MESA COUNTY, Colo. -
Mesa County Commissioners met with public land stakeholders on Monday to discuss the Bureau of Land Management's potential closure of 60 percent of the public routes within the county.
"That comes out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 miles of routes," said Jim Cooper, with Pan Pacific Services. Cooper has been working with travel management plans for 27 years and attended Monday's meeting.
Most of the closures would be for recreational trails, but a portion would be county roads.
Mesa County officials are seeking to keep these and other roads open for safety purposes and commercial uses.
"The key in any of this is to be specific about the route and why we feel that there's a right for that route to remain open," explained Pete Baier, Public Works director for Mesa County.
The BLM said they will not close roads owned by the county. They will also not close roads the county identifies as the public having a vested interest in.
"[That's] an area or a route that we believe the public is using. We believe it is worth discussing with BLM to keep those open," Baier said.
"It's a cultural value in the community that's very important," added Cooper.
At the meeting, Cooper brought up an even deeper issue at hand.
"This area gets a great deal of its money from recreation and recreational access to public lands. There's a big financial incentive to keep these routes open," he explained.
Mesa County commissioners and administrative officials have been working with interest groups to so far identify 15 roads that should be removed from the BLM's chopping block.
"We did start this process quite a few years ago, four years ago, and [recently] we had a very concerned citizen that came forward and said, 'I've looked at your plan and here's some additional [routes you should add],'" said Baier.
The county is encouraging the public to come forward and provide as much comment as possible regarding the BLM's Draft Resource Management Plan before the June 24 deadline.
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