Teen View: an interview with Floyd Johnson of the BLM
|An old bulldozer sits as a reminder of mining days gone by south of the San Rafael River in the San Rafael Swell. The Swell is just one of the areas the BLM manages in the Carbon and Emery county area.|
(Editors note: This is an interview with Floyd Johnson of the Bureau of Land Management. Teen View is a new column by Castle Valley secondary Students interviewing federal, state, county, local, and academic officials on public and state lands, rural land, recreational lands, natural resource, cultural and paleontological resource and community development use issues.
Teen View also explores career opportunities and activities, "hands on", relating to the column's general topic for Castle Valley student's participation.)
Floyd Johnson is the contact professional for the bureau of land management price field office concerning the supplement to the draft resource management plan/environmental impact statement for non-wilderness study area (WSA) lands with wilderness characteristics.
This important land use issue will affect Castle Valley secondary students and others, for decades and is the essence of this discussion.
TV: Why do you feel national attention has remained focused, almost riveted, on the issues surrounding the federal lands managed by the Price field office ever since the first BLM intensive wilderness inventory was published over a quarter of a century ago in April, 1980?
Johnson: The national attention related to federal lands with wilderness characteristics is not just a Price field office issue but a Utah issue. Utah has very striking and varied landscapes which the public treasure. These lands also provide many recreational opportunities. The Price field office is blessed with some of the most spectacular lands, such as the San Rafael Swell, Desolation Canyon and Nine Mile Canyon. The need for America to become energy independent has brought energy development and preservation into direct conflict.
TV: Is it important to secondary students, being educated in the area managed by the Price field office to now become involved and to comment on this current supplement to the draft resource management plan which places non-wilderness study area lands with wilderness characteristics under wilderness management? How do the policies set forth in the new DRMP/DEIS affect land usage in the castle valley?
Johnson: Recent judicial decisions and internal review have identified the need for BLM Utah to adjust how non-wilderness study area (WSA) lands with wilderness characteristics are considered in the land use planning process.
This supplemental document broadens the Price Resource Management Plan's (RMP) range of alternatives. All of the existing alternatives remain intact and are still a part of the range of decisions possible for the final RMP.
Information provided will assist the BLM with preparing a Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) that will be released as part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement next year. The proposed plan as outlined in that document will guide the BLM on its management of public lands for the next decade or two. Therefore, now is the time to assist the BLM with the development of that plan.
TV: So Castle Valley students can better appreciate the BLM's mission could you please give a brief overview of your vision, mission, values, and current priorities?
Johnson: The BLM's vision, mission, values, and priorities are the following.
Vision: To enhance the quality of life for all citizens through the balanced stewardship of America's public lands and resources.
Mission: To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Values: To serve with honesty, integrity, accountability, respect, courage, and commitment to make a difference.
Priorities: To improve the health and productivity of the land to support the BLM multiple-use mission. To cultivate community-based conservation, citizen-centered stewardship and partnership through consultation, cooperation and communication. To respect, value, and support our employees, giving them resources and opportunities to succeed. To pursue excellence in business practices, improve accountability to our stakeholders and deliver better service to our customers.
TV: How many acres managed by the Price field office will be under WSA, wilderness, and non-WSA lands with wilderness characteristics designation? How many acres managed by the Price field office will not be managed under any of the above?
Johnson: The Price field office manages about 2.5 million acres of federal lands in Carbon and Emery counties. Of the 2.5 million acres, there are no congressionally designated wilderness areas. In 1980, the BLM completed a wilderness inventory and found that 11 areas in the Price field office totaling about 530,000 acres possess wilderness characteristics. These 11 areas are called Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) and the BLM manages them to preserve their wilderness values according to the Interim Management Policy (IMP). The BLM will continue to manage these areas in this manner until Congress either designates them as wilderness or releases them for other uses.
Certain non-WSA lands in the Price field office are proposed by members of Congress and/or members of the public for wilderness designation. After updating its wilderness inventory, it is the BLM's position that some of these lands have wilderness characteristics as defined by Section 2(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and others do not. Management to maintain such wilderness characteristics is being considered in this land use planning process for those lands that the BLM determined to have wilderness characteristics (about 937,000 acres). The Supplement to the Draft Resource Management Plan that is currently out for public comment identifies one option for how the BLM could manage these non-WSA lands with wilderness characteristics.
