One of the region's premier fish and wildlife areas is just a little more than hour's drive from the Denver area. Image: Ecoflight
By Judith Kohler
DENVER (March 9, 2017) – Colorado sportsmen say the release of preliminary management proposals for public lands in South Park and surrounding areas shows that the Bureau of Land Management intends to keep the public informed and involved in decisions affecting one of the region’s premier hunting, fishing and recreation spots.
The BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office on Wednesday released preliminary management scenarios that include a proposed master leasing plan for oil and gas development in South Park. A master leasing plan, or MLP, is a planning tool available to BLM intended to better balance uses of public lands. Park County and local elected officials as well as landowners and sportsmen and women asked the BLM to write an MLP for South Park because of its important fish, wildlife and water resources.
As the BLM revises its resource management plan for the area, the agency has used such updated procedures as seeking public input more frequently and releasing proposals earlier to better address potential conflicts and find resolutions. The result, say sportsmen’s organizations, has been a more transparent and inclusive process.
People from across the country travel to South Park, a little more than an hour’s drive from the Denver area, to fish in the Gold Medal waters of the South Platte Basin. Hunting and fishing generate $17 million in revenue for Park County every year. South Park, the headwaters of the South Platte River, is also a major source of drinking water for more than 2 million people in Denver, Aurora and along Colorado’s Front Range.
"The Bureau of Land Management is on the right track in South Park. Park County, along with numerous other cooperating agencies, have worked effectively with BLM on the draft alternatives for the plan and we, too, will continue working with the county, diverse stakeholders and BLM to gain a balanced future for these public lands. 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
“Trout Unlimited and other sportsmen groups are committed to preserving South Park and its world-class fish and wildlife resources—and that starts with smart land use planning. This BLM draft is a good first step to creating a locally driven land use plan for South Park that recognizes the imperative of balancing energy development with protection of incredible habitat and angling and hunting opportunities. We’re encouraged that BLM is listening to sportsmen, ranchers, county officials and other stakeholders and incorporating their ideas into a master plan for South Park. The process is working.” ~ Tyler Baskfield, Colorado sportsmen’s coordinator for Trout Unlimited
“The South Platte serves as the home waters for many Front Range anglers and outdoor recreation businesses that make Colorado a special place to live or visit, and ensuring that South Park’s public lands are managed for balanced use is a positive step toward stability for our economy. 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