Revising the Resource Management Plan (part 2)

BLM Hosts first public meeting of the formal process

LUSK - During the public meeting for the BLM Resource Management Plan revision for the Newcastle district, of which Niobrara county is part of, the representatives from the state and from various departments and divisions of the Bureau of Land Management were available to answer questions from the those gathered at the May 17 meeting.

Wyoming senator Cheri Steinmetz was in attendance and asked what recourse and authorities the county commissioners (a cooperating agency) had should they find the draft RMP/LUP incongruous with the county land use plan and what weight did the BLm give cooperating agencies and the state agencies as opposed to those parties outside the state of Wyoming. Representatives from eh BLM reassured Steinmetz and those gaterhed that they are well versed in the steps that external parties like environment companies take to challenge many BLM initiatives and plans. Often the BLM has ongoing litigation from outside entities. As a cooperative agency however, the commissioners have additional time and special status for influencing the BLMs final draft.

When asked outright what they will do if the commissioners find something egregious at any point in the process they stated that each step is part of a process and an aspect of that process is offering up a preliminary range of alternatives. When the comments from commissioners or conservations districts are strongly worded one direction or another it becomes important to give that further consideration and maybe a little more consideration that a third party environment group with no real interest in Wyoming life.

In addition the ecology, energy development and environmental impact, another key aspect that the BLM takes into consideration during the process of an RMP revision is the socioeconomic ramifications. The BLM works closely with state economists and sociologists to try and anticipate as many of the impacts as possible. According to the BLM website, the socioeconomics program aims to improve land use planning through three goals

Goal 1: Ensure that the BLM’s socioeconomic capabilities support legal mandates, management priorities, and program needs

Goal 2: Manage the BLM’s internal and external socioeconomic capabilities to provide sound and cost-effective support for offices and programs.

Goal 3: Ensure that BLM employees can obtain and apply sound socioeconomic information relevant to their programs.
The BLM socioeconomics program uses knowledge and methods from economics and social sciences (particularly sociology, anthropology, and geography) to understand the human context and consequences of the BLM’s activities. It works to describe the human interests and values shaping public lands management, identify the effects of proposed actions on communities and economies, and promote the economic and social sustainability of communities near the public lands.

Working with state economists the BLM will try to adhere to their goals and perspectives on identifying the effects of the proposed actions on the communities, which is a primary concern of the Niobrara county commissioners and many of those that attended the May 17 meeting.

Those who attended the May 17 meeting were provided several handouts including contact information for the project for comments, website information for the revision and information on what the BLM is looking for during the public comment period.

According to the BLM, substantive comments are those that “reveal new information, missing information or lawed analysis that would substantially change conclusions.” Non-substantive comments are those that include opinions, assertions and unsubstantiated claims.

Ideas for effective comments as recommended by the BLM are:

What are your specific concerns about a resource and why?

Is your concern around specific geographic area?

Do you have any ideas for alternatives to analyze?

Give us ideas for mitigation measures or management actions to consider in an alternative.

Let us know about important information available in your community.

The gist of much of the hand out and what the BLM staff said was, if you come with a problem be prepared to offer a solution, or at least an alternative for consideration, don’t just complain. Anecdotal arguments really aren’t very helpful either.

It was claimed that the power point presentations and all documents linked to the meeting would be on the project website, which is the website specifically designated for the RMP revision process however as of press time those items had not been uploaded to the website. What is available is a project description (summary), NEPA number, maps of the impacted areas, the field analysis from 2021 and a press release from the meetings held last fall (2022). Emails sent to: [email protected] as recommended were also not responded to however, when emailed directly the field manager Chad Krause was extremely responsive to Herald questions.

At this time it is recommended to use the project email for feedback but a phone call to the project manager Kathleen Lacko at [email protected] or (307) 261-7536 or call the

Newcastle Field Office at (307) 746-6600 is also fine.

The Herald will continue to cover this topic and any additional meetings or items available.