Deadline for comments on BLM plan nears

Big Horn Basin residents have six more days to comment on the Bureau of Land Management proposed Resource Management Plan.

After an additional 45 days was granted for comments, the comment period will end Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Team leader on the project, Caleb Hiner, said they have about 45,000 comments that they are sorting through. He said they have received 43,000 form letters, with about 40,000 from the Natural Resource Defense Council, about a hundred from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and a couple hundred from other advocacy groups. He said some comments are asking for a few changes to Alternative A, which is the current management practice.

He said while he doesn’t read all the form letters carefully, the consultant the BLM has contracted with — ICF International — will take a thorough look at each letter.

He said there are about 160 non-form letters that have come in, mostly from individuals, one from an oil and gas company and a couple from environmental groups.

“At this point we’re still going through all the comments. So far there’s been no real surprises,” Hiner said.

He said the 45-day comment extension does not necessarily mean the timeline for the project is delayed. He said they are still looking at about 1.5 years before a Record of Decision will be issued.

“We’ll evaluate the comments, look at what changes we need to make to the preferred alternative and come out with a final proposed plan,” Hiner said. The final plan is probably about a year away. There will be a 30-day protest period, then there will be responses and a resolution to the protest that usually takes about three months before a Record of Decision is issued.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of comments. There are more individual comments than we expected,” Hiner said.

A copy of the plan can be found online at www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/Planning/rmps/bighorn.html.

There are three ways to submit comments:

Website: www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/Planning/rmps/bighorn.html

Email: BBRMP_WYMail@blm.gov

Mail: Worland Field Office, Attn: RMP Project Manager, P.O. Box 119, Worland, WY 82401. (Must be postmarked by Sept. 7.)

The RMP website provides tips on how to review the plan and how to comment. The best start is by reading the executive summary.

Hiner said it’s important for people when they comment to provide rationale on why they like or dislike something in the plan and to offer suggestions on changes they would like to see.

The do’s listed in their comment sheet include:

•Suggest specific changes in the document and provide the page number and section of the document in your comment.

•Clearly identify: Where the issue or error is located; why you believe there is an error; and alternative ideas about how to address issues or errors.

•Provide constructive solutions with documentation or resources to support your recommendation.

•If applicable, include your formal and informal education or training as it relates to your observations and comments.

By Karla Pomeroy, Basin Republican Rustler

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