August 11, 2008

Pro: BLM Utah Resource Management Plans


by Selma Sierra
BLM Utah State Director

Selma Sierra, BLM Utah State Director

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) mandates that BLM manage public lands for multiple use such as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, energy exploration and production, conservation, and timber production. Additionally, the Act establishes that BLM sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In making decisions about land use, FLPMA requires the BLM develop Resource Management Plans (RMP) and update the RMPs when circumstances change and significant new information becomes available. These important land use decision documents require public input and participation.

Here in Utah, the BLM has nearly completed the task of revising six RMPs for the Moab, Richfield, Price, Vernal, Monticello, and Kanab planning areas. It has been nearly eight years since we began the planning process, which has been one of the longest and most intensive land use planning efforts the BLM Utah has undertaken. Revisions are necessary since some of the planning areas have not updated their RMPs in 25 years. Hundreds of thousands of public comments were considered during the planning process; dozens of meetings with our partners at the county and state levels have taken place to bring us to this point.

The BLM will continue releasing Proposed RMPs and Final Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for each of the six planning areas in the coming weeks. The BLM has balanced multiple interests and priorities, creating a management framework to guide public land decisions.

Today the public debate is dominated by the need to identify opportunities for domestic energy supplies. Domestic sources of oil, natural gas and renewable energy play an important role in our nation’s security and stability. While the proposed plans envision maintaining areas open to oil and gas leasing, they would also institute protective measures during development, such as timing limitations, best management practices and advanced technology to minimize the footprint of developing those important resources.

In addition to proposing to accommodate our pressing national needs for energy development the plans also propose protecting public lands within the six planning areas where there are sensitive natural resources, making these lands off limits to surface disturbing activities, unavailable to oil and gas leasing or other restrictions. This type of protection would extend to almost one million acres of public land, in addition to nearly two million acres of existing wilderness study areas.

Regarding outdoor recreation, the plans consider opportunities for primitive recreation and managing certain lands in Utah to maintain, protect and enhance public land natural areas. In addition, BLM Utah proposes focusing off-highway vehicle (OHV) use to designated roads and trails. Social changes, chiefly the growing popularity of OHVs and population growth, have created a need to more closely manage this type of recreation.

BLM recognizes the value public lands hold for local communities and their economies. We have maintained a focus on supporting communities, their growth and diverse needs while maintaining national priorities and objectives, all within the context of BLM’s multiple use mandate. As State Director, I will continue to honor the integral role that the BLM and the land we manage plays in the livelihood and economies of local communities as we move forward to complete these vital planning proposals.