From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 16 - April 19, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Public asks BLM to slow down

by Julia Stuble

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management’s Field Office held an informal open house and a formal public hearing for the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pinedale Resource Management Plan (RMP).

Once again, as at the hearing for the SEIS for the Anticline, none in the packed room spoke in favor of the BLM’s Preferred Alternative. The only favor for any of the alternatives in the plan was voiced for Alternative 1 – the no-action choice, which would mean the BLM operate under the current RMP, written in 1988.

The Pinedale hearing was the best-attended of the three the BLM held. In both Marbleton and Jackson, three people attended, reported Environmental Planner Kellie Roadifer. In Rock Springs, none attended. At the Pinedale hearing, landowners from the Rim and the Upper Green joined Pinedale residents in telling the BLM three main things: give citizens more time to read this document, slow down development, and do not lease on the Rim or the Upper Green. The BLM was also given the now-ubiquitous advice to protect wildlife populations and the basin’s air quality.

Rim residents spoke of the area’s unique characteristics as a wildlife “haven,” and asked the BLM to deem it unavailable for leasing. Mineral rights in the Rim area are almost entirely federally-owned; the BLM’s preferred alternative switches what was unavailable for leasing in the Rim and gives it no surface occupancy (NSO) restrictions, or controlled surface use.

“It is absolutely critical that [the Rim] be reclassified as totally unsuitable for leasing,” asserted Kevin Roche.

Noting what he called “BLM’s play on words,” Ron Rhyne said that NSO restrictions will “fool people,” as that lease can still be drilled from adjacent lands. “It baffles me how the BLM puts higher value on gas than on any other resource out there,” Rhyne concluded. Gannett Horn spoke for the Upper Green River Valley, noting “Oil and gas drilling is a huge threat to our way of life in the Upper Green. It will industrialize many of the areas we love to recreate in.”

Horn reiterated Rhyne’s choice of words, noting that the Preferred Alternative’s NSO stipulations in the the northern Wind River Front, which under the current RMP is un-available, is to “fool people.” “The Upper Green River Valley is the wildest, most remote and special area on the map. It will be a travesty if the Wind River Front is allowed to be industrialized,” Horn said.

Speaking for whom “landscape and culture are inextricably intertwined,” writer Alexandra Fuller from Jackson asked the BLM to consider the philosophical ramifications of drilling.

Concerns for water quality were voiced as well, with Jocelyn Moore noting that macroinvertebrates that favor degraded habitats have been found in the New Fork River.

Acknowledging that the BLM is “buckling under pressure from D.C.,” Moore explained, “I wish you’d buckle under our pressure.”

“What we are experiencing is an assault, nothing less than an invasion facilitated by the BLM,” John Fandek said, to applause. Noting that developed areas in the county should be considered “National Sacrifice Zones,” Fandek said, “This appears to be what is on the slate” for the rest of Sublette County.

Though the majority of the citizens spoke about oil and gas development and environmental impacts from such, Joshua Adams addressed another important aspect of the RMP, off-road vehicle use. Under the BLM’s preferred alternative, the desert area south of Highway 351 would be limited to existing roads and trails. Currently, this area is open.

Speaking in favor of Alternative 1, Adams guessed that the existing roads in that area would be “whatever the oil field can make.” “I think it’s ridiculous that they punish the recreators for what’s happening in the oil field,” Adams said, asking the BLM not close that area to off-road vehicles. Explaining that federal land “is one of the most important things to me in this country,” Ty Huffman said, noting that a citizen can have “a certain ownership” over the land. “The last eight years have been the worst eight years for this county, they have been the worst eight years for the environment around this county, and the worst eight years for the wildlife here.”

In a hopeful note, Tom Noble looked at the assembled crowd and referenced the Wagon Wheel Project of the 1970’s. “It took a group of people like this to shut that down,” Noble said.

High school senior Kenny Walker spoke last, and gestured at the BLM’s maps lining the walls of the meeting room.

“I don’t know anything about this stuff up here. What I do know is what you see everyday.” “Use your heads on this,” Walker asked the BLM. “If we ruin it now, it’ll never be back.”

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