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Public Land

Wikipedia’s definition of a Range War: A range war is a type of usually violent conflict, most commonly in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the American West. The subject of these conflicts was control of "open range", or range land freely used for cattle grazing, which gave the conflict its name. Typically they were disputes over water rights or grazing rights and cattle ownership. Range Wars may still exist today, but not necessarily with violent conflict. Today the conflict is between Cattle Ranchers and outdoor recreation.

The total land in Fremont County is 981,800 acres. The total acreage of Public Land within Fremont County is over 54%. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) consist of 455,300 acres. The State Land Board has control over 65,557 acres of Trust Lands and Wildlife Areas. Several hundred acres owned by Canon City include: Red Canyon Park, Temple Canyon Park, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Skyline Drive and the other parks inside the city limits. Both Florence Mountain Park as well as some smaller parks within Florence city boundaries and Fremont County’s 4 parks, Pathfinder Regional Park, B.F. Rockafellow Ecology Park, Western Fremont County Park, and Col Leo Sidney Boston War Memorial Park.

With all of this public land we certainly have a large area for outdoor recreation. While outdoor recreation is a huge part of our economy bringing in folks from all over, we have to keep in mind some of these lands are used for other purposes. Much of the Federal and State land is leased to Cattleman for their cattle to graze. Grazing the land helps conserve the land and lessens wildfire fuels. Some land is leased for mineral extraction. Tons of gravel and rock are mined for use on our roads, buildings and landscaping. Hunting on the public lands brings in hundreds of people and thousands dollars every year.

Over the last several years we have seen a huge increase in hikers and bikers using the public land right alongside of the cattle and the wildlife grazing. I expect we will continue to see an increase in people enjoying the open public lands we are so lucky to have in our back yard. It is more important now the ever that the multi-use of these public lands be done with respect. Not only for the land, but for other users as well. It is valuable to stay on existing trails with bikes or all-terrain vehicles, also pick up and carry out any trash, (pack it in-pack it out). If the gate was closed when you got there make sure it is closed while you are there and when you leave. Now I know you may encounter a “cow pie” on the trail once in a while but remember it is all natural. Let’s all get along and not have a Range War!

With all the open public land we have in our back yard, let’s all get along and get out and enjoy what God has created.

Dwayne McFall

Fremont County Commissioner District 3