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BLM acquires 4,139-acre Emerald Mountain parcel

The public gained access to the 4,139-acre Emerald Mountain parcel west of Steamboat Springs Feb. 22, 2007 after the Bureau of Land Management formally closed on a land exchange that brings the parcel under its management.

“We’ve been working towards this for a number of years,” said John Husband, Field Manager of the BLM Little Snake Field Office in Craig, which will manage the parcel. “Emerald Mountain is now public land that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

For now, public access on Emerald Mountain will be limited to day-use, foot travel only, and all dogs must be leashed. These provisions will remain in place to protect the area’s resource values in the interim until a detailed recreation plan for the area is completed.

The recreation plan will be developed within several months in cooperation with the Emerald Mountain Partnership, City of Steamboat Springs and other partners. BLM will manage Emerald Mountain as a Special Recreation Management Area with two zones, each targeting different non-motorized recreation opportunities. One zone will emphasize strenuous outdoor activities including mountain biking and cross-country skiing. The other zone will emphasize wildlife viewing, hiking, horseback riding, and hunting.

BLM 1:100,000-scale topographic map updates

Due to the completion of the exchange, four of BLM's 1:100,000-scale maps will require significant updates in the land status.  Craig and Meeker are currently being updated and will be available to purchase this summer.  Steamboat Springs is due to be updated later this summer and then Walden.  Until the new maps are available you can download a supplemental handout from the links below or contact the Little Snake Field Office at (970) 826-5000.

Prior Status

The Emerald Mountain Land Exchange has moved one step closer to completion with the Bureau of Land Management’s release of a Notice of Availability of Decision authorizing the proposed land exchange.   The Little Snake Field Office has finalized the Environmental Assessment for the Emerald Mountain Land Exchange.  This Assessment is a Resource Management Plan Amendment and contains a Management Plan Component to address management of the Emerald Mountain Parcel in the event it becomes BLM land.   At this time BLM would acquire the approximately 4,139 acre Emerald Mountain parcel just west of Steamboat Springs from the Colorado State Land Board in exchange for 123 isolated BLM parcels totaling approximately 15,416 acres.

A 45-day public protest period follows the release of the Notice and will close Nov. 27, 2006.

Public access to the Emerald Mountain parcel will not be allowed until the exchange is complete and the parcel is in BLM ownership, which is expected to occur in early 2007.  The parcel will remain closed to the public at this time.

Background Information

The parties involved include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado State Land Board (SLB), and the Emerald Mountain Partnership (EMP)

The EMP was formed to include various community members such as a Steamboat Springs City Council Member, a Routt County Commissioner, and other individuals all whom support the preservation of Emerald Mountain in public ownership.

Realizing BLM wanted to consolidate its land ownership pattern in Routt County, the EMP proposed a land exchange with the BLM Little Snake Field Office (LSFO).

41,523 acres of BLM land (269 parcels) in Routt County were identified for exchange consideration and put into a pool by the LSFO for possible exchange of a 6,300 acre (approximately) piece of state land known as Emerald Mountain.  The parcels identified by BLM met certain criteria to be included in the pool.  They are scattered parcels, small parcels, irregular shaped parcels, parcels with difficult access, and parcels without public access.  It is in the BLM's interest to consolidate its land ownership pattern in Routt County.  It is in the BLM's and the public's best interest to trade these parcels for a large contiguous block of land that has public access and that can be managed for wildlife, grazing and recreation purposes; multiple use management.

From this pool, 15,621.04 acres (129 parcels) were selected by the EMP for the purpose of this exchange.  BLM is mandated to trade value for value, not acre for acre; thus the reason a larger number of BLM lands are needed to exchange for the Emerald Mountain parcel.  The exact acreage will be determined through the exchange process.  Some parcels may drop out for various reasons.

Of the 15,621.04 acres selected, 11,771.01 acres (95 parcels, 75%) have no public access; 1,988.44 acres (18 parcels) have limited access by foot or horseback across long distances through BLM or the Routt National Forest; 1,861.59 acres (16 parcels) are accessible by a public road.  Eleven of the 16 public road access parcels are less than 41 acres in size with an average size of 30.03 acres.

The Feasibility Study is complete and the non-binding Agreement to Initiate (ATI) has been signed.  The exact acreage involved could change slightly based upon appraisals and the federal management process which includes environmental and cultural analysis.  This process will be a very public process with ample time for public input.  A National Environmental Policy Act document will be completed as a result of this process.

All citizens are encouraged to participate in the process once it is started to ensure the results are in the public's interest.

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