Moffat County presenting wilderness plan to council |

Moffat County presenting wilderness plan to council

Commissioners believe designation is inappropriate

Avi Salzman

— The Moffat County Commissioners will get a chance tonight to show Steamboat Springs why they believe new wilderness designations are inappropriate in their county.

Tonight, the Moffat County Commissioners will present a local land-use policy to the Steamboat Springs City Council that they now want passed by the federal government. The county’s proposed land-use plan is called the Northwest Colorado Working Landscape Trust and would establish a board of trustees, presumably appointed by the commissioners and the governor, to oversee all federal land in the county. The trust would have regulatory powers but would permit all uses on the land, said Jeff Comstock, the natural resources policy analyst for Moffat County.

“It definitely takes away Steamboat Springs residents’ input on their federal lands, so it’s good Steamboat Springs gets a chance to comment on it,” said Jennifer Seidenberg, the northwest organizer for the Colorado Wilderness Network, a group that supports the wilderness designation.

Tonight’s meeting is the most recent step in a series of actions by the city and Moffat County that could have implications for partnerships between the groups in the future.

The Steamboat Springs City Council decided on Sept. 18 to endorse a resolution supporting a proposal to designate 1.6 million acres of federal land in Colorado, including the Moffat County property, as wilderness. The resolution, which was merely a statement of support, has no regulatory or legislative power.

Though it is a federal issue and must be passed by Congress, proponents of the designation called the Citizens Wilderness Proposal by environmental groups rely on local support to demonstrate to federal legislators that the people who live next to the areas slated for wilderness have been consulted.

Wilderness areas are restricted to new roads, motorized and mechanical uses and to new drilling, but the areas can be used for practices such as cattle grazing if they have been used for those things in the past. They can also be drilled on if leases are already in place.

The problem with the Steamboat resolution, as far as the Moffat County Commissioners are concerned, is that there is no land in Routt County being proposed for new wilderness designation. Commissioners said they were deeply hurt they weren’t consulted before the Steamboat council weighed in on something that affects 344,000 acres in Moffat County.

Proponents like Seidenberg argue federal lands are everybody’s interest.

The commissioners have threatened to pull $12,000 in funding for regional transportation from Craig to Steamboat if the Steamboat council maintains its support for the resolution.

Commissioners also threatened to drop joint funding operations in telecommunications and other community development projects, which they said could be put in jeopardy by Steamboat’s stand on wilderness.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson was unavailable for comment Monday.

Some Routt County residents have sided with Moffat County, opposing the city’s resolution to support the wilderness proposal. Others have implored the city to stand strong as the commissioners attempt to convince the council to recant.

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