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It sounds like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is moving forward with their Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan (ECRMP), which began in 2015, and once complete, will guide management for nearly 670,000 acres of public land, with the majority of it being in Fremont County.

Some of the largest intact, and unprotected, BLM public lands are in Fremont County, such as Table Mountain over Echo Canyon in Bighorn Sheep Canyon and Cooper Mountain, northeast of Cañon City, bounded by the Shelf Road and Phantom Canyon Scenic Byways.  These lands must be properly managed in the final plan to ensure their wild character is maintained for future generations.

BLM also found segments of our local waterways suitable for Wild & Scenic River management and protection in this plan, including multiple segments of the Arkansas River and Grape Creek right here in our backyard.  Grape Creek is the only waterway in the entire plan that BLM found segments suitable for their recreational, scenic, and wild classifications.  Additional protections are more than necessary for Grape Creek, as BLM’s Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area and Grape Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern saw unprecedented gold mining exploration just last year by Zephyr Minerals.

The final stage in this plan will not become public until next year, however, key management decisions are being made right now.

We hope the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office will continue to incorporate public input into this plan.  With three public comment opportunities so far for this plan since 2015, the general public has made it repeatedly clear that our top priorities are conservation, recreation, and concerns about development; particularly oil and gas.

Furthermore, the BLM should integrate the conservation alternative recently submitted by our local conservation and sporting communities.  It is a sensible alternative, in line with the public’s stated goals for this plan and taken specifically from BLM’s fully evaluated range of alternatives for the ECRMP.

Additionally, it is largely in line with the comments that Fremont County has made to BLM regarding the ECRMP, supporting a balance of conservation and recreation for our locally managed BLM public lands.  Our local wildlife, scenic views, and recreational opportunities bring folks to this area from near and far, which helps bolster our local economy and tourism industry, and it would make a lot of sense for BLM to embrace management that supports this.

The BLM has already done the necessary analysis, now it is just a matter of them choosing the plan components that best support conservation and recreation in the final plan.

By Paul Tanner

Editor’s Note: Paul Tanner worked 40-plus years for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and BLM in six different states and held a variety of positions including twenty-two years as a Field Manager. Other positions included Forester; Surface Protection Specialist (oil shale as well as oil and gas); Realty Specialist; Access, Transportation, and Right-of-Way (ATROW) Specialist; Planning and Environmental Coordinator; and Natural Resource Specialist (oil and gas permitting). Prior to his time with the USFS and BLM, he worked as a Forester with an environmental consulting firm in Ohio.

Featured image: A view of Table Mountain, Image courtesy of Ecoflight