NWF Urges BLM to Commit to Smart-from-the-start Planning

As BLM Seeks Input, Agency Encouraged to Involve Public Early in Public Lands Decisions

07-05-2017 // Judith Kohler

Elk PairDENVER – As the Bureau of Land Management seeks public feedback on how it should manage public lands in a balanced way, the National Wildlife Federation urges the agency to commit to smart-from-the-start planning and upfront review of the potential impacts of development on fish and wildlife habitat, air and water. The BLM should build on recent improvements that have opened the planning process earlier to more of the public, which gives local communities, public-lands users and companies a chance to find common ground.

Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director, said:

“For good ideas, the BLM’s Washington-based officials should look at places like Colorado’s South Park. The BLM there is listening to the locals and people who use the public lands and has involved them from the beginning as it updates its resource management plan. Important wildlife and recreation areas as well as potential oil and gas drilling sites are being identified, all with the goal of focusing on important community values, protecting vital natural resources and heading off conflicts so companies have more certainty moving forward.

“We agree with the BLM that public-lands management has never been more challenging and that’s all the more reason to carefully review and build on the planning experiment under way in South Park,” Zimmerman added. “With oil and gas prices still low, more than 7,000 drilling permits approved but not being used and more than half the public acreage under lease sitting idle, there’s no reason for BLM not to give this process the time it deserves to find ways to ensure both early public involvement and better conflict resolution. The end result will be timelier, more successful planning outcomes.”

“And because the BLM launched its request for public input during a holiday, the National Wildlife Federation calls on the agency to extend the comment period beyond July 24,” Zimmerman said.

In other comments:

“If the BLM wants local input from diverse, interests there’s something it can do immediately: reactivate its resource advisory councils. I’ve served more than six years on the Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council, most recently as chair, and I know how effective the councils can be in providing the kind of grassroots input the BLM says it wants. Suspending the advisory councils at a time when the BLM is soliciting public feedback on how it does business just doesn’t make sense.” ~ Barbara Vasquez, chair of BLM’s Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council

"Colorado BLM field staff have done a good job thus far of working with Park County as a cooperating agency and numerous other local stakeholders in South Park to ensure that local voices have meaningful input in the process. The South Park process is a model of how to approach planning as good neighbors, foster greater transparency and involve state and local stakeholders with an eye toward reducing the likelihood of future litigation and conflict in the future.” ~ Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation

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