As part of a series of public comment and question meetings after the release of a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in July, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) representatives from the Price field office invited area residents to the Holiday Inn on Aug. 26 for an open forum of discussion.
According to Ruth McCoard of the Price field office, the purpose of the gathering was not only to inform the public about the draft RMP and the management alternatives contained within for southeastern Utah lands, but also to educate the public on the most constructive way to format their feedback during the 90 day comment period.
"We want to be able to talk to people and tell them how we want to receive their input," McCoard said. "What we're really looking for is public input to help us make a decision."
Approximately 2,500,000 acres of surface estate are under the management of the Price field office, whose jurisdiction range extends to the Carbon-Duchesne County line on the north, the Green River on the east, the Emery-Wayne County line on the south and the Emery and Carbon County lines where they meet Sanpete and Sevier Counties to the west. In addition, 2,800,000 acres of federal mineral resources underlying lands are managed cooperatively by the BLM with the U.S. Forest Service, the state of Utah and private entities.
The draft RMP combines the 1983 Price River Management Framework Plan (MFP) and the 1991 San Rafael RMP into one document with the goal to provide guidance for public land and federal mineral estate within Carbon and Emery Counties, the field office indicates. It was developed with feedback from the public through a series of scoping meetings conducted in five Utah communities and one Colorado community in 2002.
Eight planning issues emerged from the 2002 public scoping series. According to the field office, the eight issues were broken down into the subsections that drove the development of planning alternatives in the draft RMP.
Air quality. Current air quality standards post-date many earlier planning decisions. BLM will ensure compliance with all applicable local, state, tribal and federal air quality laws, statuettes, regulations, standards and implementation plans.
Soil, water, riparian and vegetation. Current management direction is inconsistent or lacking in opportunities to enhance the management of watershed values, vegetation and riparian resources in the Price field office. The state of Utah has developed nonpoint source best management practices and these are applied on a case-by-case basis.
Cultural and paleontology. New planning will seek to provide a forum for exploring opportunities to use cultural and palaeontological resources consistent with their scientific, educational, recreational and other values within the Price field office.
Visual. Management of scenic values and important landscape features has become a much more important aspect of natural resource management. Changes in visitor use patterns and frequency, visitor sensitivity to changes in the landscape and development are all creating challenges for the management and maintenance of scenic quality.
Fish and wildlife. Updating the wildlife species and numbers and the habitat inventories will assist in identifying measurable objectives for important wildlife habitats, including defining desired future conditions, designating priority species and critical habitats, identifying opportunities or restrictions needed to achieve desired future conditions and addressing conservation strategies.
Wild horses and burros. Four Herd Management Areas exist in the planning area (Range Creek, Muddy Creek, Sinbad and Robber's Roost). The RMP will address the management of wild horses, including initial and estimated herd sizes, while preserving or maintaining a thriving ecological balance and multiple use relationships.
Fire and fuel management. The RMP will address appropriate fire management actions, including areas where fire is not desired, where fire can be used as a resource management tool for habitat restoration and where fuel reductions are necessary as required by various wildland and prescribed fire management policies.
Forest and woodlands. The Price field office needs to address requests to allow commercial harvest of timber and nontimber forest and woodland products and evaluate the need and opportunity for development, with emphasis on restoration and rehabilitation.
Livestock grazing. Resource concerns and potential conflicts have arisen regarding the allocation and season of use of forage within the field office. BLM will evaluate forage allocations for livestock, wildlife and wild horses and burros that incorporate needs for wildlife habitat and protection of riparian and watershed values.
Recreation. Quality outdoor recreation resources are located within the planning area. Visitor use is exerting an impact on soil, water, vegetation and wildlife. The RMP will review recreation uses and projected needs to determine appropriate management.
Off-highway vehicle use. OHV use has become a significant issue within the PFO. OHV use and management will be addressed in conformance with the BLM national OHV Strategy in an effort to resolve resource conflicts that pertain to other natural resources and provide for responsible OHV use. Existing OHV use categories and route designations will be reviewed and modified where needed to meet changing resource objectives. Within the limited category, BLM will designate specific roads and trails for OHV use.
The draft RMP also addresses lands and realty, minerals and energy, wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern and wild and scenic rivers.
To address the issues identified during scoping, five different land management alternatives then were developed. According to the Price field office, each alternative is a complete land use plan that provides a framework for multiple use management of the full spectrum of resources, resource uses and programs present in the planning area.
Those alternatives range from allowing maximum access for the development of mineral resources to providing maximum conservation and protection for natural resources from minerals and energy development and motorized recreation use allowed by law.
A preferred alternative has been set out which is designed to provide for a wide variety of resource needs throughout the field office. According to the officials, the alternative maximizes minerals development potential in the areas with greatest potential for development, as well as targeting recreation management in areas with the highest potential for development to provide for quality recreation settings, experiences and benefits in an environmentally appropriate manner.
The final public meeting for the RMP and EIS will take place today from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Salt Lake City at the Best Western Salt Lake Plaza Hotel on 122 West South Temple.
The 90 day public comment period will end on Oct. 15, after which the draft RMP and EIS will be analyzed and determination for its final format will be made.
A complete copy of the draft RMP can be obtained at www.pricermp.com.