Our Views: County’s public lands panel will ensure local voices are heard

October 7, 2018

Mohave County, at 13,461 square miles, is the fifth largest county in the United States. Much of the land here is owned by the federal government. The state has a large stake too. So it’s a little surprising that it’s taken this long for Mohave County to get organized when it comes to public land matters. Thankfully, there’s no time like the present.

Mohave County Supervisors agreed last week to form a public lands committee, which would advise supervisors on matters of recreation on public land.

Some are skeptical of attempts to form another layer of government bureaucracy, but it’s clear that the county supervisors could use some advice from the experts.

Already, we’re seeing some good come from the county’s commitment to work with local public land enthusiasts. The decision to form the public lands committee comes after the Bureau of Land Management was seeking feedback on an overreaching plan that could close up to 1,600 miles of trails used by off-roaders on public lands throughout Mohave County. So-called travel management plans, like many federal initiatives, are rooted in good intentions but based on outdated and tone-deaf assumptions about the areas they seek to control. The Kingman-area plan, for instance, would close nearly 30 percent of the county’s 5,500 miles of recreational trails. That’s a big change.

Because of agitation by local off-road groups, including the Havasu 4-Wheelers, the county sought a time extension from the BLM; the federal agency ultimately agreed to give the process 60 more days.

Hopefully, there will be some attempt by the BLM to reconcile the goals of the travel management plan with local needs.

Federal requests for feedback on policy changes often get little attention until someone makes a stink. Luckily, someone made a stink this time.

Next time, thanks to Mohave County’s new public lands commission, local government will be paying closer attention.

— Today’s News-Herald

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