County weighs in on federal public-lands issue

Management of federal public lands, always a bone of contention in the region, came up in several aspects at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Montezuma County commissioners. The commissioners are upset over BLM land acquisitions that take private land off county tax rolls.

In an Oct. 24 letter to the BLM, the board wrote that they oppose additional purchases of private land by the BLM. It was reported at the Nov. 5 commission meeting that the loss of property taxes due to the purchases amounts to approximately $35,000 per year.

The letter states: “To date, 11,307 acres of private land have been removed from the Montezuma County tax base. (This) represents a potential loss in the economic diversity within the county relating to a variety of potential agricultural, commercial and residential uses.”

The commissioners discussed whether the federal government should be required to obtain state legislative approval before making purchases of private land.

Excise taxes from offshore drilling are earmarked for the purchase of private land by federal-land agencies.

A related problem is the lack of rangeland management services for grazing on public lands. An overburdened BLM is backlogged on opening up more land for grazing because of lack of staff and money, county officials said, and adding more public land to the mix will make the situation worse.

“The revenue from the excise tax should be used to pay down the national debt, not buy land,” Commissioner Steve Chappell said.

Support for potash

A proposal to prospect for potash in Dolores and San Miguel counties has support from Montezuma County. The material is used as a type of fertilizer.

In an Oct. 31 letter to the Dolores Public Lands Office, the county commissioners stated that “the prospective tax revenues could be very helpful to the two counties this project is located in. This project could also help Montezuma County’s economy. . .”

The letter advises the BLM that “consultation and coordination” with Dolores and San Miguel counties, required under land management law, needs to be better documented in the environmental analysis.

“We remind you again that ‘public participation’ does not equal coordination with local governments. These comments are not meant to berate the BLM but simply to point out a potential source of contention that seems to be continually overlooked.”

Motorized trails

The San Juan Trail Riders are proposing a motorized trail system in the Boggy-Glade area. The group complained its interests were ignored in forest management plans, so it offered a proposal that the San Juan National Forest is considering.

The trail system is made up of current roads, old railroad routes, motorized trails and abandoned roads, and would involve construction of some single-track to link loops. It begins in the Sage Hen area near McPhee Reservoir, travels below the dam and then up into the Glade and Boggy forest areas. The trail system avoids established mountain-bike trails in the Boggy Draw area.

“It’s a well-thought-out proposal that repurposes a lot of existing roads to create recreation loops,” said county federal-lands coordinator James Dietrich.

“They took the initiative to separate motorized use from non-motorized areas.”

From November 2012.