Thursday, October 22, 2015

County will file Statement of Reasons for appeal of travel portion of BLM plan

The Mesa County Commissioners this morning authorized County Attorney Patrick Coleman to sign and file a Statement of Reasons for the county's appeal of the Bureau of Land Management's Travel Management Plan portion of the Grand Junction Field Office Resource Management Plan Record of Decision, issued on Aug. 24.

The Statement of Reasons contains the detailed justification for the board's appeal. Read the Statement of Reasons and supporting documents here.

On Sept. 21, Mesa County filed a notice of appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals. The notice stated that the Mesa County Commissioners were appealing the BLM's decision to designate approximately 184 miles of routes across the BLM as either closed or administrative and not be deferred for future analysis.

The designated routes were included in the BLM's Travel Management Plan portion of the Resource Management Plan.

After filing a notice of appeal, an appellant has 30 days to file a Statement of Reasons elaborating on the reasons for the appeal. Mesa County's Statement of Reasons is due Friday.

The Interior Board of Land Appeals is comprised of nine administrative law judges with backgrounds in natural resources law. The board is principally involved in reviewing decisions of the BLM. Generally, appeals are assigned to a panel of two of the judges. If the BLM or an appellant disagrees with the IBLA's decision, the decision can be appealed to the federal district court.

At this morning's hearing, Commission Chairwoman Rose Pugliese thanked Coleman and Keith Fife, Mesa County's natural resources liaison, for their work on this issue.

She's hopeful some of the routes currently designated as closed don't have to remain that way.

"We need to have more conversations," she said. "We need to work together. Addressing it in the appeal is really good because it allows the conversation to grow."

Commissioner Scott McInnis added: "We, as the Board of County Commissioners, have an obligation to step in. The appeal is in good standing. It's done in good faith with good merit."

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