BLM releases management plan draft

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The Bureau of Land Management released a document draft, which is intended to oversee the use of 1.3 million acres of federal land administered by the Little Snake Field Office.

The Resource Management Plan, known as RMP, is used by the bureau to set guidelines for mineral development, recreational use and preservation of land under its control.

Long road to draft

More than three years in the making, the new draft resulted from initial concerns expressed about plans for oil and gas exploration in Vermillion Basin.

The current RMP was drafted in 1989, and the normal cycle of 15-20 years for a new draft was approaching, it made more sense to look at the entire area covered by the Little Snake Field Office, field manager John Husband said.

"A lot had changed in the last 15 years. Mountain bikes were still a novelty back then," he said. "There was a desire from local governments to revise the whole plan."

Instrumental in gathering public input was the involvement of Northwest Colorado Stewardship, a grass roots organization already involved with resource management and preservation of public lands.

For nearly three years, Northwest Colorado Stew--ardship held meetings joining ranchers, hunters, motorcycle riders, energy developers, government officials and environmentalists to hammer out agreements on how they would like to see the land used.

The result of those years of meetings is the draft presented to the public on Friday.

Four plans in draft

The RMP draft consists of four alternative plans for each area in question in the BLM management area.

Plan A in the draft allows for no changes from the previous RMP drafted in 1989.

Plan B allows for more resource development with the fewest restrictions set on developers.

Plan C allows development with restrictions in place to protect the land and environment.

Plan D calls for more resource protection, with strict protective rules governing impacts on the natural resources.

Plan C is the BLM preferred alternative.

"With plan C we use an adaptive management principal worked out by the agencies and NWCOS," Husband said. "There's some leeway there, monitoring the situation and adapting to meet the goals of the RMP."

Public input requested

Public input is being taken before the finalizing of the RMP.

Beginning Feb. 16 the community members hav opportunities to make their opinions heard, either on-line or by mailing the BLM Little Snake Field Office at 455 Emerson St. in Craig.

Public input will last 90 days after the Feb. 16 date.

A public meeting is also scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. on March 15 in Craig at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, and at the same time on March 13 in Maybell school gym, and March 14 in Steamboat Springs at the Community Center, 1255 Lincoln Ave.

By November 2007, the BLM hopes to have the final Environmental Impact Statement completed. That document will outline impacts of the decisions made in the RMP.

August of 2008 is the planned release of the RMP in its final version.

The RMP draft can be accessed on-line at www.co.blm.gov/lsra/rmp or a compact disc can be obtained by visiting the BLM office, where they also have a hard copy for viewing by the public.

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