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'Multiple use' change worries county

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The Board of County Commissioners has asked the Bureau of Land Management to extend the time for making comments on a proposed national rule change that would affect the agency's definition of "multiple use."

The commissioners approved a letter to Neil Kornze, BLM director, asking for a 120-day extension for comments on the BLM's draft planning rule. The original deadline for comments was April 25.

The concept and policy of multiple use on public lands is the cornerstone of the current board of commissioners' position on public lands issues. The concept of multiple use is seen as a necessary protection for economic use of public lands which comprise almost 60 percent of the county land area. Under federal agency management regimens (BLM and Forest Service), the economic value of those lands to the people of the county are key to the county's overall economic health.

The BoCC's letter to Kornze states, "The importance of any policy used to plan for the management of our nation's public lands and to determine present and future use is not something that should only have a 60-day window for comment. Additional time for substantive comments is clearly warranted given the intrinsic and economic value of our natural resources, and the social and economic impacts that agency actions have on our counties."

The commissioners' official position is that with over half of Delta County in federally managed public lands, multiple use access to those lands, including agriculture, minerals exploration and development, recreation and tourism, is critical to the county's economic health.

Barb Sharrow, BLM field office manager in Montrose, said the proposed rule is a national planning rule in draft form. She told the DCI that a webinar on the proposed rule change was presented to the National Association of Counties recently. She said that presentation drew significant response and will almost certainly tag the proposed change for review.

The commissioners' letter to Kornze went on to state, "The far-reaching regulatory, societal, ecological and economic implication of changing this [multiple use] definition requires absolute due diligence that should not be metered by inadequate time for consideration."

The guiding document for the BLM administration of public lands is the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. That document defines multiple use as follows:

"The term 'multiple use' means the management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people; making the most judicious use of the land for some or all of these resources or related services over areas large enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in use to conform to changing needs and conditions; the use of some land for less than all of the resources; a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that takes into account the long-term needs of future generations for renewable and non-renewable resources, including, but not limited to, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and natural scenic, scientific and historical values; and harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources without permanent impairment of the productivity of the land and the quality of the environment with consideration being given to the relative values of the resources and not necessarily to the combination of uses that will give the greatest economic return or the greatest unit output."

• In a separate item of business on March 21, the commissioners put some strict conditions to its approval for historic designation of a section of the Old Spanish Trail as a Delta County Historic Landmark.

The commissioners' agreement to designate a 4.5-mile long section of the historic trail must meet the following conditions:

1) It must have no impact on grazing permits in the same vicinity;

2) There must be some kind of recognition of the trail's historic reason for existence which was for driving livestock.

According to Chris Miller of the Interpretative Association of Western Colorado, the trail route is believed to be in the vicinity of Fools Hill on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The segment is known as the "Old Spanish Trail - North Branch," and was constructed sometime between 1825 and 1845.

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