Volume 105, Number 35 - August 28, 2008
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BLM releases new Pinedale plan
The Bureau of Land Management released its Pinedale Proposed Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on Friday, opening the door for a 30-day protest period for those who gave prior commentary during the planning process.
The RMP focuses on Alternative Four of the BLM’s FEIS, which is the preferred alternative for the upcoming Record of Decision. According to the BLM’s FEIS, this option is crucial for “optimizing production of oil and gas resources while providing the appropriate level of environmental protection for surface resources.”
“We had a lot of comments that were generated locally,” said Kellie Roadifer, Planning and Environmental Coordinator for the Pinedale BLM office. “And there are a lot of more subtle changes that were incorporated due to those comments.”
The most obvious changes in the RMP involve three particular areas: oil and gas management, visual resource management, and wildlife management.
Another change would be the “elimination of all open areas and significant seasonal limitations on OHV (off-highway vehicle) use,” according to the FEIS. The land where OHVs are allowed would be limited to roads and trails. Even then, the acres for the “designated roads and trails” category would increase while the “existing roads and trails” acreage would decrease.
For oil and gas management, the principal revision centers on the expansion of areas unavailable for development. Previously, it entailed 156,900 acres, but this number has now been increased to 439,470 acres of protected land.
“By maintaining larger blocks of habitat as Unavailable Areas, BLM is better able to manage wildlife habitats and maintain wildlife populations on federal lands,” according to the RMP.
This modification was praised by Linda Baker, coordinator for the Upper Green River Valley Coalition.
“The BLM has provided us with a pleasant surprise within the preferred alternative which has allowed some of the most important areas for wildlife to be off limits to leasing,” said Baker. “So far, that’s the most significant change from the draft that I’ve seen.”
The RMP also expands the Visual Resource Management plan to include a threemile buffer on either side of historic trail designations.
The RMP has also updated its database, which now includes the most recent information regarding studies and surveys of the greater sage-grouse and the winter ranges of big game as well as their migration grounds. Baker took issue, however, with a number of the predictions concerning future emissions. Using 2001 as the base year, the BLM predicts that by 2011, the area will see an increase of volatile organic compounds by 134 percent.
By 2021, that number will reach 275 percent. Nitrogen Oxide is predicted to increase by 200 percent. Carbon monoxide will increase by 317 percent.
“It seems to me that given that the county commissioners, the state DEQ and the town of Pinedale have seen it fit to conduct a risk assessment, the BLM should realize their concern,” Baker concluded. “And yet, the BLM has refused to conduct a health impact assessment.”
For those who provided comment and feedback during the planning process, the 30-day protest period will end on Sept. 22. To obtain a copy of the Proposed RMP and FEIS, go to www.blm.gov/rmp/pinedale/.
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