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RBC I After being sworn in last week and attending Colorado Counties Inc., (CCI) training in Denver, new commissioners Jeff Eskelson and Jon Hill attended their first official county meeting Monday last, making appointments to different boards and meeting with Bureau of Land Management officials in the afternoon.
“It was the largest freshman class, where 45 counties in the state changed the majority on their boards,” Eskelson said of the CCI training.
“It was a good learning experience,” Hill added.
Commissioner chairman Shawn Bolton also attended the CCI meeting last week and was appointed to vice chair or president-elect of the lobbying group, which represents 16 counties on the western slope.
Commissioners elected Shawn Bolton to remain as chairman of the board and Hill as the chairman pro-tem. Eskelson will represent the county on the AGNC board, Hill was appointed to the e911 board and the Rio Blanco Herald Times was selected as the newspaper for official county publications.
During the afternoon session, commissioners met with BLM field office manager Kent Walter, James Roberts, Heather Sauls, Zoey Miller and former Meeker resident Jim Cagney, who is now the Northwest District manager, overseeing the management of 5 million surface acres of public lands and 8.7 million acres of sub-surface federal minerals in northwestern Colorado within the Grand Junction, Colorado River Valley, Kremmling, Little Snake and White River BLM field offices.
Walter was first asked to update commissioners on the notice of proposed decision sent to all 87 BLM grazing permittees in Rio Blanco County, stating a need to make adjustments due to the area’s severe drought, including grazing cuts of 50 percent.
Walter said he has since issued a notice of final decision, withdrawing the proposed decision after receiving protests, feedback and information from permittees. Walter said drought conditions and resource concerns still exist and permittees will meet with their range specialists to discuss needed adjustments to address the drought conditions before turnout this spring.
Walter and his crew also discussed two plants, the Dudley Bluffs Twinpod and Dudley Bluffs Bladderpod, which were discovered in 1982, growing only on white shale in a unique geological habitat along RBC Roads 5 and 24. The plants were listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 and a solution to deal with the plants during county road upgrades is needed.
“This is a really complicated issue,” Walter said.
The BLM is working on a programatic solution to mitigate the impacts and asked the commissioners to be participants but the commissioners did not commit to join in just yet.
“We can not get away from Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act so we are trying to come up with a long term solution that would create a road map of predictability in the future,” Walter said.
Commissioners also discussed the resource management plan amendment, which addresses the potential impacts of significant oil and gas development over the next 20 years. The comment period for the RMPA is open until Jan. 28, 2013.