Urge the Grant County Board of Commissioners to ensure that equal benefit is provided to the public for any loss of public road access or acreage with the abandonment of 4.5 miles of Bald Knoll Road in Grant County. Send a short, personal and respectful email to all commission members listed below no later than August 15. Plan to attend the next County Commissioner meeting on Thursday, August 23 to provide comments if you are able. A resolution on the closure will be presented at 9am and the public will be able to provide comment for or against the proposal. The meeting will be held at the Grant County Administration Center, 1400 Highway 180 East, Silver City, New Mexico.
Grant County Board of Commissioners:
- District 1: Chris Ponce - [email protected]
- District 2: Javier “Harvey” Salas - [email protected]
- District 3: Alicia Edwards - [email protected]
- District 4: Billy Billings - [email protected]
- District 5: Harry Brown - [email protected]
A lack of access is cited by sportsmen and women as the No. 1 reason
why we stop pursuing our outdoor traditions
Bald Knoll Road Abandonment - Issue Background
BHA was alerted to a possible road closure resolution in Grant County by one of our local members a few weeks ago. We immediately sent a letter to the Grant County Board of Commissioners (read our original letter here) urging robust discussion and public comment before approving the resolution.
The Grant County Road and Planning Departments have already approved the resolution to abandon 4.5 miles of Bald Knoll Road (Road Department Recommendation) (see the Bald Knoll Abandonment Packet here) noting the county’s inability to fund the $6K annual road maintenance budget.
The County Road and Planning Departments approved the abandonment despite BLM Assistant District Manager David Wallace stating in an August 2021 letter that “Bald Knoll Road provides limited legal and physical access to approximately 5,000 acres of contiguous public and state lands and is on record as being held legally on public land by Grant County under BLM serial number NMNM 052981. A County decision to abandon this road would likely negatively affect the public’s use of these lands. The public should be afforded the right to legal and physical access for the continued use and enjoyment of their public and state lands.” (read the full letter here)
The abandonment has been approved by the Road Department (see Road Dept. recommendation here) and Road Abandonment Committee. Now the decision is entirely up to the Grant County Board of Commissioners. Fortunately, the county commissioners opted to remove this resolution from the agenda for their 6/23 Regular Meeting and shifted this item to their 6/21 Work Session Meeting for additional discussion. The next Work Session Meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 9 and their next Regular Meeting will be held on Thursday, August 11. A Resolution will be presented at the August 11 meeting by the Planning & Community Development Department.
The proposed closure is approximately 4.6 miles up the road from its origin at McCauley Road. Landowners from the adjacent ranches want to install a locked gate at this point. While it may seem that this partial road closure will result in limited public access loss, it’s concerning that relevant stakeholders are not taking a more active role in determining the true long-term impacts to public access if this closure is approved. Bald Knoll Road is a public road and has been for many decades. Any closure or transfer of ownership to private interests should include equal recompense to the public for its loss of public land and access for both current and future generations of Americans.
- If the proposed gate is installed, the public immediately loses access to 40 acres of BLM land that will become landlocked.
- Recreationists and hunters will still be able to access the BLM and state land north/northwest of Bald Knoll Road by walking. However, a designated and clearly marked parking area should be considered to facilitate public access.
- If the right of way is transferred from the BLM to the private landowners, we are highly concerned that private landowners will request the closure of the entirety of the road, starting at its eastern origin point, where it meets with McCauley Road. There is already a no trespassing sign on the first cattleguard to falsely deter public access (see page 4 of the maps document titled “Existing signage deterring public access”).
- This area is valuable to hunters, recreationists, and naturalists alike. This proposed closure is in GMU 23 (see GMU 23 map here) just NW of the Burro Mountains. Our understanding is that the area provides great deer hunting for both Coues and mule deer and produces trophy quality bucks. Access is already very limited south of Bald Knoll Road, and we'd like to see hunting access expanded, or at the very least, maintained. Local residents, hunters and guides have verified that this part of GMU 23 is heavily used during deer season. We have also been in touch with members of the Gila Native Plant Society, one of which is a botanist and professor at Western New Mexico University who takes his students on field trips in the area.
- The closure of this portion of road sets a precedent for additional unjustified road closures in Grant County in the future. If the county approves the abandonment, the BLM would be forced to transfer its current right of way over to the landowners making the request (see BLM Right of way agreement here). As Grant County Commissioner Harry Brown stated in the 6/21 working session, “I’ve heard some concern, I wouldn’t call it overwhelming concern, from public land access advocates that doing this shouldn’t be the default. We shouldn’t just say ok it’s too expensive to maintain access to public lands and so therefore we’re going to abandon roads and that we shouldn’t do it so casually.”
It is widely recognized by key decision makers at the state and federal levels and the conservation and recreation communities that efforts should be made to increase rather than decrease the public’s access to landlocked parcels. The TRCP onX Landlocked Report (read it here) states, “The American people are currently locked out of 9.52 million acres of our own public lands.” Access has emerged as a priority issue for American hunters and anglers, and lack of access is cited by sportsmen and women as the No. 1 reason why we stop pursuing our outdoor traditions.
We have suggested a number of alternatives to decision makers and feel there are multiple options to provide the public with some benefit, rather than a complete loss of 4.5 miles of previously accessible road and a 40-acre public parcel.