Norton reappoints Hayden man to BLM position
Hayden — Interior Secretary Gale Norton recently reappointed Hayden resident Geoff Blakeslee to the Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council.
The Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency created to oversee the use of public land, created RACs in order to better implement policies that reflect the public sentiment about conservation and use of public land in 12 states, including Colorado.
Blakeslee, general manager of the Carpenter Ranch on U.S. 40 just outside of Hayden, brings his expertise of environmental issues to the table.
The ranch partners with The Nature Conservancy to educate the public about the conservation of natural resources.
The 15-member council includes residents from Craig and Grand Junction. No one from Steamboat Springs has recently been appointed to sit on the RAC.
Many people in Colorado are unaware of the vast extent of public land in the state, not to mention the present and future battles that might be waged about its use, Blakeslee said.
“BLM lands are under a lot of pressure,” he said. “As the population grows and their demands get greater, there are stronger demands from the recreation segment of society to use public lands.”
The traditional ways of using public land must be re-evaluated, he said, in order to ensure that people who want to use public land in 50 years enjoy the same benefits as people who use them today.
“There are these high expectations of how land has traditionally been used, and people want to continue using those lands as they always have,” Blakeslee said.
Much of the interest in BLM issues comes from traditional stakeholders in the public land debate, he added, like special-interest groups.
However, he said he is hopeful more people will take issue with how public lands are managed as they realize public lands belong to everyone, and everyone has a stake in how public land is used.
“I have a certain belief that we need to take care and protect the scenic lands as resources, that once they are gone, are gone forever,” Blakeslee said.
Blakeslee said he enjoys the working relationship RAC members share with BLM field managers who pass their advice and counsel on to Norton.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect that goes on between the people who represent the BLM and the people like me who represent the public,” he said.
Field manager John Husband, who works out of the Little Snake area office in Craig, said he and other field managers value the different points of view held by RAC appointees.
Their counsel has been instrumental in shaping some of the BLM’s policies on public land health standards, fire management and recreation, Husband said.
“These are different points of view that can come together and work to adopt something that fits everyone,” he said.
Some members are affiliated with special interests while others have demonstrated a commitment to public land issues, he added.
“They are set up to be a sounding board for the general public,” he said. “It behooves the RAC members to be in touch with people from their area of representation.”
Husband explained that the Northwest Colorado RAC shares much in common with the Southwest and Front Range RACs.
He agreed with Blakeslee that public pressure on public land is an issue that will never go away in Colorado or in other states where the BLM manages public land.
“BLM’s biggest challenge is with public demand for open space around population centers,” Husband said. “There is more and most people in the cities in the West, and they want those public lands.”
He said the BLM welcomes public input, but most inquires come from individuals with specific questions about land use.
“It’s as specific as ‘Can I use a four-wheeler here?’ or ‘Can I walk in this area?’ or ‘Where can I go fishing for brook trout?'” Husband said. “There tends to be generally some reason why we’re contacted. It’s not a general public interest.”
Like Blakeslee, he said he looks forward to seeing more public input from people as they understand that they, too, are stakeholders in the future of public land.
“Around the Hayden and Steamboat area, public land is limited because you have more Forest Service land, but it’s always nice to have more people interested in land that rightfully belongs to them.”
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