The Future of Public Lands in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin

Buffalo_field_office_map
Click the map for a larger image. Courtesy the BLM.

Comment Deadline is September 26

By Bruce Pendery

The Bureau of Land Management is now accepting comments from the public on its draft long-term land-use plan for the Buffalo, Wyoming area.

Once finalized, this plan will guide how public lands and millions of acres of federal mineral estate in this important part of the Powder River Basin are managed for the next 20 years.

Decisions in this plan will determine where energy development can occur, how wildlife habitat is managed and protected, and what areas will be prioritized for recreation and resource protection, among many other things.

As always, the Wyoming Outdoor Council has submitted in-depth, constructive comments on this proposed plan, in an effort to help protect Wyoming’s environment and quality of life.

I’m writing today to encourage you to send a quick personal comment to the BLM, as well.

You might be surprised, but a simple, one- or two-paragraph email from an involved citizen can make a big difference.

Why Participate?

Decisions made in these long-term “resource management plans” guide what happens on the landscape for decades.

It’s important that we (1) stand up and voice our support for the plan’s best proposed provisions—to help ensure they remain part of the final vision—and (2) encourage the BLM to make some important, needed improvements.

Your personal input, as an engaged citizen and stakeholder, can help convince the BLM to modify its draft plan, perhaps significantly, before it is made final.

Public input is absolutely essential to ensuring a balanced plan that gives due weight to local values and uses, as well as broader concerns, while allowing for both conservation and responsible energy development.

The deadline for submitting comments on the draft Buffalo resource management plan is September 26.

How to participate

You can dig into the details of the draft plan online by clicking here.

OR

Just send a quick email to: BRMP_Rev_WYMail@blm.gov; or send an old-fashioned letter to Thomas Bills, Buffalo RMP, BLM Buffalo Field Office, 1425 Fort Street, Buffalo, WY 82834; or hand deliver your comments to the Buffalo Field Office.

Commenting Tips

Describe your connection to the specific places you are commenting on—you might live nearby, hunt, fish, camp, or hike in a certain area, or perhaps the wildlife you enjoy or the big game that you hunt rely on these lands to survive the winter.

Tell the BLM whether you think the proposed plan will adequately preserve the places you care about most, and why.

Suggestions for your comments

  • We support the BLM’s proposed plan to protect important recreation and wildlife landscapes in the Buffalo area, which the agency has identified as special recreation areas and “areas of critical environmental concern.” This part of the draft plan is much needed.
  • We are asking that the agency improve the management of all of these special recreation areas and areas of critical environmental concern so that recreational values and other resource values are given priority in these areas, and not subsumed into other management such as oil and gas development.
  • We are urging the BLM to better protect the areas that the agency has identified as “extensive recreation management areas.” In its draft plan the agency states that in these areas “recreation is to be managed as a commensurate use with other resources or resource uses.” We think this is a major flaw that can and should be corrected. It’s a subtle distinction with large implications. The use of this “commensurate” standard is insufficient and could lead to energy development being given primacy and dominating the landscape in these recreation areas.
    • There is a better approach. In the Bighorn Basin, for example, the BLM is using a more appropriate, “in concert,” standard. So, in these similar types of areas recreation doesn’t have primacy but will be managed to allow for other uses, such as energy development, as long as they are managed “in concert” with each other. We are asking that the BLM take the same approach in the Buffalo area.
  • The fragility of the soils in the Powder River Basin is striking. Well over half of the soils in this area are highly erodible or have very poor reclamation potential. This means that if these soils are disturbed, reclamation is nearly impossible. What we’re asking for: Instead of allowing soil disturbance, the BLM should adopt “alternative B,” which would prohibit disturbance in these sensitive areas. Alternative D, which the agency has sighted as its “preferred alternative,” would cause undo degradation of these lands and also not meet the agency’s “multiple use” mandate because the disturbance can never be fixed. We are urging the BLM to be much, much more careful.
  • Sage-grouse: We are urging the BLM to adopt many of the provisions in alternative B for sage-grouse rather than alternative D (the agency’s “preferred alternative”). We are asking the agency to designate the “sagebrush ecosystem ACEC” that is outlined under alternative B, or to at least adopt similar protective provisions. This would be a much more careful, appropriate, and scientifically based way for the agency to manage for the imperiled sage-grouse in this part of the Powder River Basin.

From our comments on sage-grouse:

“Many of the threats to sage-grouse are interrelated, resulting in a feedback loop of deteriorating conditions in sagebrush-steppe ecosystems that threaten not only sage-grouse but also a growing host of other sagebrush obligates or sagebrush-dependent species. For this reason, we recommend the addition of a number of guidelines proposed for seasonal use restrictions outlined in Alternative B to the BLM preferred Alternative D.”

Contact: Bruce Pendery, chief legal counsel, Wyoming Outdoor Council, bruce@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org

 

 

Other posts you might want to see:

Why Even Rugged Individualists Should Embrace Federal Fracking Regulations

Fixing Haze Pollution: Wyoming People Deserve the Facts

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