BLM educates public about its wilderness designation process

The way the Vermillion Basin area will be managed over the next few decades was the subject an open house sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management Thursday.

The BLM held to meeting to help people to find out more about the Preliminary Wilderness Character Inventory Evaluation the BLM completed on the Vermillion Basin area.

Maps and charts were passed around the room, discussed by BLM officials in an effort to better educate the public on the inventory and gain some additional public input.

A BLM team performed a study on the 81,028-acre area last summer. The study found most of the land met the BLM's characteristics for wilderness.

According to John Husband, Director of the BLM's Little Snake Field Office, the intent of the open house wasn't to debate the wilderness classification or the pros and cons of wilderness, but to educate the public on the process taking place and give them an opportunity to point out any non-wilderness features the BLM may have missed.

The public has been asked to provide information on:

The presence or condition of man-made structures or facilities.

Outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation.

Supplemental values such as rare or endangered plants or animals, unique natural features, or scenic values.

Those who attended had several questions for BLM officials concerning the inventory.

Husband and other BLM officials explained that the study is in the infancy stages. Whether the land will be managed as wilderness, be left to be managed the way it is currently or somewhere in-between, won't be made for some time.

Husband said the BLM hopes to have the initial inventory wrapped up in early 2001, baring any large oversight brought to light by the public. Once the inventory comment period is completed and the study has reached a conclusion, the BLM will accept comment on how the area should be managed.

It is expected to take several years before a new plan is approved.

"The collected inventory information will be used when the Little Snake Field Office begins a Resource Management Plan amendment for the Vermillion Basin next year," Husband said.

Two men whose recreational hobbies impact the land, but were not included in the study were off-road motorcycle riders, Pete Whitback and Neil Forsyth, from Hayden The two said they ride through many of the draws in the area and wanted the BLM to consider this in their inventory.

Husband said he would make a note of it and went over routes on the maps with the two.

Other people who attended concentrated more on learning about the inventory process.

Husband was pleased with the meeting, which more than 20 people attended, and believes the attendance demonstrated good public involvement in the process.

"I thought it was successful," Husband said. "Not to many people were offering specific information on routes and man-made facilities in the area, but a lot of people were asking questions about the process."

The BLM will accept written public comment on the study area until Dec. 29. Comments should be sent to the Bureau of Land Management, Little Snake Field Office, 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625.

The next open house will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Community Center in Maybell.

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