October 28, 2016
Uncompahgre Field Office
2465 Townsend Ave.
Montrose, CO 81401
Comments on the Draft RMP/EIS for the Uncompahgre Field Office
Adam Gall, Colorado BHA Assistant Central West Slope Regional Director
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Adam Gall and I am submitting my comments on behalf of the Colorado Chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. I represent our State Chapter as the Habitat Watchman for the Gunnison NF and as the Assistant Regional Director for the Central Western Slope. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is a grass roots organization of sportsmen and women who strongly believe in the principals of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model and the value of our public lands for fish and wildlife habitat and the traditional fishing and hunting opportunities that are available to all sportsmen. As a group of sportsmen, we are highly dependent upon our public lands to support the fish and wildlife species we all enjoy. We believe in the conservation and management of fish and wildlife habitats on our public lands, and in providing undisturbed backcountry areas for fish and wildlife and the opportunity for traditional methods of hunting and fishing that challenge us physically and mentally and emphasize the principals of fair chase.
Our membership can also be characterized as families who enjoy undisturbed backcountry for reasons other than hunting and fishing. We cherish the opportunity to venture into areas free of the noise and activity of OHV’s and bicycles to enjoy the peace and solitude of the outdoors with our friends and family on river trips, day hikes, backpacking trips, and horse pack trips. We also strongly feel that these opportunities should not only be available to us now but to our future generations as well.
As an organization, there is concern regarding the Uncompahgre Field Office’s plan to open up nearly all the BLM ground surrounding the North Fork Valley to oil and gas leasing as their preferred Alternative D indicates in their draft Resource Management Plan. The negative impact this would have on hunting opportunities would be significant in terms of habitat loss, fragmentation and reduced access to our public lands.
Taking a specific look at one location, Oak Mesa falls into the category of lands available to leasing. Oak Mesa is part of a major migration corridor for elk and mule deer that come off the Grand Mesa and down into their traditional winter ranges. The undisturbed habitat of this area allows for healthy big game herds and a robust hunting economy. There are no established roads, virtually no habitat fragmentation and very little human impact other than during hunting season. Numerous studies exist indicating roads and/or habitat fragmentation as a leading cause of declining and/or unhealthy ungulate populations.
Additional winter ranges that would be compromised by across-the-board leasing would be the entire Lone Cabin region east of Paonia, the lower Minnesota Creek area and the largely undeveloped sagebrush-dominated landscape between the town of Hotchkiss and Crawford.
Along with disrupting historical winter range, numerous watersheds that feed the North Fork of the Gunnison and the Smith Fork would be literally surrounded by leases. These are both major tributaries of the main Gunnison River which is world famous for it’s Gold Medal trout waters that bring in fishermen, women and children from every state in the lower 48.
The hunting and fishing opportunities one can experience in the North Fork Valley are world-class. These industries are robust, well-managed and, perhaps most importantly, reliable, year after year, decade after decade. There is no boom and bust component to the hunting and fishing industries.
The concept of sacrificing the stability and reliability of well established economies revolving around clean water and healthy habitat for fish and big game for yet another boom and bust stab at resource extraction is unacceptable. It flies in the face of the BLM’s own initiative of Connecting with Communities that they have proposed in their own outreach programs.
The North Fork Valley communities have worked hard over the last 5 years to put together their own proposal for oil and gas leasing in the North Fork Valley. On behalf of the Colorado Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, I am asking the BLM to choose the North Fork Alternative B1 and all other reasonable conservation protections in Alternative B.
I would love the opportunity to discuss this further with you. I can be reached at 970-527-5430.
Thank you for your time.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers