OURAY COUNTY TOP mistletoe mitigation to proceed
By Bill Tiedje
The Board of Ouray County Commissioners reached an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to allow the clearing of mistletoe-infected trees on the county-owned Top Of The Pines forest preserve during its regular meeting on Aug. 5.
The county will pay the BLM $1.19 for purchase of the trees’ biomass.
Last year, the county approved the use of $10,000 from the general fund, plus a $10,000 matching grant administered by the West Region Wildfire Council, to remove the diseased trees on the property.
Under the agreement, no tree products can leave Top of the Pines property.
The low bidder on the project, Phil Gould of Handcraft Log and Timber, will have until the end of 2014 to complete the project.
Chris Barth, BLM Southwest District Fire Mitigation Specialist, added that an extension until April 2015 might be possible.
BOCC Chair Lynn Padgett said, "$10,000 is a big deal given all the other circumstances," in regard to the use of monies in the general fund.
Padgett queried what ability the BLM had to manage and address forest health issues on BLM lands.
BLM Field Manager Barbara Sharrow responded that her office was allocated monies to address forest health issues on only 10 acres this year out of a total of 850,000 acres of various BLM-managed stands.
"Obviously, we have to prioritize whatever comes in," said Sharrow, explaining priority of treatment areas includes several factors such as proximity to urban areas.
While a memorandum of understanding has not yet been reached between the county and BLM for previous tree removal projects, Sharrow indicated she would be in touch with County Attorney Marti Whitmore on the subject.
Padgett expressed her thanks to BLM staff for visiting the site to inspect the project.
Sharrow also informed the county of a Gunnison sage grouse public scoping meeting to be held in Montrose on Aug. 6 (after press time).
She explained a series of meetings would be held across the Western Slope and Utah to gather public input for an Environmental Impact Statement on Gunnison sage grouse protections in BLM resource management plans.
"I think our county should be in there," said Padgett.
Padgett stated the only "so called" occupied habitat in the county, as identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is located in an irrigated pasture on a parcel that had been built out (with a home on the property).
Sharrow added that the EIS would address only BLM lands.
Also on Tuesday, Ken Emory of the Western Slope 4 Wheelers Club and Rich Jakino presented the county with two checks for $500.
The $1,000 total donation to the county was given in support of the Alpine Ranger program.
Emory and Jakino also requested the county apply for a grant to assist in repair of the Imogene Pass bridge in the Yankee Boy Basin and discussed signs on various portions of the county's off-highway trail systems.
In other business, the county approved increasing the county building inspector's hours from 32 to 36 due to an increased workload, approved an exemption for the modification of two legal, non conforming lots located at 16750 Highway 550 north of Ouray and found two wireless communication tower modifications did not constitute "substantial changes."
The BOCC did, however, direct Land Use staff to review post-installation photographs of all communications towers to make sure specified changes had been completed.