Commissioners affirm value of public lands

John Scarffe, Gilpin County.  The Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners joined a Colorado advocacy group and then passed a resolution regarding the value of public lands during a regular meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at the Gilpin County Courthouse. The Board also allocated funds for dust suppressant in the Exhibit Barn at the Fairgrounds.

Commissioner Ron Engels said a new group, Colorado Counties Acting Together (CCAT), recently conducted an organizational meeting after the advocacy group was formed. The meeting covered the organization of CCAT and a quick review of the current legislative session.

“We were very excited,” Engels said. The group has representation from 20 counties, a wide range across the state, interested in what the advocacy group is doing.

The group is interested in protecting public lands and advocating for healthy families and communities — things near and dear to us, Engels said. The approach in this group is more consensus based. By in large they are issues already talked about by Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI).

“I was very impressed with the way the conversation went. I’m very much in favor of pursuing our participation and increasing how we work with them,” Engels said.

Commissioner Linda Isenhart agreed. “It’s not just right wing or left wing. Both viewpoints will be represented, not saying this is a liberal or conservative group. The issues are important to us, like public lands and human services.”

Engels said the agenda included a list of legislative items, but the group plans to keep the list of advocacy items short and establish branding with the legislature – a voice for CCI. The real focus this session is branding who CCAT is.

The Commissioners need to take formal action on $1,000 for this session, Engels said. He moved that the Board allocate $1,000, and the motion was approved.

Sheriff Bruce Hartman updated the Board on legislative activity regarding making DUI’s a felony, which was passed last year. The Legislature is modifying it to allow judges to put a felon in county jails.

“Virtually, we’re close to maximum capacity,” Hartman said. “This is going to have an impact on a local level but it’s a statewide issue. The state is shifting it back to the counties. This is part of a bigger issue, but this one bill will have an impact on every county.”

The County Sheriffs are in opposition, Hartman said. This is another example of everything that costs money is coming back to the counties. “It’s going to be coming back to you for more money.”

During his report, County Manager Roger Baker pointed to the detention numbers for the jail. “For January, it is truly frightening, and if this continues through the summer, we will be in a dangerous situation.”

Board Chair Gail Watson introduced a resolution regarding the value of public lands to Gilpin County’s economy, recreation, heritage and quality of life and supported continued federal ownership of federal public lands. Watson said the Board is in opposition to a couple of movements to privatize public lands.

“We are not interested in any movement toward privatizing public lands,” Watson said. Isenhart said, “I’m very much in favor of this resolution.” She recognized the importance of the beauty, the pristine nature, wildlife and water on public lands.
Engels said it echoes back to CCAT. One of their priorities is preservation of public lands, upholding them federally so there is a consistent look and feel to public lands. “Keeping them under consistent management is the best way for all Americans to enjoy their public lands.”

Watson said the intent is to forward the resolution to state representatives and senators and let them know we are working on this. Public lands under the management of federal agencies comprise nearly 45,000 acres.

“These federally administered public lands are essential to the quality of life in Gilpin County, providing extensive public recreational opportunities for wildlife watching, hiking, hunting, fishing, backpacking, sport shooting, horseback riding, skiing, bicycling, sightseeing and numerous other outdoor recreational activities,” states the resolution.

“We believe that management of our federal, public lands and wildlife via long-established collaborative approaches in which federal public land agencies cooperate with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado State Forest Service, Gilpin County officials, and the community are more likely to produce effective landscape-wide management than would ownership or management of federal public lands by the state of Colorado,” according to the resolution.

Engels said the Board should also be watching very closely the attempt to return public lands back to the counties. Sheriff Hartman said a current bill would take law enforcement authority from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

“A modified part of that makes sense, but we don’t want to get into the compliance phase of timber management. Here it could be mineral,” Hartman said. Most criminal activities are handled locally even if the crime was committed on federal lands.
Utah has had significant issues not getting along with Federal partners, Hartman said. “We get along great with ours. We work with them closely. We’re in opposition to this.”

The Board approved the resolution. To begin the meeting, Watson asked Public Works Director Bill Paulman about the status of dust suppressant for the Exhibit Barn at the County’s Fairgrounds. This was sparked by a passing comment that work on the dust suppressant was not complete.

The dust suppressant was budgeted last year, Watson said, but they could roll over the expense to this year’s budget. She had been wondering about the use of the Exhibit Barn, and staff member Vicky Nemec pulled up notes from a 2005 work session about potential use of the barn.

Paulman said the barn has a wide variety of uses, such as weddings, exhibits, the Gilpin County Animal Rescue team and housing animals there. “To get the floor in a condition that makes everybody happy is virtually impossible,” Paulman said.
They had discussed removable floors, but that didn’t go forward because of the expense, Paulman said. They would put down the dust suppressant once a year. “We have put flooring in there, and it’s labor intensive because of the unevenness of the dirt.

Engels said the Board could look at options and the cost of doing something different. “We’re talking later about potential large ticket items, and this is a small ticket item,” Engels said. “It probably does need to be attended to. It was budgeted last year so let’s roll that forward and then talk about other ideas as we move forward.”

The Board approved allocating $2,500 for the dust suppressant.