Emma Marsing, [email protected]
ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING — Kimberlee Foster, Field Manager for the Rock Springs Bureau of Land Management (BLM), spoke before the Rock Springs City Council yesterday evening to provide more clarity to the Draft Resource Management Plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Draft Resource Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement
At this time, the BLM currently operates under the 1977 Draft Resource Management Plan. Once a plan has been completed, it usually stays in place for around 20 years. Therefore, in 2011 and in 2013, new scoping of the land began which resulted in officials discovering the need to adopt a new plan.
Within the 2023 Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, Foster explained that the wild horse decisions and the Greater Sage Grouse plans have not been included in this statement due to litigations and amendments. However, everything else that encompasses the 3.6 million acres of surface land and 3.7 million acres of Federal Mineral Estate land has been included.
At this time, the BLM is asking for public comment related to the four alternatives provided within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Those alternatives are as follows:
- Alternative A: “Resources on lands administered by the BLM within the planning area are currently managed under the Green River RMP (1997) and Jack Morrow Hills Coordinated Activity Plan (CAP) (2004), as amended. Management under Alternative A represents a continuation of these management plans, which balances protection of resource values with the use and development of resources.”
- Alternative B (BLM Preferred Plan): “Alternative B emphasizes conservation of resource values with constraints on resource uses. Relative to all alternatives, Alternative B conserves the most land area for physical, biological, and cultural resources. Alternative B emphasizes the improvement and protection of habitat for wildlife and sensitive plant and animal species, improvement of riparian areas, and implementation of management actions that improve water quality and enhance protection of cultural resources.”
- Alternative C: “Alternative C emphasizes resource uses (e.g., energy and mineral development and other commodity uses). Relative to all alternatives, Alternative C proposes the least restrictive management actions for energy and commodity development and the least protective management actions for physical, biological, and cultural resources while maintaining protections required by laws and regulations. Under this alternative, development and use of resources within the planning area would occur with intensive management of surface disturbing and disruptive activities.”
- Alternative D: “Alternative D explores a management approach that is less restrictive for resource uses than Alternative B, while also having a greater conservation focus than Alternative C. This approach allows for opportunities to use and develop resources within the planning area while promoting environmental conservation.”
Clearing Up Some Misinformation
Councilor Robinson asked for some clarification regarding established roads within the county. Foster explained that no established roads would be affected except for a few, more specifically the road that leads to the Cedar Mountain Petroglyphs. “Across the board, there would be no massive closures”. There is no Travel Management Plan involved in this version of the Draft Resource Management Plan.
In terms of the oil, gas, and mining industries, there would be no significant changes for existing companies. There would however be changes for new leases.
The working group within Sweetwater County that helped establish the alternatives originally recommended Alternative (D), however, the executive office is the one who decided that the BLM would stand by Alternative (B), which they believe to be the most environmentally impactful for both land and wildlife.
Foster explains that gaining public comment is crucial for the decision to be made on what alternative gets adopted but that it is not a voting process. Foster also explained that the BLM can change and implement things into different alternatives to best suit the needs of the BLM and the community and that, that process will most likely happen. However, at the end of the comment period, the BLM Rock Springs Office will take the most accredited comments and updated plans and send them to the state director who will clear the state’s final decision through headquarters.
In terms of the comments the BLM is looking for, Foster explained that they want to know what is wrong with the document and alternatives provided not necessarily opinions. She explained that the comments that hold the most power over the final decision, are the ones that give the office sufficient evidence of what is wrong with the document and what they could do instead.
It is important to add as well that while Alternative (B) is not the community favorite, it is important to keep comments constructive. Foster added that at this time the FBI has been involved due to the amount of hate comments, calls, and threats the office has been getting. The council chimed in that at the end of the day, the workers inside the BLM office in Rock Springs also have to live with the choice made as they are citizens of this community and no one deserves that amount of disrespect.
At this time, the comment period is set to end on November 16, 2023, however, multiple agencies have sent in letters to extend the comment period time but no further action has been made at this time.
To submit a comment, click the link here and select “Participate Now” on the left hand side.
A final decision will not be made until around Spring of 2024.
Upcoming Open House
To better educate the community on the Draft Resource Management Plan, the BLM will be hosting an Open House tomorrow from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Holiday Inn Ballroom in Rock Springs. Since this is an open house, people may come and go between those hours. While there, officials from each department will be there to answer questions while also showing maps and information regarding the plan.