To date, 50,000 comments have been received from across the nation as well as other countries concerning the United States Bureau of Land Management's draft resource management plan.
Last week the Emery County Economic Development Council hosted an RMP information meeting to help citizens formulate comments.
Ruth McCoard and Floyd Johnson from the BLM were on hand to answer questions and add the federal agency's perspective to the discussion.
Emery public lands director Ray Petersen displayed the draft RMP on the screen and discussed the different aspects of the document. He said the most important thing is to make a substantive comment with individual views and perspectives of the actions and directives in the draft RMP.
Petersen pointed out that the RMP contains sections on air quality, soil, water and riparian, vegetation, cultural, paleontology, special status species, fish and wildlife, wild horses and burros, fuels and fire management, non-wilderness study areas, forests and woodlands, livestock grazing, recreation, minerals and energy development, special designations, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, areas of critical environmental concern, transportation and motorized access, environmental concerns and impacts and socio-economics. The document also contains a number of maps, graphs and tables.
The BLM has developed five alternatives with different combinations of management to address issues and resolve conflicts. Alternatives must meet the purpose and need, be reasonable, provide a mix of resource protection as well as use and development, be responsive to issues and must meet established planning criteria.
Under all alternatives, the BLM will manage the public lands in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and BLM policy as well as the standards for rangeland health.
Alternative A allows the most liberal use of the land and Alternative C is the most restrictive. Johnson said the BLM prefers the Alternative D plan.
The final document will be a modified version of all the alternatives. As the final document is prepared, the draft document will be amended to address the concerns raised by the public. None of the alternatives deal with current wilderness study areas or wild and scenic river designations.
Petersen said he believes the draft document to be flawed. Since it is going to be the management tool for the next 15 to 20 years, he pointed out that "now is the time to voice your criticism of the alternatives."
It was also mentioned that the BLM should be as consistent as possible with county plans that are already in place.
Discussion then moved to the wild and scenic rivers designations mentioned in the alternatives. It was noted by Alan Peterson from Carbon County that some rivers are listed as wild in one alternative and scenic or recreation in another alternative. He wondered why when it is the same stream.
How the BLM would choose to manage a river makes the difference in how it is delineated, said Johnson. To be eligible a river must meet certain criteria and the requirements are more restrictive under a wild designation than under scenic or recreation. All valid rights on the waterways would exist even with designation and would not interfere with the Colorado River compact.
The recreation portion of the draft RMP was also discussed. It was mentioned that if citizens know of roads which were closed improperly and are not listed as closed on the Route Designation Plan that they should let the BLM know about them so that problem can be corrected in the final RMP.
Truman then spoke about recreation in the San Rafael Swell Special Recreation Management (SRM) Area. The San Rafael SRM contains 936,000 acres except in the no action alternative which is 844,000 acres. On map 2-21 of the RMP the special recreation management area in alternative D lists 113,669 acres as primitive, 110,504 acres as roaded natural, 484,546 acres as semi-primitive motorized and 227,756 as semi-primitive non-motorized. The concerns many had at the meeting came with the recommendations of the allotted numbers of people to be allowed into these areas.
The boundaries of the San Rafael SRMA would be realigned to include the Mexican Mountain WSA, the Cedar Mountain area, and the area surrounding the cut-off road on map 2-21. In alternative D for organized groups occupying an area for more than two hours, the maximum group size without a permit would be 15 people in the primitive areas. In the semiprimitive nonmotorized areas the number would be 25 people and in the semiprimitive motorized the number would be 25. The roaded natural and others would be limited to 50 except in the designated large group sites.
Groups larger than these would be required to obtain a special recreation permit (SRP). Large group areas would be designated in the San Rafael Swell, developed and made available through reservation. Those areas would include Temple Mountain, Hidden Splendor, Buckmaster Draw, South Salt Wash, Juniper, Staker Spring Area and others as necessary to meet recreation demand and protect resources.
That subject brought up questions about camping policies. One person asked if they went camping and there were already people there and they camped near them would that be considered a group? McCoard stated that those are the kind of comments that need to be made so that the agency can make clarify policies and regulations.
McCoard also reminded everyone if they do not comment on the draft RMP they will lack legal standing down the road to take further action.
Mike Dunwoody from Green River wondered about the implementation of the RMP. He said the route designation plan has been out for two years now and the signage is still not complete. It was also mentioned that some signage is not correct and that some signs were placed closing roads which should still be open.
McCoard said they recognize that implementation will not take place overnight and that the document is a guideline which may take years to implement and enforce.
Some comments came from the group concerning the improvement of the resource since the signs have been in place and how much better it looks than it did three years ago. It will also continue to improve as the public is educated on where they can and cannot use motorized vehicles.
The need for more accurate and readable maps was also discussed. The BLM representatives said they have realized their error and plans are being made for improved maps.
It was also mentioned that comments need to be made on the DRMP addressing how many yards off a designated road you can go to access a dispersed campsite. This was not done in the route designation plan some people are confused by it.
Comments are also needed on the socio-economic impacts of the plan. The socio-economic section was left out of the draft document and can be viewed on the BLM website. Mike McCandless, economic development director for Emery County said there was not a lot of information about mining and gas and that substantive comments regarding those issues need to be made.
One rancher in the group expressed his frustration that he waited for two years to get permits to put in a stock watering pond. But then a gas development company came in and made roads all over in the same area. He said he doesn't understand why things like this happen.
Alan Peterson said he believed the BLM should not be moving forward with layers of protection and designations for land and use without first properly taking care of the route designation issues. Many motorized routes have been lost.
Johnson said the BLM hears from some groups that say "close everything" (the environmental community) and others who say "keep everything open." He said the agency just needs to find a middle ground which allows use without destroying the resource.
Residents can still comment to the BLM if they do it by Nov. 29. Those comments can be sent on email to Comments@pricermp.com or on the internet at www.pricermp.com. Individuals can also fax a letter to 435-636-3657. To mail a comment the address is Price RMP/EIS Comments, Bureau of Land Management, Price Field Office, 125 South 600 West, Price UT, 84501.