Commissioner aims to inform constituents

RBC I During the next few years I will be writing a column to keep the people of Rio Blanco County informed of the issues facing us. It will be written as necessary, sometimes each week, sometimes longer between columns. All of the discussions will be my own opinion.
I will have something on the web, but I have not yet decided on the preferable format, website, Facebook or a blog. I have set up an email address for you to write and let me know what you think are issues the commissioners should address. This will not be a policy forum. Just a place to gather information on individual concerns. The address is jdhillrbc@gmail.com.
Now to this week’s topic: The last couple of weeks there has been a debate over President Obama’s statement that you did not build your own business. To quote him, “If you have a business, you didn’t do that. Someone else did that for you.” In the debate over this it has become even clearer to me that our president and a lot of other folks believe that a person cannot and maybe should not be allowed to run a business without the government prodding him in their preferred direction.
What if the seven families that started Rangely had waited for HUD to come and build a town? They got here the first part of November. They had an earthquake right after they set up camp. Then the weather turned terribly cold, in fact, the river froze over on Nov. 17. C. P. Hill built a trading post, and then decided that Salt Lake City was too far to haul freight so he built a road over Douglas Pass.
When the Chew family moved from Browns Park to Blue Mountain, they chose to live in Pat’s Hole. They built a road from the top of Blue Mountain to Echo Park. Everyone who enjoys Dinosaur Monument is benefited by that road, but the Park Service would never have built it.
In 1905 The Uintah Railway was built over Baxter Pass in the winter with teams and scrapers. Along with having a mode of transportation to move their product they provided freight and other services to the local communities including building telephone lines from Mack to Dragon and on into Rangely and Vernal. After the railroad was abandoned, the right-of-way became a county road but Garfield County only maintains their part when in danger of losing their state funding.
Where would the entire county be if The Richmond Oil Company had not drilled Raven Number 1 in 1917? They came to a totally undeveloped area and stuck their neck out and the oil and gas business went forward from that point.
Because of people and industries like this Rio Blanco County has enjoyed a lifestyle that counties of our geographical size and low population cannot otherwise afford. In the modern era we do need some level of planning, zoning and permitting because of the magnitude of uses on the land. At the same time our local businesses and industry needs to be allowed to progress in order keep our economy flowing.
Sage grouse may be the next limiting factor in economic stability for Rio Blanco County. After losing a lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have to make a determination whether they will list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species in September 2015. The BLM has been instructed to revise 68 Resource Management Plans by September 2014. If BLM does that, USFW may not list the bird. However, BLM has also been instructed to consider the Sage Grouse Technical Team Report published Dec. 21, 2011.
The report details what could be severe restrictions on BLM, forest service, private, and state lands if taken to the limit. Following are some highlights:
1. Restrict development of discreet anthropogenic disturbances to cover no more than 3 percent of a priority area no matter the land ownership. These disturbances include paved and gravel roads, transmission lines, substations, wind towers, oil and gas wells, geothermal wells, pipelines, landfills, homes and mines.
2. Transportation: new construction, road upgrades and off-road travel will be restricted.
3. Recreation: Hiking, camping and hunting may be restricted. No special recreation permits will be issued unless they can show a beneficial effect for grouse.
4. New right-of-ways will be restricted without a prior existing right.
5. Power lines: Existing lines may have to be removed or buried.
6. Grazing: No new range improvements, except for grouse, grazing permits will be retired if there is a change of ownership.
7. Wild horses: The gather budget will be reserved for horses within the priority areas, other horse areas will not have gathers.
8. Fluid minerals: No surface occupancy within four miles of a lek. Leases will not be re-issued when terminated.
9. Minerals: Coal mine expansion will be restricted, locatable minerals will be withdrawn and existing claims private mineral rights will be bought out, sodium, potash and gravel pits will not be leased.
10. Fire: Require reseeding with native grass, even though the environmental community can show that Crested Wheat Grass is important for young grouse.
11. Predation: The NTT report has ignored predators as a factor in sage grouse recovery except as it relates to human activity. It mentions raptors sitting on power lines and other above-ground facilities as a reason for their removal but does address ravens or red foxes which are both a serious problem.
Rio Blanco County is a co-operating agency with the BLM, however, when the White River Field Office publishes the draft amendment we all need to be prepared to comment on it.