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RBC I Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Rio Blanco County and Town of Rangely officials met Jan. 6 to discuss the BLM’s White River Resource Management Plan (RMP) in the context of county plans to implement an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Master Trails Plan, which was adopted last year.
BLM White River Field Office (WRFO) field manager Kent Walter and outdoor recreation planner Aaron Grimes said the WRFO intends to amend the Travel and Transportation Management portion of the 1997 RMP.
The BLM’s travel management planning process involves two levels of planning: 1) area designations and 2) route-by-route designations. Area designations are found in the RMP and classify areas of BLM land as open, closed or limited to Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs).
Now in the early stages of evaluating current area designations, the BLM has asked and gotten approval for the Northwest Resource Advisory Council (RAC) to form a subgroup to help with those evaluations. Which areas are classified as open, closed or limited could then be changed via an amendment to the RMP.
The subgroup will be made up of 10 to 15 people from diverse interests and will act as a sounding board for this portion of the RMP, Grimes said. It will also provide local expertise and recommendations to the RAC, after which the RAC will provide formal recommendations to the BLM.
Opportunities for public involvement in regards to the RMP amendment will be announced later with a press release, and the planning process will begin once a notice is published in the Federal Register. Cooperating agencies, including the town and county, will also have input in the process, Walter said.
Walter emphasized that the WRFO wants to complete the amendment of the travel management portion of the RMP and finish the inventory of travel routes before beginning route-by-route designation planning.
Over the last several months, the WRFO has been mapping and collecting data on all travel routes on BLM lands in the eastern side of the field office with plans to inventory routes on the WRFO’s west side this field season.
The first public involvement with all these efforts will be the BLM seeking public comment on routes and data identified on maps in the next month, followed by editing, verification and ultimately freezing the data as the transportation system from which route designations will be determined.
By June 2016, all route data should be in place around the same time the BLM’s land use plan is amended. That’s when the WRFO will be in a position to start working with the public on the first Travel Management Plan (TMP), Walter said.
It is also likely that several TMPs will be created that eventually cover the entire field office. How the various TMPs may one day complement the county’s current plans to implement a trails master plan for off-road travel and tourism remains to be seen.
In the meantime, the county continues to move forward with first-phase implementation of its OHV Master Plan adopted in August. Prioritizing and implementing Phase One plans means continued conversations with the BLM. It also means, RBC Economic Development Director Katelin Cook said, establishing a county trails collaboration group, verifying trails in the field, defining trail management objectives and creating trail maps.
In addition, the county has applied for a grant with Colorado Parks and Wildlife totaling $95,200, including cash and in-kind matches. If awarded, it will buy support materials like brochures, trail counters and volunteer resources, Cook said.