Hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, outdoor recreationists, local elected officials, business owners – people from all walks of life – are weighing in on the future of Colorado’s South Park.
And they’re doing it thanks to all the work by people who care about public lands and the federal officials who listened to them. This Friday, May 5, is the deadline for submitting comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s preliminary proposal for managing the lands overseen by the agency’s Royal Gorge Field Office. The new resource management plan will cover 658,200 acres of public lands, including the outdoor recreation mecca of South Park.
For years, sportsmen’s and conservation groups have advocated for a more open, inclusive process when it comes to writing the blueprints for managing public lands. In the case of South Park, hunters and anglers joined other conservationists to petition for an upfront assessment of the area’s rich fish, wildlife and water resources and ways to protect them.
The goal is to take a big-picture look at the landscape to map out where oil and gas drilling could occur without harming the other natural resources and fishing, hunting and recreation opportunities. The organizations and elected officials have suggested safeguards for South Park’s Gold Medal trout waters, important fish and wildlife habitat and the lakes and rivers that are major sources of drinking water for the Denver area.
The BLM responded to the concerns of Park County and municipal governments and public-lands users by giving the public more opportunities to share their visions for South Park’s future. The agency is seeking input on preliminary management scenarios before the proposals are included in a formal document and become more difficult to influence.
The public has an opportunity to weigh in on the future of Colorado's South Park, an outdoor recreation treasure. Image: Lew Carpenter
Comments from sportsmen’s and outdoor organizations on the process the BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office is using:
“We’re encouraged that BLM is listening to sportsmen, ranchers, county officials and other stakeholders and incorporating their ideas into a plan for South Park. The process is working.” ~ Tyler Baskfield, Colorado sportsmen’s coordinator for Trout Unlimited
“South Park is an iconic, one-of-a-kind natural gem right in the backyard of the Denver metro area and is home to herds of elk, mule deer, and pronghorn and features world-class Gold Medal trout streams." ~ Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation
“Sportsmen and women appreciate their role in public land management and take the opportunity to weigh in on land-use decisions very seriously, especially where our hunting and fishing access is at stake, so we welcome a continued open and collaborative process that will benefit fish and wildlife and our outdoor recreation economy for years to come.” ~ Nick Payne, Colorado field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Park County Administrator Tom Eisenman says the county supports the BLM’s efforts to conserve “our natural heritage and ensure energy development takes place responsibly and in the right places.”
Eisenman and others hope the BLM’s planning process for South Park and the rest of the area will be a model for “smart-from-the-start” planning and management for public lands.