Volume 106, Number 1 - January 1, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
BLM plan called ‘more balanced’
After years in the making, the Bureau of Land Management recently released its Record of Decision (ROD) for the Resource Management Plan (RMP) of the Pinedale Field Office (PFO) area.
“Overall, I think the document is a more balanced plan than the original draft was,” said Chuck Otto, BLM’s Pinedale Field Office manager. “We’ve incorporated more wildlife protection; we’ve protected more migration corridors.
“I think because of that, it will serve the Pinedale area better in the long run. It’s not all oil and gas. It also protects some of the other values that are important to the Sublette County citizens.”
The ROD comes on the heels of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that the BLM published in August, which detailed the four alternatives that the BLM was evaluating for its upcoming ROD.
As was predicted, the BLM chose a variation of the proposed fourth alternative from the FEIS, which makes about 626,000 acres available for oil and gas development out of the approximate 1.6 million acres in the PFO area, which includes land in Sublette and Lincoln counties. 453,700 acres are designated as unavailable for leasing.
“All in all, I would say that the areas that are unavailable for leasing are a step in the right direction,” said Linda Baker, coordinator for the Upper Green River Valley Coalition.
Of the 1.6 million acres, the BLM is charged with administrative duties for 1.2 million acres of federal land.
According to the ROD, the revision to the PFO area’s RMP “is needed so that management decisions, objectives and goals can be adjusted to address new information and changed circumstances.”
The previous RMP was issued in December of 1988. Since that time, oil and gas development has had significant impacts in the PFO area, necessitating an approach that meets such demands. The comprehensive document covers all other aspects of land-use in the PFO area as well, including the management of air quality, cultural resources, forestry, livestock grazing, minerals, paleontology, recreation, soils, transportation, vegetation, visual resources, water quality, wild horses, wildfire, wildlife habitats and special designation and management areas.
One of the most significant changes to the ROD from the FEIS came at the request of Gov. Dave Freudenthal.
“(The governor) did pound us pretty hard on our final EIS,” said Otto. “And that actually precipitated a number of meetings with the state agencies to try and work things out.
“And we were able to do that, and I think it made it a stronger document in the end. Part of the biggest change is that the governor wanted to see our Trapper’s Point designation made larger.”
The governor’s request added about 4,300 more acres to the Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), for a total of 9,540 acres between Daniel and Cora. According to the ROD, this will “ensure that no obstruction to the big game migration bottleneck within the Trapper’s Point ACEC occurs.”
“I think they did the right thing there, with recommendations from the Trapper’s Point working group and the governor’s office,” said Baker.
In other areas of the ROD, however, Baker was not so pleased.
For one, the document leaves the door open for suspension of the seasonal stipulations that currently provide winter mitigation.
“The BLM is saying they could possibly toss them out,” said Baker. “And to me, that is a very scary proposition.”
These possible winter exceptions could allow drilling on an additional 117,000 acres.
Another issue for Baker was the fact that the ROD did not specify nor require operating standards for those developing the natural resources located in the PFO area.
“Between the Jonah Field and the Pinedale Anticline, those (RODs) are more specific and controlling than the RMP is anyway,” said Otto.
Years of time and energy have been invested into the RMP for the PFO area, and Otto is pleased to see the final product come to fruition.
“It’s taken three years longer than it probably should have, but we’re glad to have it done,” said Otto.
Baker, along with others in the area, will be keeping their eye on the RMP’s effect on the PFO area.
“There does seem to be an honest effort to balance natural gas efforts with natural resource protection,” said Baker. “Implementing this plan will be key to how successful the guidance document is, so the coalition and the people of Sublette County will be watching to see how well the RMP is implemented.”
— An online copy of the ROD for the RMP is available at www.blm.gov/rmp/wy/pinedale and should be available at the BLM office in printed copy by next week.
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