Friday, November 09, 2012

Ravalli County Commission approves natural resource policy

Despite a last-minute appeal by critics asking for more time, the Ravalli County commissioners unanimously approved a natural resource policy Thursday morning. The commission contends the policy will help guide the county in future dealings with public lands managers, including the U.S. Forest Service. Much of the public comment Thursday came from citizens concerned that the county is overreaching with its new policy and that commissioners have not taken enough time to find the middle ground between different interest groups. The policy was initially written by a group of citizens mostly concerned with the economic and environmental impacts of national forest management in and around the Bitterroot Valley. Last spring, the group’s proposed natural resource plan was offered to the commission. In a series of public meetings that began in May, the commission went over the proposed policy sentence by sentence and made changes. Over the past few weeks, the commission has considered an alternative policy written by a group of eight county residents who were especially concerned about the county’s position on “coordination.” Commissioners point to federal environmental law they say opens the door for the county to have a special seat at the table under the term “coordination.” At Thursday’s meeting, Kelsey Milner of Hamilton said that aspect of the county’s policy “smells like county supremacy and an assault on public lands.”...more

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