MONTROSE – The Montrose County Commissioners denied a $5,000 funding request on Monday from the Public Lands Partnership.
The request was continued from the commissioners’ May 6 meeting, at which Public Lands Partnership Executive Committee member Jim Free made the funding request. The nonprofit relies on its local government organization members, including the cities of Delta and Montrose, and San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose and Delta counties, to provide funding for its basic operations, which PLP uses, as leverage, to garner grant funding for projects to help oversee the region’s public lands, and to employ an executive director and grant-writer.
PLP’s mission is to promote public education and awareness of economic and environmental issues related to the public lands in the region, while providing a forum to air different sides of natural resource issues. The nonprofit recently had a hand in obtaining a 10-year, $8.5 million grant for a forest recovery project covering approximately 555,300 acres on the Uncompahgre Plateau.
All three commissioners voiced concerns on Monday about funding an organization that works to complete projects on federal lands which should have been completed already by federal agencies.
“Here we are taking taxpayer money to take care of the problems taxpayers have already paid for,” Commissioner Ron Henderson said. “I am seriously against [funding] the PLP. They are not taking care of our federal resources management.
“We would be better off,” Henderson continued, “taking that $5,000 and suing the government with a lawsuit. There has got to be a change. The fact of the matter is we need to go ahead and do something different. Doing something over and over again is the definition of insanity and this is insane.”
Commissioner Gary Ellis voiced interest in giving funding to the American Lands Council in order to get federal lands back into the hands of the state, with Henderson saying that funding the Utah-based organization would probably have to wait until next year’s budget cycle.
The PLP funding request was denied, due to the lack of a motion on the matter.
Support for Sheriff Dunlap’s Fight Against Gun Control
The Montrose County Commissioners offered full support Monday to Sheriff Rick Dunlap’s opposition of state gun control legislation, recently signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Dunlap is one of 54 Colorado sheriffs who have joined a lawsuit in federal court charging that gun-control legislation, recently signed into law by Hickenlooper, is an unconstitutional restriction of Second Amendment rights.
All three commissioners voted in favor of the resolution supporting Dunlap’s opposition to the gun-control legislation.
“On behalf of myself and the 54 sheriffs, I thank you for your support,” Dunlap told the commissioners, following the passage of the resolution. “More importantly, it's the citizens of this county that also have your backing.”
A good portion of those attending the meeting gave Dunlap a standing ovation.
“I think this needs to be done,” said county resident Elaine Pigford. “We back him totally in what he is doing. We are on the right track.”
Commissioner Gary Ellis asked Dunlap if the Independence Institute, which is representing the sheriffs in the legal action, may need further monetary support in its fight.
“There are a lot of citizens donating money to this at this present time,” Dunlap answered. “I don’t see a need.”
Still, Ellis said, the county may be willing to offer some funding if need be.
“If it happens, I am sure we could do our part to support this,” Ellis said.
Seasonal Road Closure Passes With Sage Grouse in Mind
In accordance with a memorandum of understanding Montrose county signed last April with 10 other county governments to work to increase Gunnison sage grouse populations, the Montrose Board of County Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved of a seasonal road closure near the Crawford area.
As a result, Montrose County Road C77 near Crawford will be closed to motorized vehicles March 15 to May 15 each year. According to Montrose County Governmental Affairs Director Jon Waschbusch, there are six sage grouse leks in the area, representing the most significant concentration of the species in Montrose County. The county road, he said, is a route that starts and ends entirely on Bureau of Land Management lands and it does not receive winter maintenance.
The Gunnison sage grouse is proposed to be listed as an endangered species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Following that proposal, which includes designating more than 1.7 million acres of critical habitat, Montrose County was one of eleven local governments in western Colorado and eastern Utah who pledged to work together to increase the species population.