It appears that a proposed realignment of Bureau of Land Management district lines will take effect Oct. 2 as planned, despite objections form San Juan County officials.
District BLM leaders and county commissioners met Wednesday in Silverton to discuss the plan, which would remove San Juan County from the Tres Rios field office and place it in the Gunnison field office. Local officials protest that this change would degrade service from and communication with the BLM, though the federal agency assured that staff members stationed in Silverton would remain in town.
The Silverton Standard & the Miner reported Thursday that southwest district manager Barb Sharrow apologized to county commissioners about the way the change was communicated, but said the decision was “pretty much a ‘done deal’” designed to equally distribute workload and resources.
It would also consolidate the Alpine Loop between Silverton and Lake City under one field office.
Pete McKay, San Juan County commissioner, told the Durango Herald he felt that BLM officials “listened politely,” but nothing is going to change.
“It’s a bad management decision done in the worst possible way,” McKay said. “It was a top-down, unilateral decision, and it should have been done the other way around.”
The BLM’s failure to communicate with locals during the decision-making process was an affront to the county, commissioners said, and the state delegation agreed.
Yet the realignment does not seem to be as imposing to the outdoor recreation industry.
Lizzie Loyer, co-owner of Rock Pirates Backcountry Adventures in Silverton, said the company has been in business 10 years and seen multiple BLM administrative changes.
“It was a surprise, but the BLM’s claim is that they’ll actually have more resources here,” Loyer said. “If that is the case, I don’t see this as a problem.”
Steven Hall, spokesperson for the BLM State Office, said the change would benefit the recreation industry. For example, outfitters operating in the Alpine Loop area would deal with one field office for permitting as opposed to two, he said.
But the realignment could be swapping a recreational inconvenience for an environmental one.
Jimbo Buickerood, public lands manager for San Juan Citizens Alliance, has also spoken out against the realignment, because watersheds should dictate district lines, he said.
“The big kahuna is acid mine drainage,” he said. “District lines should keep anything to do with the Animas watershed under one field office.”
San Juan County will meet with the state office in July.