcels have a significant upfront cost. She said she thought federal and local agencies that would benefit from the preservation of Emerald Mountain should put money into the project.

Another concern was that the BLM’s required process for a land swap was not being followed, as landowners started paying for property studies before a feasibility study on the project was formally approved.

“What that does, it causes mistrust” by the public, Stahoviak said.

Rebecca Rolando of the Citizens to Save Public Land cautioned county commissioners that if they said they supported amending a management plan, it would be interpreted as support for the land swap.

Beall responded that the Emerald Mountain Partnership has been careful not to refer to the county as a supporting party.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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