County backs off proposed wildlife rules
BURNS ” Ranchers in the Burns area turned out by the dozens Wednesday to voice their concerns regarding a set of proposed county wildlife regulations. By the time the meeting of the local cattlemen’s association was over, county commissioners Tom Stone and Peter Runyon had agreed to revisit the proposal in favor of more discussions on a compromise solution.
Runyon, who led the effort to draft the regulations, said he knew he was going into a tough crowd by attending the meeting, but rancher Susan Nottingham praised him and Stone for attending.
“I give a lot of credit to Peter,” she said. “He listened, and in the end he did the right thing.”
The proposed regulations had to do with land use and wildlife. The gist of it concerned new development on parcels of land over 35 acres, which applies mostly to ranches in the Burns area in northwestern Eagle County.
Runyon said the concern stemmed from other ranches in Eagle County and other parts of the West that had been sold and broken up into 35-acre ranchettes. From the county’s point of view, he said, such far-flung development was hard to provide with buses, roads and other county services, and also had a tendency to disturb wildlife habitat and migration routes.
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The ranchers, though, saw the regulations as an attempt by government to dictate what they could do with their land. They also said the rules could have a chilling effect on wildlife, since ranchers would be less likely to support habitat on their land if they thought the land was being devalued by strict rules about how it could be developed.
“We think we need to separate the wildlife issue from the land-use issue and deal with them in separate ways,” Nottingham said. “The landowners have agreed to work with the county to come up with something better.”
For Runyon, part of the problem came from an early draft of the regulation circulating among the ranchers before more of the details were worked out. But he acknowledged that the ranchers had some good points, and that they should have been involved earlier.
“Clearly they thought we had differences of opinion, and I’m sure we do, but we probably have more agreement than disagreement,” Runyon said. “But we don’t necessarily want to dot the backcountry of Eagle County with 35-acre ranchettes.”
To that end, he said the commissioners would likely direct county planners to look at a revised solution that includes more clustering of development.
“That’s the land-use buzzword these days to put it all in one spot and leave other areas open,” he said. “It’s less of a threat to wildlife and it preserves the scenic.”
Runyon said he and Stone would soon meet with third commissioner Arn Menconi to discuss the next steps and direction for county staff.
“We don’t want to trample over people’s rights,” he said. “I think if we work hard, we can achieve common goals.”
Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado