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Emerald plan far from final

Future uses of Emerald Mountain land on the table

Conservationists, ranchers, hunters and people who love to play in the mountains will be among the Yampa Valley residents interested in the draft community management plan for 6,345 acres of land on Emerald Mountain.

The Emerald Mountain Partnership will unveil its proposal for management of the sprawling woodlands that overlook Steamboat Springs at 7 p.m. Thursday in Centennial Hall. The plan is not final; it would be presented to the Bureau of Land Management for consideration.

Ben Beall of the partnership said one of the purposes of Thursday’s meeting is to seek public validation of the draft plan.

“We know there will be new uses on Emerald Mountain,” Beall said. “We need to ask, ‘How do we do that without destroying the natural resources?'”

The Emerald Mountain Partnership is helping to facilitate a complex land swap that would shift ownership of the Emerald Mountain parcel from the State Land Board to the BLM. The proposed management policy anticipates the change, which would bring the land into the public domain.

Historically, the land has been used primarily for livestock grazing. Now, ranchers, hunters, recreational users, educators and wildlife advocates see new possibilities for the mountain.

The Emerald Mountain Partnership has spent a decade looking for ways to bring the State Land Board property into the public domain while helping the board fulfill its mandate to generate funding for public education from the land. For the last two years, the Emerald Mountain Partnership has been working on a land swap that would allow the BLM to trade some of its smaller and scattered land parcels in Routt County for Emerald Mountain. The Denver-based Western Land Group is setting up the deal that would shift ownership of Emerald Mountain to the BLM. The sale of BLM parcels would generate cash to purchase Emerald Mountain from the State Land Board.

Beall said an update of the status of the proposed land swap process would be presented by the BLM at Thursday’s meeting. However, that process should not be confused with the development of the management plan, he said, which is moving forward on a parallel track.

People attending the meeting can expect it to begin with an open-house format that will allow them to view and understand different parts of the plan. They will be provided with sticky notes that will allow them to attach comments to the plan.

Following the open house, public comments will be taken, Beall said.

The public comments will be used in writing the next draft of the management plan.

The BLM will have the ultimate say in how thousands of acres on Emerald Mountain are managed, Beall said.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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