Northwest Colorado Stewardship

Posted: Feb 1, 2005

The Northwest Colorado Stewardship (NWCOS) is located in Moffat County, Colorado where the Yampa, Green and Little Snake rivers drain the high steppes of this northwest corner of Colorado.

Objective: NWCOS seeks to engage a wide diversity of local interests in working together to find solutions to previously intractable natural resource management issues.

 Breaking for lunch during field tour
Courtesy Northwest Colorado Stewardship
History: The Northwest Colorado Stewardship got off the ground with its first meeting in April 2003. The group evolved from the Northwest Colorado Working Landscape Pilot Project, a Moffat County proposal to improve community input into land management decisions. The proposal stemmed from a statewide county government initiative to involve county governments in wilderness designations, many of which left western slope residents feeling left out of the process.

In a clubhouse west of town, ranchers sat next to environmentalists, while county officials and state employees rubbed elbows with federal land management staff. When the Sept. 16 meeting was concluded, the Northwest Colorado Stewardship had laid the foundation for collaborating in land management decisions that have historically been polarizing questions in this far corner of Colorado.

Most of the land in Moffat County is managed by the federal government, making public land management a critical concern for the more than 13,000 county residents. In recent years, the county has seen mineral development vying with wilderness proposals from environmental groups in an area where ranching is still an important economic activity.

Accomplishments: Using The Nature Conservancy's Fire Learning Workshop program, the group has developed an integrated fire management plan for the Seven Mile/Bald Mountain area of the County. The group participated in all steps of the project and saw through implementation of the project on the ground.

The group also worked to assist with the development of an updated Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Little Snake BLM District. Neutral mediator Kristi Parker Celico of The Keystone Center was retained to facilitate the process.  Although NWCOS fell short of its goal of providing BLM with a complete community alternative for the plan, the group succeeded in developing consensus goals and objectives and provided input on the  socio-economic study and other aspects of the Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP).  The community felt that the BLM understood their concerns and that the Draft RMP is a better document because of the collaborative effort.  Communication and linkages within the community were also strengthened. 

In February 2006, the group came to realize there was not enough decision space to come to consensus on some of the more contentious issues, including a management plan for Vermillion Basin, and decided to disband.  The last two informational meetings were held in March and April 2006.  However, the Little Snake Draft RMP/EIS was released for public comment in February 2007 and can be accessed here.

Challenges/constraints: The group tackled the contentious territory of oil and gas development, official wilderness study areas and citizen proposed wilderness areas. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) was an issue in determining how the group worked with the BLM to develop the RMP in this new "out of the box" process. The BLM has integrated adaptive management in the Draft RMP structure, which was a challenge, and continues to explore ways of creating flexibility so that plans can change if the anticipated outcomes are not being met.

For more information see:

Northwest Colorado Stewardship

Little Snake BLM Resource Management Plan
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