The Delta Board of County Commissioners, beginning in 2008 and continuing to the present, has advocated for guaranteeing the continued right of grazing in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area (NCA) and wilderness.
The Delta BoCC's insistence in 2008 on protecting local agricultural practices in the NCA, including water rights and private property access, stands out as a landmark, ensuring multiple uses of local public lands the local community has used and relied on for generations.
Conditions of the Delta BoCC's support for NCA and wilderness designation at Dominguez-Escalante were spelled out in more than a dozen stipulations that commissioners Wayne Wolf, Olen Lund, and Jan McCracken put in a 2008 letter to then U.S. senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar.
"On behalf of our agricultural constituents and many other interested members of our communities," states the BoCC's 2008 letter, "we offer (13) conditions to be incorporated in the form of actual language into potential legislation for the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area/Wilderness Area designation."
The conditions were later written into the 2009 federal legislation designating a Dominguez-Escalante NCA and wilderness area.
Delta County government's advocacy for agriculture remaining in the NCA continues with the present board. Commission chair Doug Atchley is also a member of the NCA Advisory Council. Speaking with BLM public lands managers during a meeting on May 28, he reminded them, "Delta County would not have supported the NCA and wilderness [without the protections for agriculture]."
"Delta County has strong socio-economic reasons, and a strong historical heritage in the way it sees agriculture and multiple use," Atchley said. "A lot of the 'gee-whiz' scenery people enjoy out there is because of improvements that grazing permittees have made over many years."
Atchley highlighted the point again at a June 11 meeting between BLM land managers and NCA grazing permittees. "Delta County's support (of the NCA and wilderness designations) is provided that grazing would go on in perpetuity. Previous and present board of county commission members support that."
BLM planning team leader Samantha Stahly agrees that the Delta County Commission's impact has been substantial. At the May 28 meeting Stahly noted that the NCA's Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) "gives more deference to grazing than there normally would be." Ranching activities are not excluded from the NCA "due to the legislation" that the Delta BoCC stipulated.
And, Stahly added, "There is more grazing than normal permitted in this [Dominguez-Escalante] NCA. It is on an equal level with recreation."
Nevertheless, the rights to agricultural practices in the NCA that Delta County secured will be subject to the rulemaking and administration of BLM lands managers. There are no assurances that when those rules are made and the final RMP for Dominguez-Escalante is adopted that grazing will remain on a equal footing with recreation.
For example, the BLM's presentation on the Draft RMP names 14 "unique and important resources" that the NCA was created "to conserve and protect." Agriculture is not named as one of the 14.
That point was made a bit differently at the June 11 meeting with grazing permittees. They were told by BLM managers that they need to make comments on the Draft RMP that will protect their interests.
Grazers are now competing with other BLM constituent users for activity space on the NCA. That competition comes from recreation users, wilderness and quiet use advocates, and others. They are experienced, well organized, and know how the BLM's lands management system works. "They get their interests heard," Dave Kauffman, associate field office manager for BLM in Montrose told the local cattlemen and sheepmen that night.
The BLM's Uncompahgre Field Office in Montrose and the Grand Junction Field Office are accepting comments on the Draft RMP through Aug. 22. Information is available by typing BLM UFO in a search engine browser and navigating to the right location.
In addition, the Dominguez-Escalante Advisory Council that Commissioner Atchley serves on will be holding meetings in Grand Junction and Delta on various aspects of the draft RMP.
An advisory council meeting at the Delta County Courthouse, Wednesday, July 31, at 3 p.m. will focus on biological systems and grazing.blog comments powered by Disqus