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RBC I Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton announced to the Rio Blanco Stockgrowers on Feb. 7 that the county is naming the indoor arena at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds the C.W. “Bill” Brennan Arena in honor of the late former county commissioner and Piceance Creek cattle producer.
A dedication ceremony will be held during the county fair this coming summer.
Bolton also described the county’s broadband project which, through buried fiber in Meeker and Rangely and wireless microwave capability throughout the rest of the county, is intended to provide Internet connection to every household, business and agency in the county with speeds 10 times current levels.
Bolton said the commissioners have committed $2 million toward the front end of the projected $9 million total cost. The county feels this effort is extremely important to future economic development.
On oil and gas development, Bolton said the WPX company is laying down its last two rigs, which are the last two rigs currently operating in the county.
Bolton also said he’s not expecting significant results from the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force due to it being so evenly divided between pro- and heavily regulated development interests. He hopes the task force will not advocate a one-size-fits-all solution.
He said the commission is also embarking on a re-do and clean-up of the county’s land use regulations through an outside contractor and that landowners should stayed tuned to ensure their participation.
Meanwhile, Neil Brennan, speaking for the White River Soil Conservation District, said the district is working on a land use plan for the county and will be hiring an outside entity to draft the plan
On business matters, the stockgrowers voted to enlarge their scholarship program by opening scholarship applications to current college students as well as graduating seniors interested in pursuing agricultural careers.
Interested scholarship applicants should contact Teresa Anderson, at 878-4337.
The group also decided to put the $5,000 Silencer Livestock Equipment credit certificate they have up for auction at the county fair.
Sheriff Anthony Mazzola told the group he has cut his 2015 budget by $592,000, reducing full-time employees by four and one half, largely through retirements. He said he’s gone to 12-hour shifts that will provide 24-hour coverage in the county.
He currently has two deputies who live in Meeker patrolling the Rangely area. His new deputy hire will be required to live in Rangely.
Mazzola said that he and the Colorado Sheriff’s Association support the bill in the Colorado Legislature (House Bill 1054) that would allow drivers of off-highway vehicles to travel on county roads, as approved by the county, if they are licensed drivers, obey the rules of the road, have insurance on the vehicle and display a state-issued license on their registered OHV.
The bill would also require drivers to wear eyeglasses or a helmet with eye protection.
Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) President Frank Daley of Silt and board member Janie Van Winkle of Fruita, each emphasized the $15 million the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now has to enable sage grouse conservation.
Daley emphasized that the CCA together with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) have been working on establishing a Colorado Habitat Exchange program in which landowners would generate conservation credits that could then be sold through a state program administrator to “investors,” or entities that are impacting habitat and are therefore in need of the credits.
The CPW sees this as a potentially important tool to help key species such as sage grouse and mule deer.
State Senator Randy Baumgardner (R-Cowdrey) reported on several bills at the Legislature including a bill to make changes in allowable bear seasons, intended to help CPW increase bear harvests. The bill has been stalled in committee and will probably end up establishing a task force to study the issue of increased bear problems and how to improve harvest, he said.
Baumgardner also warned of two irrigation-related bills, Senate Bill 55 regarding the use of tailwater and how water gets back to the stream, and Senate Bill 84 regarding culling out the last man on a ditch even though he may have the better water rights. Both bills are bad for the Western Slope, Baumgardner said, and he reported that the Colorado Farm Bureau and CCA are opposing the bills.
White River Area BLM Manager Kent Walter reported that they have been approved for the gathering of 167 wild horses, first from the West Douglas Creek herd, and then from around the Piceance Wild Horse Management Area (WHMA) on Sept. 14-25.
The agency will also build fence all around the Piceance WHMA, first in high priority areas affecting public safety (highway conflicts). On travel management, Walter reported that the BLM has inventoried 65 percent of the resource area for existing roads and will do the rest this summer (largely from Piceance Creek west).
Walter also announced that the Natural Soda company in the Piceance Creek area is proposing to double production and that an environmental assessment is under way.
The stockgrowers re-elected Kelly Sheridan as president, Rodney Dunham as vice president, Todd Shults as second vice-president and Brian Collins as secretary-treasurer.