Posted: May 25, 2012 10:43 AM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX News)
Updated: May 25, 2012 10:44 AM
HAMILTON- Ravalli County commissioners say there's a "lot of work to be done" with a proposed policy giving the county more of a day in federal land management issues. But board members say the draft worked out by a citizens' committee is a "good start".
The policy was written by the Bitterroot Natural Resource Recovery Committee and aims to use a provision in federal law that requires agencies like the Forest Service to involve local governments more fully in managing things like timber, water and recreation.
The draft generated a split reaction during the first public hearing in Hamilton Thursday. Supporters say it brings decision making back to the local level. But critics say the proposal is "biased", ignoring the more complete federal process for local input.
Commissioners say there is a lot of work to be done to craft the proposal into a working policy, but add they believe it is a place for discussions to start.
"Will this word-for-word, comma-for-comma be our adopted policy? That's unlikely. Because we're going to take it through another very public process. But in the end it gives us a written document from which to start the dialog with the Forest Service in their planning process," Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott said.
"Not necessarily the entire answer but it's a start to work from and you can always make it better. But to not have one is to not have a position at the table when discussions come up," fellow commissioner JR Iman added.
Bitterroot National Forest managers, who've already been meeting regularly with the county, say they stand ready to cooperate as the policy is developed, although they have stressed their existing planning already incorporates local views.