Briefs: County

By Katherine Nettles

Whetstone delegation of authority

At their regular meeting on February 6, Gunnison County commissioners approved a motion to delegate financial authority to county manager Matthew Birnie for the purposes of overseeing development of the Whetstone Community housing project near Brush Creek. This allows Birnie to execute all contracts, agreements, applications and other documents and take all actions on behalf of Gunnison County related to Whetstone.

Commissioner Jonathan Houck said the delegation of authority wasn’t anything new so much as memorializing and consolidating previous delegations of authority to help move things along and have a formal document in place. “We have moved to a point in this project where the board’s authorization has to be in place so Matthew can act on behalf of the board to sign contracts and be nimble with time frames around grants, loans and payments,” he said. Houck added that it wouldn’t change commissioner expectations to be notified and informed about the process and progress along the way. 

The delegation of financial authority is specific to the Whetstone project and can be rescinded at any time.

TAPP, STOR and other appointments

Gunnison County commissioners made several appointments to various boards and commissions earlier this month. Acting as the Local Marketing District (LMD) board, they appointed Bill Ronai and Kendal Rota to the Gunnison County Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP), serving three-year terms, and Chris Miller to serve a partial term through February 2026. 

They appointed Hedda Peterson, and reappointed Dave Ochs, Kim Schappert and LB Mullin, to the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) committee for two-year terms. Andrew Sandstrom was reappointed as a TAPP representative. Eric Phillips was appointed as a full-time member of the Gunnison County planning commission for a three-year term, and Bill Barvitski and Katherine McBreen were named as part-time alternate members for one-year terms.

Commissioners reappointed Shary Templeton to the cemetery board until 2031, and reappointed Dr. John Tarr as County medical health officer for a stipend of $100 per month. Melodie Roper and Susan Wyman were appointed to the Colorado State University extension advisory committee for three years, and Peter Caloger was appointed to the Gunnison sage grouse strategic committee as an at-large regular member for a two-year term. To the land preservation board, commissioners reappointed Sandra Guerrieri to a four-year term. Colleen Hannon was appointed to the Region 10 transportation board for a one-year term and CJ Malcolm was reappointed to the Western Regional EMS council for a four-year term. 

They appointed Kerry Lefebvre and Heather Thiessen Reily to the library board of trustees for five-year terms. 

BLM comment letters

Commissioners also approved two separate comment letters to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the agency’s Resource Management Plan Amendment (RMPA) for Big Game Habitat for Oil and Gas Management in Colorado and for its Gunnison Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan Amendment, Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The shorter, simpler letter was regarding the RMPA around big game habitat planning. The BLM is considering new resource management planning decisions related to oil and gas development potential for key habitat areas of big game species—specifically for elk, mule deer and pronghorn sheep (bighorn sheep habitat is omitted because it primarily occurs at higher elevations with low oil and gas potential). Gunnison County is a cooperating agency to the process and asked that future drafts “align with both state and Gunnison County oil and gas regulations by more severely restricting or prohibiting mineral development in sensitive or high priority habitat areas.” 

Second, the county asked that the RMPA ensure full overlap and compatibility with the Thompson Divide Mineral Withdraw and other ongoing conservation planning efforts.

Regarding the Gunnison sage grouse RMPA, the county had more extensive comments. These primarily support the county’s perspective that the Gunnison sage grouse population is “highly resilient,” well supported locally and should not be characterized under the same general “long-term downward trends” as other satellite populations or treated with the same management strategy. The comments also detailed several specific considerations for the BLM’s Gunnison Field office related to sage grouse habitat and climate/environmental factors.

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