May 6, 2019 Op-Ed
Protecting our "natural" qualities in Routt County
As we go about our daily routines in life, we can easily forget about all the things that make Routt County the place we cherish and love. We can forget about the things that have either brought us here or kept us here in our valley of pride.
Occasionally, we must stop and ground ourselves and analyze what makes our community the special place that it is to each of us. It probably isn’t the same for all, but it most likely has a guiding theme of“ natural.”
For me, what makes this county so special is how we have enhanced and protected the natural breath taking qualities of the valley which includes close to 50% public lands. We’ve done that while striving to minimize and understand the negative impacts of human habitation.
Many of the best qualities of our valley are man-made but most are a product of nature that demand our purposeful attention and protection. The qualities that come to mind revolve around clean air, clean water, beautiful vistas, outdoor recreation/wildlife opportunities and healthy lifestyles.
These values are ever so critical to our quality of life, but none of them are free, none are an accident and all have been sustained by the thoughtful nurturing by those who preceded us. Our predecessors were successful in putting bookends on the activities that we do so that the values we hold so dear are not desecrated.
The Routt County government, along with numerous partners, holds the reins on many of those values and has governed programs that either monitor, enhance or protect those values we held so dear.
■ Air quality efforts: land use regulations, solid fuel burning regulations, regional daily air monitoring, road standards for dust control and road surfacing. Water quality efforts: land use regulations, waterbody setbacks, erosion control, water quality monitoring program, stream restoration, drought and flood planning, individual sewage disposal system regulations and grading and excavating permits.
■ Outdoor recreation/wildlife opportunities: healthy rivers and waters for recreational activities and great fishing habitat; land use regulations that protect and enhance wildlife habitat; and healthy primary county roads which allow access to remote natural vistas for recreational, hunting and camping opportunities.
■ Protection of beautiful vistas: master plan policies that direct commercial and residential growth to municipalities, 35-acre minimum lot sizes, skyline regulations minimizing visual blight, nightlight pollution regulations and the Purchase of Development Rights program resulting in reduction of sprawl. When you leave the cities and towns you are in the country, the county. Wildlife abounds in our community, indicating a healthy environment.
■ Healthy lifestyles: the county’s support of climate resilience, energy efficiencies, waste diversion/recycling, county carbon footprint studies and clean and free flowing waterways for recreational and fishing opportunities abound in our community.
While balancing the concepts of individual property rights against community values, Routt County continues to work to keep our community a place to be proud of, recreate, visit and lay down roots and raise families.
While these efforts are either voluntary or regulatory, most are educational and directed at encouraging best management practices. We continue to make Routt County a place to cherish, a place to call home. It’s critical to hand the next generation the controls of a well-tooled, fine-running, multipurpose machine.
A machine that draws quality families that desire to live here, an environment and community that continues to draw tourists, a productive/profitable working agriculture landscape, an outdoor recreational playground, safe neighborhoods and maintained vistas.