Bald eagles ruled the roost at Monday’s Garfield County Commissioner (BOCC) meeting. Photos of eaglets in nests, eagles perched in trees, and eagles swooping for fish in the Roaring Fork river accompanied a presentation of the results of a new study by Roaring Fork Audubon of the Eagle Nest Buffer Zone (ENBZ) at Aspen Glen, a high-end subdivision between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
Bald eagles are no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act but are still protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The local study proves that the raptors still have a home at Aspen Glen, and supports the BOCC’s 2021 decision to maintain the ENBZ as outlined in the 1992 Aspen Glen Planned Unit Development. Aspen Glen Golf Co claimed in 2021 that, since the original “eagle tree” had blown down in a storm, eagles no longer resided in the buffer zone; ergo, the land should be freed up for development. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife said at the time that the eagles had probably moved on.
But, Monday’s presentation proved in stunning detail that not only do eagles roost, nest, perch and forage within the ENBZ, but elk also use it as winter range and mule deer are present year-round. Volunteers noted that ENBZ riparian areas support native bird species, including the great blue heron, turkey vultures, songbirds, corvids, mallard ducks and hawks. Foxes, bobcats and bears were also sighted during the year-long study.
“So, life goes on with the eagles in Aspen Glen,” said local ecologist and Audubon volunteer Delia Malone, who gave the bulk of Monday’s presentation.
Prior to the ENBZ discussion, the BOCC, absent Chair John Martin, heard from the Rifle Rotary Club, suggesting more Latino participation in Rotary and in community decisions. Commissioners were receptive to the idea. Tom Jankovsky said that the county’s Latino Community Committee (LCC) has not met since November 2022 and would like to see it revived. The board also heard from Garfield County resident Sean Parsons about a portion of County Road 233 as well as updates from Youth Zone, River Bridge Regional Center, Yampah Mountain High School’s Teen Parenting Program, county public health immunizations and EBT/EFT disbursements for March.
Paula Stepp and Morgan Hill of the Middle Colorado Watershed Council provided project updates. They also requested and received $15,000 from the county’s nonprofit general fund for annual support and continued post-Grizzly Creek Fire water quality monitoring.
County landfill director Deb Fiscus told the BOCC that the landfill has reached capacity at the main site. She added that methane is migrating out of the landfill and dissipating into the air per state protocols. Revenues are at $438,422 so far this year. Expenses came in at $285,114.
Robert Weidner, lobbyist with the Rural Public Lands County Council, gave his quarterly update remotely on the county’s legislative priorities in Washington, D.C. He stated that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), with whom the BOCC met in February, voiced support for legislation related to historic R.S. 2477 rights-of-way roads.
Weidner is organizing opposition to the proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulations that, pursuant to the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, would add conservation as a land use comparable to livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling, recreation and other uses. The BOCC is against the proposed regulations. Weidner views them as a “mortal threat” to historic multiple use principles.
“The BLM acts as if we are not already conservation-minded in every multiple use activity that we do,” he said. “It is already inculcated in every one of us when we go out and we drill and we mine and we grade and we use the public lands for off-road vehicle use. We are conscious of conservation already.”
Commissioner Mike Samson mentioned his disdain for President Biden’s 30 by 30 Initiative to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and fresh water plus 30% of U.S. oceans by 2030. “They want to call it ‘America the Beautiful’ and I think that’s sacrilegious,” opined Samson. “The 30/30 land grab is what I call it.”
After further discussion about global natural gas needs and the potential for Garfield County to fill those needs, Weidner mentioned the defunct Jordan Cove liquid natural gas and pipeline project, whose denial by the State of Oregon was upheld by the federal government in 2021. Weidner did not seem to know much about the project or its status. Samson said that efforts are now focused on a pipeline to Mexico, blaming the urban politics of Portland for the demise of Jordan Cove.
Weidner said he met last week with Democratic Congresswoman Val Hoyle, who represents Coos Bay, Oregon, which would have been home to the Jordan Cove liquid natural gas plant. He asked the BOCC if they thought it would be worth it to talk to Hoyle about reversing the Jordan Cove decision. “I’d love to talk to her personally,” gushed Samson. “I still, in the heart of my hearts, would love to see the [Jordan Cove project] go forward,” adding that it would be a win-win for the West, Japan, Germany and other foreign markets.