BLM to close Colorado roads that have been used by public for 50 years

June 16, 2015

BLM plan to close over 1,000 public routes riles western Colorado

By   /  Originally posted on May 13, 2015      

Watchdog Arena

MESA, Colo.—A plan that will close nearly 2,000 miles of public roads that have previously been open for use by the people of Mesa County is creating a public backlash against the Grand Junction field office of the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM’s resource management plans (RMP) regulate the access and types of traffic allowed on roads on public lands. Road maintenance and seasonal closures are also detailed in such plans.

Shutterstock Image

NO COMMENT: Coloradans are up in arms over the BLM’s proposed plan to close off public routes that are heavily traveled with no clear justification.

But the most recent RMP in Mesa County indicates the BLM’s intent to limit access to public roads which have traditionally been open to motorized, horse, and foot traffic. Accessible routes will decrease from the current 3,469 miles to just 1,777. The BLM has not offered a clear justification for its planned road closures, which has left many in Mesa County frustrated and baffled.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that people with physical disabilities are especially troubled by the BLM’s plans. TheMay 2 article detailed a protest by 250 who gathered outside the BLM field office in Grand Junction:

“As the gathering made plain, people with disabilities enjoy camping, fishing and hunting as much as anyone, but the travel management section of the BLM’s resource management plan for the area seems not to notice, protesters said.”

In the Sentinel article, Joyce Tullio, a regular user of the public routes who is dependent on medical oxygen, complained, “The areas we like to go in, they’re closing them off. People who can hike or ride bicycles … they can go in those areas, but I’m being locked out.”

The BLM, not unlike other federal agencies, is not required to collaborate with local governments when formulating RMP for a given area. The planned closure of roads, most of which were established decades ago, will effectively close off tens of thousands of acres of public lands to human access.

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners has expressed grave concern about the potential economic impact of such a move. Issues overlooked by the BLM in the latest plan included watersheds, oil and gas leases, and local economies. On May 8, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel quoted a letter written to the BLM from the Mesa County Commissioners:

“BLM fails to adequately consider the effects its proposed management strategy will have on current and future oil and gas exploration and development activities, and the associated socioeconomic impact on Mesa County, its local communities, and the state of Colorado,” the letter says.

Reduced leasing opportunities also reduce the possible revenues due to the county from federal mineral leases, the commissioners’ letter says, as it notes that the proposed plan fails to account for development of the Niobrara and Mancos Shale formations, which hold significant oil and gas reserves.

The plan as proposed “contrasts with the federal government’s longstanding policy of encouraging responsible energy development and motorized trail use on federal lands under multiple-use principles,” the letter says. “The changes reflect a philosophy working to reduce and limit natural resource extraction throughout western Colorado’s federal mineral estate and force overcrowding of increasingly popular motorized recreation.”

The Mesa County Commissioners went on to request a six-month review of the BLM’s plans before the agency proceeds with any closures, which according to a BLM representative, is “unprecedented.”

There also appears to be conflicts between federal law and the BLM’s proposed closures. According to Brandon Siegfried, the President of the Public Lands Access Association,—as quoted in the Daily Sentinel—“Most of the routes facing closure were established 50 years ago or more. Federal law requires the BLM to treat such historic routes like highways, which cannot be closed through a resource management plan.”

In western Colorado, the ratio of federal-managed lands to private lands is significantly higher than in the rest of the state. Agricultural, economic, recreational, and various private interests of local citizens is dependent upon access through a vast and complex road system. 

Although the BLM may find the growing backlash from citizens and elected officials against its proposed road closures “unprecedented,” it is likely to grow in western Colorado.

This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.

Reposted with permission of the author  6/16/15

  1. Brand Thornton

    We threw them out at the Bundy Ranch and you can to, they are a non mandated, unlegislated agency with no constitutional enforcement powers. They answer to no one not even congress unless you want to sat AGENDA 21!

  2. Jim Dorkins

    This is only the beginning. In the coming years, the govt will close off almost all of the forest access and create zones that only limited human activities will be allowed. They will not let the public know until it happens. As Brand Thornton commented…. This is AGENDA 21. I challenge everyone to do the research. Go to the U.N. website and search for Agenda 21. It will scare you.

  3. Steve

    I think that the BLM is way over-stepping their bounds. There is no clear or good reason behind these closures.

  4. Personally, the solution here is for the BLM to sell the land and the roads it doesn’t want to the state. If the state wants to maintain them, then it’s on their dime. If it costs more than a dime, they can raise taxes on their people which only makes sense because their the ones using the road anyway. My stolen income shouldn’t be used to pave roads in Colorado anyway, nor should anyone elses to pay for any road where they don’t live.

    In fact, the final solution here is for the feds to give up all the land and roads they own and return them to the states. The states and their people can decide what to maintain and what to let nature take back. The states and their people can also sell all the land and its resources to private companies who will create jobs, pay taxes, and extract the resources necessary to improve the economy. All of this should be handled at the state level. The Feds should never have been involved in the first place.

  5. Clee Sealing

    this process started sometime ago:

    Volume 3, September 23, 2010 BLM Newsletter

    you might check the process our as the county does have a lot of input to the process and ther have been several public meetings

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