A letter from the U.S. Forest Service to the BOCC described a number of circumstances in which fires are actually beneficial to the landscape, but are being suppressed due to current policy. The suppression of these fires comes at a considerable cost, both in terms of dollars and in terms of personnel; and in some situations, firefighters work to extinguish wildfires in areas where they might later ignite prescribed burns.
The Forest Service letter also described adjacent Bureau of Land Management and National Park service lands within the Montrose Interagency Fire Management Unit and the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit that already have the option to manage wildland fires under specified conditions. Expanding this fire management policy to include Forest Service lands would provide consistency across agency boundaries, it suggested.
In support of the Forest Plan Amendment, the commissioners requested careful consideration from the U.S. Forest Service regarding the effects of smoke on population centers and visibility in wilderness areas, and asked that wildland fires be avoided when they may violate air quality standards in population centers.
Commissioners Agree to Partial Funding of Water Quality Assessment
The BOCC agreed to provide $7,000 in a joint-funding agreement between San Miguel County and the U.S. Geological Survey to support the Southwestern Colorado Retrospective Assessment Project, a program designed to combine data and findings of numerous limited-scope studies into a single comprehensive baseline assessment of water resources in Southwestern Colorado. San Miguel County is the first county to support such a program in the area.
In the planned Retrospective Assessment Project, a water-quality database will be created from numerous agencies and groups as a repository for data in the future. A comprehensive U.S. Geological Survey-approved report describing factors affecting water quality will be written. This report will provide watershed residents and planners with an historical perspective of hydrologic, geologic, land-use and biological factors that directly relate to current conditions.
Previously, water quality evaluations in Southwestern Colorado have been limited in scope. Local, state, tribal and federal agencies have acknowledged a lack of analysis of the data, and expressed a desire for a compilation of water-resource findings.
Data will be collected from the Dolores and San Juan River watersheds including the San Miguel River, Mancos River, Mc Elmo Creek, Yellow Jacket Canyon, La Plata River, Animas River, Florida River, Los Pinos River and Piedra River.
Commissioner Art Goodtimes said at Tuesday’s meeting, “We applaud this project and we definitely want to give our support to this.”
Donation Request Denied
County Commissioners denied the request for a $2,000 donation to the Town of Ophir for assistance with the 2007 Ophir Valley Task Force expenses. Commissioners agreed that they needed to see what the money would be used for specifically before the donation could be granted.
The Ophir Valley Task Force is a nine-member group appointed by the Town of Ophir and San Miguel County seeking Land and Water Conservation Fund money to acquire 1,200 acres of land owned by the Pauls family in Ophir. It is probable that an initial and partial LWCF appropriation of $1,000,000 will be made early this year, which could enable the first phase transaction between the Pauls, the Trust for Public Lands, and the U.S. Forest Service, but other sources of funding are still needed to fully acquire the land.