COMMISSIONERS SKEPTICAL OF HICKENLOOPER’S ASSURANCES
The proof is in the pudding. That’s basically how the Moffat County Commissioners summed up Governor Hickenlooper’s words at a meeting in Craig Monday. The commissioners say they are not very optimistic that Hickenlooper will keep rural Colorado in mind when the next legislative session begins. The commissioners felt the governor’s words were a lot of “lip service” in a campaign year. They say it’s clear the governor is still clueless when it comes to coal, and that the fight to keep it viable in the energy industry will continue to be an uphill one. When asked whether or not they felt they were being listened to in their private meeting on sage grouse with the governor, Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock said, the tone was the same as every other meeting he’s had with Hickenlooper about the bird. Audience members at yesterday’s commissioners meeting said they were proud of those that participated in Monday’s meeting with the governor, for their tact and pointed questions.
COMMISSIONERS OPPOSE BLM PLAN TO AVOID GROUSE LISTING
The Moffat County Commissioners are publicly opposing a plan by the BLM to lock down Greater Sage Grouse habitat. The bird is being considered for the endangered species list, and if it is listed, private property rights would be severely limited for those who own land within the affected area. The BLM says their plan would keep the bird off the list, but the commissioners say the results to private property rights would essentially be the same. They say if the BLM locks those lands up to protect the bird it would effectively eliminate private property owners’ mineral rights. While the mineral rights would technically still be theirs, landowners would not be able to lease or sell those rights to energy companies. That’s mainly due to the fact that those lands may be unreachable without crossing BLM land. Representative Scott Tipton says mineral rights aren’t the only rights that will be affected. He says farmers and ranchers may also find hurdles in being able to grow crops on their own land. The Moffat County Commissioners have sent a letter to the BLM stating their opposition to the plan.
BLM ANNOUNCES SEASONAL CLOSURE ON EMERALD MOUNTAIN
The Bureau of Land Management is reminding people to observe seasonal closures that begin December 1st at Emerald Mountain to protect wintering and calving elk. All areas south of the Ridge Trail in the BLM’s Emerald Mountain Special Recreation Area are closed to public entry from December 1st to June 30th to protect elk during their sensitive winter and calving seasons. This includes the Beall Trail and Kemry Draw. This closure corresponds with Colorado Parks and Wildlife lands to the east of the Management Area and the Humble Ranch property to the southeast. The BLM saw a number of violations of the closure last winter, even though the area was clearly marked. Violating the closure will result in citations and a minimum $175 fine.
TIPTON’S WATER RIGHTS BILL PUSHING FORWARD
Congressman Scott Tipton has good news about a bill he sponsored, that is intended to protect private water rights. Tipton’s bill would stop the Federal Government from grabbing water rights from private property owners. In a conversation with Tipton yesterday, the congressman said his bill is moving right along. He says the bill has moved through the full Natural Resources Committee and should come up for a vote in the full House no later than February. The bill would keep federal agencies from forcing ski areas and private property owners to give up water rights when leasing land from the Federal Government. Tipton says his bill has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
BALLECK RESIGNS AS CONNECTIONS 4 KIDS COORDINATOR
Michelle Balleck, coordinator for Connections 4 Kids, is resigning her position to take a job in Grand County. Balleck says she has accepted the position of Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Middle Park Medical Center. Balleck won’t be leaving Craig. She says she nd her family will continue to live in town, but her last day with Connections 4 Kids will be December 4th. Balleck says she has enjoyed her time with the organization and is proud of the work the group is doing to support children and families in Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties. Connections 4 Kids is now taking applications for the coordinator job until December 1st. If you are interested, you’ll find the online application here.
BLM OFFERS PARCELS FOR LEASE SALE
Today the Bureau of Land Management will release for public review two environmental assessments evaluating potential parcels to offer in its June 12th oil and gas lease sale. The BLM is evaluating 28 parcels totaling approximately 26,500 acres managed by the White River Field Office in Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The BLM Kremmling Field Office is evaluating five parcels totaling approximately 2,560 acres in Jackson County. After a preliminary evaluation of the federal minerals nominated for oil and gas leasing in these areas, the BLM decided not to offer a number of parcels for a variety of resource concerns, including Greater-Sage Grouse habitat. The Environmental Assessment, maps, a list of proposed parcels with attached stipulations, and information about providing comments for the White River Field Office parcels are available by clicking here.
FOREST SERVICE OPENS DOOR FOR CHARGING UPHILL FEES AT SKI AREAS
The growing popularity of strapping skins on skis and climbing uphill could soon come at a price at some ski areas. The U.S. Forest Service is working on new rules that clarify that ski areas that lease public lands for their operations can charge people for uphill travel. The directive could affect fitness fanatics that use skis with climbing skins, snowshoes and stabilizers. The directive “encourages” ski area operators to provide access to some slopes without a charge so that there isn’t a “de facto entrance fee.” The Forest Service is accepting comments until December 2nd on its proposal.
HUDAK RESIGNS TO AVOID RECALL ELECTION
Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak is resigning to avoid a recall election. Hudak came under fire after her votes supporting stricter gun control laws during the last legislative session. A recall effort was started up over the summer, dropped, and then revived after successful recall efforts against John Morse and Angela Giron. Hudak only won her latest re-election by about 600 votes, and her chances of surviving a recall election were considered slim. By resigning, she allows the Democratic party to appoint a replacement, preserving the party’s 18-17 majority in the state senate. Hudak says her resignation will protect the new laws that were put in place during the last session. The Democratic party’s choice to fill Hudak’s seat will serve until next year’s election.