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County commissioners meet new BLM district manager

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Photo by Hank Lohmeyer The BLM's new Uncompahgre Field Office Manager Greg Larson met for the first time with county commissioners on Monday. Pictured from left are Commissioners Mark Roeber and Doug Atchley, Larson, and Commissioner Don Suppes.

The Board of County Commissioners on Monday, April 24, met with Greg Larson, the BLM's new manager for the Uncompahgre Field Office, during its regular meeting in Delta.

The county has deep interest in public lands issues. Commission chair Doug Atchley noted that 56 percent of the land within the BoCC's jurisdiction is comprised of public lands managed by either the BLM or Forest Service. There are also some state parks lands included in that total.

The commissioners emphasized that Delta County's number one issue with public lands management is the doctrine of multiple use. Commissioners have expressed concern at the whittling away of the multiple use doctrine in recent agency policy documents. For example, while some uses such as recreation are getting preferential treatment in federal policies, traditional economic uses and the locally important industries of minerals development and agriculture are being more heavily regulated or eliminated altogether.

"Multiple use means that all industries in Delta County are important," Atchley said.

Livestock and grazing are key economic issues in local public lands management. The county is concerned about efforts being made to change the Dominguez-Escalante NCA resource management plan during the implementation phase with "additional language" that was not in the adopted RMP. The new language would impact livestock grazing.

The county's view is that livestock grazing is being unfairly blamed for sparse vegetation conditions in the NCA, and in other areas also. Delta County is an arid climate with poor soils and the condition of the soils is a factor of overall climate and weather conditions. Actually, it can be improved by proper grazing management, the county commissioners have stated.

Larson said that his agency "has a real challenge" trying to balance and accommodate competing interests on the issues of public lands grazing. Some interest groups are trying to eliminate livestock grazing entirely from public lands, something the county views as a threat to local economies and a violation of the multiple use doctrine.

Commissioners restated their long-held view that the Adobe Badlands wilderness study area north of Delta should revert back to normal agency status. The area has been officially found unsuitable for wilderness designation by the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office. The area is being used by recreationalists, commissioners said, which is probably its best use. It would take an act of Congress to change the status of Adobe Badlands, and the BoCC has contacted U.S. senators and representatives about the issue.

Larson gave a brief update on the Uncompahgre Field Office new RMP. It has generated over 50,000 comments requiring that an additional planner be temporarily hired. By the fall of 2018, "We should be wrapping that up," Larson said.

BLM is cooperating with the USFS on the West Elk Mine Supplemental EIS, Larson said.

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