Thursday, July 14, 2011

BLM Spending Part 2, Special Report

By Matt Kroschel

In part two of our special report, we travel to capital hill to pin down where the money is going and see what can be done to get rid of the fees all together.

With accusations of 'cost shifting' flying from the Western Slope, Bureau of Land Management officials go on the defense.

Last year $57,200 were collected at the Gunnison George Conservation site near Montrose. Nationwide, the BLM alone took in 18 million dollars in user fees.

The deputy director at the BLM Anthony Bobo, Jr., told NewsChannel Five 100 percent of the money collected goes back to the site where it was taken.

As for alleged cost shifting, Bobo said those claims are just flat wrong. He said his job is to audit the money collected at each of the sites across the country. For the BLM all of that money is supposed to go directly back to the ground where they are taken from.

Less than 1 million dollars of the 18 million collected was used on administration costs in 2010, according to documents provided to NewsChannel Five.

That money is used to enforce the user fees, maintain the areas where the fees are being used.

It took an act of Congress to get even allowing the BLM to charge the added fees to users back in 2008. Colorado Senator Mark Udall (D) said In a perfect world the fees would be repealed today, but the reality is with massive federal budget deficits, that just is not in the cards.

"Everyone should be able to use their public lands and not be obstructed from doing that but the reality is that we have some serious budget problems and the money is just not there to maintain these areas without it," Senator Udall said. "I will work to make sure those fees are being spent at the sites and not being misused," he added.

As for Bobo, he said he will keep working to make sure our money is used wisely at the federal level.

"We have a good pulse of what is going on on the ground and we are not sitting up here at the palace making designs without knowing how they will effect the people," Bobo said.

And back on the Western Slope, activists will keep fighting, even if their efforts seem future right now.

"This is my land I have to fight for it, because they they are doing is wrong and someone has to stand up to it," Western Slope No Fee Coalition founder Kitty Benzar said.

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