BLM land on the line |

BLM land on the line

BLM releases draft Resource Management Plan addressing public areas

A family enjoys an afternoon hike down Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs on Friday. The Bureau of Land Management actively is seeking public input about its recent draft Resource Management Plan.
Brian Ray

— Northwest Colorado residents have until May 16 to comment on a plan that will govern the use of regional public lands through at least 2020.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Little Snake Field Office, located in Craig, currently is taking public input on its draft Resource Management Plan, which details long-term management and usage plans for more than 1.3 million acres of public lands in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The plan addresses issues such as oil and natural gas exploration, off-road vehicle and snowmobile use, wildlife habitat and preservation of sections of the Yampa River.

The plan is comprised of four land-use alternatives, which each allow for different amounts of various uses. John Husband, field manager at the Little Snake office, said the alternatives have “vast differences” in the amount of off-road travel and energy exploration allowed.

“There’s more land that is not available for oil and gas leasing under Alternative C,” Husband said. Alternative C is the BLM’s preferred alternative, meaning it is the policy the BLM will implement if no significant public opposition is received.

Alternative C closes a total of 160,870 acres to oil and gas leasing, as opposed to the 78,190 acres currently closed.

“Every alternative has oil and gas in it – some more than others,” said Roy McKinstry, natural resource specialist with the BLM. “How the oil and gas industries are managed is a concern to everybody, and it should be. But if people think they’re going to shut down the oil and gas business : this is not the forum for that.”

Alternative C also closes much more land to off-highway vehicle use.

Currently, 991,920 acres of BLM land in Northwest Colorado is open to off-highway vehicle, or OHV, use. Alternative C would reduce that number to 21,940 acres.

Alternative C also would significantly impact snowmobile use. Currently, 46,080 acres are closed to “over-the-snow” vehicles. Alternative C would close a total of 839,940 acres in Northwest Colorado.

The difference, Husband said, is Alternative C would limit the majority of OHV and snowmobile use to existing roads and routes, rather than allow unrestricted access across BLM lands.

“You can still get in and out, but it’s going to be on specific routes,” Husband said Wednesday, during a public forum at Steamboat Springs Community Center attended by more than 40 people.

Jeremy Casterson, the BLM’s team leader for the management plan, said creating the alternatives was a lengthy process involving collaboration with the multi-faceted Northwest Colorado Stewardship Group, which includes representatives from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, EnCana Oil & Gas, the state Division of Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources, the ranching and recreation communities, the Trapper’s Lake Sierra Club chapter, wilderness management groups, and several municipal governments.

“It took us about a year to put the alternatives together,” Casterson said.

After the public comment period ends in May, the BLM and stewardship group will continue meeting, with a goal of finalizing the Resource Management Plan by the fall. After the final plan is released, a 30-day public protest period occurs and BLM officials make the final decision about which alternative to enact.

Steamboat resident Pam Pierce, a certified nursing assistant, attended Wednesday’s public forum.

“Resource use is a huge concern of mine – I’m very nervous about the way things are going on the planet,” Pierce said.

Husband said now is the time for public input.

“These are public lands, and we are the stewards for that,” Husband said. “If you care about those public lands and how they’ll be managed for the next 10 to 15 years, feel free to give us comments and get as involved as you want. That’s what it’s all about.”

On the table

Craig’s Little Snake Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management has proposed the following four alternatives for its Resource Management Plan, which will dictate the use of more than 1.3 million acres of public lands across Northwest Colorado for the next 10 to 15 years.

ALTERNATIVE A (Current use, would involve no action): 78,190 acres closed to oil & gas leasing; 991,920 acres open to off-highway vehicle use

ALTERNATIVE B (Greatest amount of resource use): 78,190 acres closed to oil & gas leasing; 1,172,950 acres open to off-highway vehicle use

ALTERNATIVE C (Preferred alternative, moderate resource use and protection): 160,780 acres closed to oil & gas leasing; 21,940 acres open to off-highway vehicle use

ALTERNATIVE D (Greatest amount of resource protection): 275,630 acres closed to oil & gas exploration; 0 acres open to off-highway vehicle use, except for designated routes

To comment

The draft Resource Management Plan is available on the Web at: Comments can be submitted on the Web site and via e-mail to team leader Jeremy Casterson at the Little Snake Field Office:, by telephone at: (970) 826-5000, or by mail at: Bureau of Land Management, Little Snake Field Office, 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625

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