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Know the West

Babbitt begins range reform

  Despite requests for yet another delay by Western senators plus a lawsuit from the livestock industry, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt traveled to Grand Junction, Colo., Aug. 22 to launch the first phase of his grazing reform.

Accompanied by Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, Babbitt announced members of three Resource Advisory Councils in Colorado, where ranchers, environmentalists and government officials first recommended the creation of locally based groups. Smiling and upbeat, Babbitt said, "This is a momentous day. We are beginning a new chapter on range issues in the West." He divided council members equally among commodity groups, environmental and non-commodity interests, and state and local government representatives. They will advise the Bureau of Land Management on mining, timber and recreation as well as grazing.

However, Congress could still put its own stamp on range reform, a point underscored by T. Wright Dickenson, a rancher and council appointee from Maybell, Colo. "Bruce, we're going to get Congress to convey all BLM lands back to the states," Dickenson told Secretary Babbitt. "Be my guest," Babbitt responded, "but in the meantime, let's work together."

* Rick Keister