This is an interesting story from Wyofile on the Rock Springs RMP. Turns out that the Governor got together a panel to review the draft.
Despite representing disparate interests, the 11 members of a governor-appointed task force reached consensus on more than 100 recommendations for the Bureau of Land Management’s controversial draft plan for managing some 3.6 million acres in southwestern Wyoming.
The guidance, released in a report late Wednesday, represents a cool-headed note in a public process defined by furor at the federal agency. Many of the packed meetings convened last fall to discuss the plan unfolded with anger and misinformation — including misinformation the BLM itself disseminated by mistake.
Gov. Mark Gordon held the recommendations up as an example of how Wyoming knowledge can inform a better Rock Springs land management plan.
“This particular effort was initiated out of necessity,” he said in a statement. “It was critical we amplified the public’s involvement in this important BLM planning document, and shared with BLM how Wyoming, through collaboration, creates durable and quality land management policy.”
The final recommendations include conserving landscapes around the prized hunting grounds of the Greater Little Mountain Area, protecting development of the trona assets contained within the Known Sodium Leasing Area as well as proposals for managing the “checkerboard” area of the field office that recognize access needs and wildlife migration. They support continued motorized use and continued grazing. They also urge protections for key cultural features and natural resources, but advise special designations in just a few limited areas.
Though many Wyoming denizens came out forcefully against the agency’s preferred alternative, which prioritizes conservation and gives large zones new designations of “areas of critical environmental concern,” Stone-Manning stands by the draft.
“The BLM believes there are a lot of shared values and goals in this plan that strike a balance with conservation and multiple uses,” Stone-Manning said.
“We look forward to carefully considering [the task force’s] thoughts and the public’s comments as we finalize the plan,” Stone-Manning said.
Critics decried the closure of large acreage to energy leasing, the roughly 2.5 million acres that would be excluded for new right-of-way consideration and the transference of lands into “areas of critical environmental concern,” a designation used to protect important historic, cultural and scenic values. Designated ACECs would swell from current acreage of 286,000 to more than 1.5 million acres under B.
Conservationists, however, have championed the vision outlined in the preferred alternative, saying the area is ecologically valuable enough to warrant a conservation-forward approach.
One major source of consternation spawned from a typo. The BLM mistakenly left in a provision saying it would close 4,505 miles of routes and eliminate another 10,006 miles of undesignated, illegal routes under Alternative B. BLM officials assured that mistake would be fixed.
But claims of the agency shutting down traditional activities like hunting, camping and recreating were unfounded, agency officials maintain.
“For whatever reason, people latched on very quickly that any ACEC designation was going to automatically restrict public use,” Rock Springs Field Office Manager Kimberlee Foster told WyoFile during a September open house. “And none of that is true.”
The agency has battled misinformation through the process, Stone-Manning said. “One significant area of misinformation has revolved around access to our public lands,” she said in the email. “For example, there have been rumors about no longer being able to walk your dog on public lands, roads closing, and hunting no longer being allowed. None of this is true and we are taking every opportunity to separate fact from fiction. Public lands are open to the public and there are no decisions to open or close roads being made as part of updating this resource management plan.”
Not to be unnecessarily skeptical (not being a BLM expert), but is this a case of carefully worded “sleight of planning”? Decisions to restrict access would not be in the plan itself, but the plan would set the context for follow-on decisions. I note the qualifiers “automatically” restrict public use, “no decisions.. being made as part of updating.”
I also wonder if Director Stone-Manning meant this:
The BLM’s approach to defusing the hot situation, Stone-Manning said, is to start with what’s universally important about the land. “One starting place for us is always that clean water, abundant wildlife and the sustainable use of natural resources on our public lands is something that everyone cares about,” Stone-Manning said. “From this place, we are working to engage in grounded conversations and dialogue on how alternatives and details in the plan support and balance that.”
Perhaps they could have not developed the “hot situation” in the first place by talking to local folks and elected officials; or rather talking to them and following through on what they said. If the Biden Admin is carefully watching its two land management agencies (which I don’t think it is.. but still) it might notice that many forest plan revisions have stakeholder groups that work together to develop recommendations. Why does this RMP effort seem so relatively top-down in comparison? My BLM retiree friends would probably tell me its because FLPMA has political appointees as leading the agency. Whether this is good governance or unnecessarily drama and ill-will-provoking is another question.
Here’s a note I received from Pew today: (Take Action Now!). The RMP has the potential to “chart a new course for public lands management here and across the country.” Why Rock Springs though, of all places? And the “best possible policy for the region’s wildlife and people.” Because those people..who live there.. don’t actually know what’s best for them, I guess.
|Dear Wilderness Supporter,
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is deciding how to conserve migration corridors and habitat for more than 350 wildlife species while preserving cultural sites and sacred landscapes across a wide swath of public land in Wyoming. When finalized, the Resource Management Plan (RMP) will dictate conservation and management of this breathtaking landscape for the next 20 years or more, and the BLM needs to hear from you in order to make the best possible policy for the region’s wildlife and people.
The Wyoming Red Desert, at the heart of this management plan, is a wild place. It is one of only a handful of vast landscapes that host such an intact assemblage of wildlife, ranging from a one-of-a-kind resident population of desert elk, the world’s longest migration corridor for mule deer, and pronghorn antelope and prairie dog colonies as far as the eye can see. Further, significant Indigenous petroglyph sites and ancient trails crisscross the landscape. At the same time, oil and gas rigs encroach on the important habitat here, as do other proposals for developing the land.
The BLM issued a draft management plan that favors a strong conservation approach, proposing to limit additional energy development while ensuring that many of the undeveloped areas and cultural resource sites remain undisturbed. With several important changes, especially for migration corridors, the Rock Springs management plan has the potential to chart a new course for public lands management here and across the country. Don’t miss your opportunity to weigh in on this critical plan and help ensure that its final version is the best it can be for wildlife and wild places!