BLM responds to stakeholder requests regarding Rock Springs draft management plan
On Oct. 17, at the request of the state of Wyoming and several stakeholder organizations, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) extended the comment period of the Draft Rock Springs Resource Management Plan (RMP), draft environmental impact statement (EIS) and proposed areas of critical environmental concern.
The comment period will now close on Jan. 17, 2024.
“A lot of work happens between a draft plan and a final plan, and this work is best informed by people who roll up their sleeves to work together,” says BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning in an Oct. 19 press release. “We are committed to doing this work to finalize the final plan.”
Draft plan causes concern
On Aug. 17, the BLM released the draft RMP and EIS for the Rock Springs Field Office (RSFO) planning area, which includes nearly 3.6 million acres of public lands and 3.7 million acres of federal mineral estate in southwest Wyoming.
According to a press release announcing the RMP, the purpose of the plan is to establish guidance, objectives, policies and management actions for public lands under the RSFO.
The document consisted of more than 1,000 pages, split into two volumes, and presented four alternatives for managing RSFO’s resources, with Alternative B selected as the agency’s preferred alternative, which stirred up concern across the state Wyoming.
In an article published in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) October 2023 No Bull Sheet Newsletter, WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna explains Gov. Mark Gordon, several county commissioners and multiple conservation districts were engaged as cooperating agencies during the RMP planning process.
“At their last meeting, they reviewed the four alternatives and were anticipating the draft plan would be released with the most balanced alternative – Alternative D – as the preferred alternative,” Magagna writes. “It came as a total shock when the draft was released on Aug. 17 this year with Alternative B as the preferred alternative.”
Magagna explains, “Alternative B can best be described as a ʻpreservation alternative,ʼ which seeks to minimize all uses of the land, including grazing, energy and recreation in direct contradiction to the BLM’s multiple-use mandate.”
Gordon describes the BLM’s preferred alternative as “the most restrictive of the four proposed alternatives” and says the BLM’s action was “a bait-and-switch pulled on the people of Wyoming.”
“The BLM’s RMP and preferred alternative threaten to eliminate all of the hard work accomplished by bulldozing over state executive orders, stakeholder engagement and interagency agreements,” states the governor in a Sept. 27 press release.
Due to raised concern, the governor, alongside a host of stakeholder organizations, sent letters to the BLM requesting the agency withdraw the Rock Springs RMP, reconsider its preferred alternative and extend the public comment period.
“WSGA views it as both irresponsible and disrespectful to release a 1,350-page document with a short 60-day comment period,” states Magagna.
He continues, “It is clear to WSGA if Alternative B is adopted, it will become a precedent for other BLM RMPs across our state.”
Therefore, Magagna explains, to date, WSGA has testified before four different legislative committees in the state and each committee responded by voting to summit their own letters of opposition to the BLM.
In response to these requests, the BLM announced on Oct. 17 they would agree to extend the public comment period by an additional 60 days. But, the request to withdraw Alternative B as the preferred alternative was denied.
“However, BLM did agree to work with Wyoming in developing a more acceptable outcome,” states Magagna.
The public is encouraged to comment on the Rock Springs RMP, and comments can be submitted electronically to eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/13853/510 or mailed to Rock Springs Field Office, Attn: William West, 280 Highway 191 N., Rock Springs, WY 82901 until Jan. 17, 2024.
“Public comment periods give us the opportunity to listen to people to make our work stronger,” states BLM Wyoming State Director Andrew Archuleta in the recent BLM press release. “We urge specific feedback and participation over the next several months.”
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.