A group of 21 Republican lawmakers from the Senate and House sent a letter to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper May 20 calling on him to oppose a new Bureau of Land Management “travel plan” for parts of the Western Slope that could close up to 2,000 miles of rural roads or trails in Grand Junction and Mesa Counties.
Lawmakers said that these “radical and unnecessary” access restrictions “will have a potentially devastating impact on the regional economy, our legal rights and our heritage.” The letter-signers also ask Hickenlooper “to protect our economy and our rights by withholding your approval of the BLM plan.”
The letter stems from concerns these management changes are causing among Western Slope residents, elected officials and stakeholder groups — including advocates for the disabled — who see them as an unwarranted effort by the agency to limit access to areas where locals and visitors recreate, hunt and fish and, in some cases, make their livelihoods. Roughly 60 percent of the routes currently controlled by BLM’s Grand Junction office would be closed. And the plan’s 20 year duration means that any mistakes made now will be felt for decades.
The letter stresses that all Coloradans have an interest in maintaining access to these lands, not just those living in or near Grand Junction, given how critical they are to the state’s economy and outdoors-oriented lifestyle. That point is underscored by the geographic diversity of those who signed.
“Roughly 36 percent of Colorado is controlled by agencies headquartered 1,600 miles away, so road closures and access restrictions of the kind being proposed here may not mean as much to agency officials as they mean to us,” said Senator Ray Scott. “We want Gov. Hickenlooper to take the message to our Washington landlords that throwing people off public lands, by closing access routes, directly threatens our Western economy and culture. The agency doesn’t appear to have gotten that message through the normal public process.”
Senators signing the letter are Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulfur Springs), Kevin Grantham (Canon City), Ellen Roberts (Durango), John Cooke (Greeley), Laura Woods (Arvada), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Vickie Marble (Fort Collins), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Kent Lambert (Colorado Springs), Tim Neville (Littleton) and Kevin Lundberg (Berthoud).
Similar concerns were expressed by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a separate letter to Hickenlooper. And Mesa County Commissioners also have asked BLM to delay the plan’s finalization so they can more closely study the likely impacts.