Delta County Commissioner Doug Atchley, speaking on behalf of the BoCC, told a meeting of BLM land managers and the Dominguez-Escalante Advisory Council that "a deal is a deal" when it comes to continued agricultural uses on the Dominguez-Escalante NCA.
He also pointed out shortcomings in the Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the NCA which doesn't adequately acknowledge the importance of grazing uses on the public lands there.
"The majority of the analysis in the RMP is on recreation uses," Atchley said.
The setting for Atchley's comments where he reaffirmed the BoCC's position on NCA grazing was a Grand Junction meeting of the 10-member Dominguez-Escalante Advisory Council. Atchley is a member of the council.
There is a historic presence and documented economic importance of grazing within the NCA boundaries, and the legal protections for grazing are written into Public Law 111-11 which created the NCA and wilderness. Nevertheless, Atchley said that recreation's unknown economic contribution seems to have been given priority treatment in the Dominguez-Escalante Draft RMP.
"Delta County supports true multiple use on the public lands," Atchley said. "We do not discount recreation activities whatsoever. Tourism and recreation are priorities. Delta County supports the NCA and always has, but with caveats."
The continued access to grazing lands by local operators on allotments now located within the newly-designated NCA has been an issue of key importance to the Delta BoCC from 2008 to the present. The county had guarantees of continued grazing access written into the 2009 federal law that created the NCA and wilderness area.
"We feel that a deal is a deal with the BLM and with the federal government. The Delta County Board of Commissioners wants to see a full spectrum of (public) uses out there. But there needs to be a balanced approach. We don't want to give up one use for another," Atchley said, adding that there is inadequate economic data in the Draft RMP to show the importance of ag uses on the NCA compared with recreation uses.
BLM's Grand Junction Field Office manager Katie Stevens replied saying, "The BLM should partner with economic users" on an analysis, but added, "That's not normal in land use planning." The local BLM offices want to make sure the final RMP reflects a balanced understanding, she noted.
Atchley said, "Grazing is preeminent to the economy of Delta County." He noted that in addition to being important culturally, historically, and socially to the county's residents, grazing uses in the NCA provide critical and necessary support to the county's agricultural economy, by some measures its largest economic sector.
An analysis of the local economic contribution made by NCA grazing is absent from the Draft RMP, Atchley pointed out. Such an analysis needs to include more than just the seasonal cattle and sheep range provided there. "That analysis needs to include the year-round agricultural activities that the seasonal grazing supports" and of which it is an integral part, Atchley told the council members and local BLM land managers.
Atchley calculated that at least 18 percent of Delta County's $36 million in annual direct livestock sales depend on grazing activity on the NCA's public lands. Those direct sale numbers compare with $41 million in Mesa County and $59 million in Montrose County, he added.
Atchley said that the importance of the 50 to 75 percent of public lands that comprise Delta and Montrose counties goes far beyond federal payment in lieu of taxes, and that ag's importance includes direct economic benefit to the counties' residents.
"Any cutbacks in grazing (on the public lands) would increase operator costs. Delta County is opposed to that and will remain opposed," Atchley said.blog comments powered by Disqus