TV: Does the BLM sponsor, or help sponsor, activities for Castle Valley secondary students? Do you sponsor volunteer opportunities for students? Is there any type of apprenticeship that would allow secondary students interested in this field to try it out?
Johnson: Volunteering is very important to the BLM. Volunteers assist the BLM in many ways. As part of National Public Lands Day, the Price Field Office has projects where Castle Valley secondary students and others can work with the BLM staff to improve public lands. In addition, the BLM will work with any group at any time on specific projects that enhance the uses of public lands.
TV: A recent editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune indicated that the intense oil and gas drilling and production threaten the mule deer population in the Book Cliffs. How will this Supplement to the Draft Resource Management Plan/EIS for non-WSA Lands with Wilderness Characteristics affect this important world famous Castle Valley resource, as well as the rock art of Nine Mile Canyon, also a national issue due to the dust layering the priceless art due to energy development vehicular traffic?
Johnson: The RMP that is currently being developed will specify how the public lands in Castle Valley are managed. This supplemental document (Sept. 2007) broadens the Price RMP's range of alternatives. All of the existing alternatives that were discussed in the July 2004 DR MP remain intact and are still a part of the range of decisions possible for the final RMP. A new alternative, "Alternative E" is being added. In the final RMP, the BLM will not just simply "pick" one alternative. The BLM can choose aspects from any of the alternatives.
TV: If someone disagreed with one of the BLM's policies for land use how would they go about researching and possibly adjusting the policy?
Johnson: The development of a land use plan is an ideal time for the public to provide input to the BLM on how they would like to see the public lands managed. Since the Price Field Office is currently in that process, now is the best time for someone to provide BLM their comments on the alternatives being considered.
I would suggest that if someone disagrees with one of BLM's policies, they take the time to come in and talk to a manager or specialist.
TV: Are there jobs available for secondary students after high school graduation? How should Castle Valley secondary students prepare themselves for careers with the BLM, like yours, helping manage their world famous public lands?
Johnson: The BLM has a number of seasonal positions that are available to high school graduates and college students. The number and kind of positions are dependent on the needs of the individual BLM field office. A number of positions are generally available in the areas of fire, recreation, range, and energy. These positions are all advertised through the Web site "www.usajobs.opm.gov".
The BLM also has an intern program called Student Education Employment Program for college students. Most of the students who are in the program are majoring in a physical or biological science, but the program is not restricted to these fields and is available to those interested in a career with the BLM.
TV: How can people in Emery and Carbon counties receive more information regarding land usage in their communities?
Johnson: The Draft Resource Management Plan and the Supplement to that Draft are available to the public through our Web site at http://blm.gov/nup.ut/price/. For more information about public lands within the Price Field Office, the public can visit our website at http://www.ut.blm.gov/price/.
TV: Could you give a brief description of the six alternatives being considered in this plan and what is the deadline for Castle Valley students, and other residents, to comment?
Johnson: The Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement was released in July 2004. This document described five alternatives (options) for managing the public lands in Carbon and Emery Counties. These five alternatives were:
The "No Action" Alternative would continue management as outlined in the 1983 Price River Management Framework Plan and the 1991 San Rafael Resource Management Plan, as altered through amendments and policy changes.
Alternative A is designed to allow maximum access and development of mineral resources.
Alternative B is designed to balance uses in the Price Field Office. This balance is achieved by emphasizing different resources and uses in different areas.
Alternative C is designed to maximize protection of natural resources from development.
Alternative D (BLMs preferred alternative) is designed to provide for a wide variety of resource needs. It is similar to Alternative B in that it includes maximizing mineral development in areas with the greatest potential for mineral development as well as targeting recreation management in areas with the highest recreational development potential.
Alternative E emphasizes protecting/maintaining the wilderness characteristics of all non-WSA lands found to have wilderness characteristics. The Supplement that was released in September 2007 deals only with this alternative. The supplement does not make any final decisions. What it does do is broaden the range of management strategies that the BLM will consider when finalizing the RMP.
The BLM is accepting public comments on the supplement until Dec. 13, 2007.
(If you are an English teacher at the Green River, Emery, or Carbon High Schools and have a student who would like to be considered for Teen View, please contact Craig Royce at Pinnacle High, 613-8102, 888-2234, or e-mail countrymilescitymiles@hotmail,com )