BLM releases draft RMP and EIS on 1.1m acres in western Colo.

Posted: Jan 17, 2013

Comment deadline: June 24, 2013

See a map of the affected area.

The Bureau of Land Management has released a draft resource management plan (RMP) revision and environmental impact statement (EIS) for the BLM Grand Junction Field Office (GJFO). It is offering its alternatives for managing travel, energy development and wildlife protection in the Grand Junction region. The last RMP was published in 1987.

The GJFO planning area is composed of BLM, US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Reclamation and State of Colorado lands in Garfield, Mesa, Montrose, and Rio Blanco Counties in western Colorado. There are nearly 1.1 million acres of BLM-administered public lands and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in the planning area.

The McInnis Canyons and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Areas (NCAs), while managed by the BLM and within the GJFO boundary, are or will be managed under separate RMPs. As such, these NCAs are not within the GJFO RMP decision area and are not part of this planning effort, with the exception of the portion of the Colorado River surrounded by the McInnis Canyons NCA that is being studied under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Suitability Report.

Major issues contributing to the RMP revision include the following:

 Management of public land to support numerous wildlife species and their habitats.

 Management of public lands containing wilderness character and oil and gas potential, including areas not designated as Wilderness Study Areas.

 Management of energy and mineral resources, including identifying areas and conditions in which mineral development can occur.

 Management of increased visitation by way of off-highway vehicle use and nonmotorized uses (e.g., mountain biking and hiking) that have led to increased concerns regarding resource protection and conflicting uses.

 Completion of Wild and Scenic River eligibility and suitability studies on river segments within the GJFO planning area.

 Consideration of opportunities for land tenure adjustment to improve public lands manageability.

 Expansion of communities and the urban interface.

 Consideration of right-of-way (ROW) exclusion areas and corridors.

 The needs of local government and citizens to be heard on an array of issues regarding both traditional and emerging uses of public land and their potential social and economic effects on local communities and values.

Alternative A

The “No Action” alternative, Alternative A, is the continuation of present management direction and current prevailing conditions based on existing planning decisions and amendments. This alternative meets the requirements of the NEPA (40 CFR Part 1502.14) that a no-action alternative be considered. “No action” means that current management practices, based on the existing GJFO RMP (BLM 1987), RMP amendments, and activity- or implementation-level plans, would continue. Goals and objectives for BLM land resources and resource uses would be based on the existing GJFO RMP, RMP amendments, and activity- or implementation-level plans. The emphasis would be on maintaining the existing land management direction for physical, biological, cultural, and historic resource values along with recreational, social, and economic land uses.

Alternative B (Preferred)

Alternative B seeks to balance resources among competing human interests, land uses, and the conservation of natural and cultural resource values, while sustaining the ecological integrity of certain key habitats for plant, wildlife, and fish species. It incorporates a balanced level of protection, restoration, enhancement, and use of resources and services to meet ongoing programs and land uses. Goals and objectives focus on environmental, economic, and social outcomes achieved by strategically addressing demands across the landscape.

Alternative C

Alternative C emphasizes non-consumptive use and management of resources through protection, restoration, and enhancement, while also providing for multiple uses, including livestock grazing and mineral development. This alternative would establish the greatest number of special designation areas, with specific measures to protect or enhance resource values within these areas. Goals and objectives focus on environmental and social outcomes achieved by sustaining relatively unmodified physical landscapes and natural and cultural resource values for current and future generations.

Management direction would generally be ecologically based; existing uses would be recognized but would likely be limited to ensure the protection of natural and cultural values, including intangible Native American landscape values encompassing plant communities, wildlife, viewsheds, air, and water. The appropriate development scenarios for allowable uses, such as mineral leasing, locatable mineral development, recreation, and livestock grazing, are contingent on meeting the essential conditions of natural and heritage resources.

Alternative D

This alternative emphasizes active management for natural resources, commodity production, and public use opportunities. Resource uses, such as recreation, livestock grazing, mineral leasing and development, would be emphasized. Management direction would recognize and give precedence to existing uses and accommodate new uses to the greatest extent possible while maintaining resource conditions. The appropriate development scenarios for allowable uses would emphasize social and economic outcomes while protecting land health.

The environmental impacts of the outlined alternatives are discussed in Chapter 4 in the RMP. Some of those impacts for Alternative B (the preferred alternative) are listed here:

Under Alternative B, 253,400 acres of the planning area (16 percent fewer acres than under Alternative A) would be acceptable for coal leasing, 878,700 acres would be open to fluid mineral development, 809,000 acres would be open to consideration for mineral material disposal, and 567,500 acres would be open to consideration of non-energy leasable mineral prospecting and development.

Total emissions for Alternative B are estimated to be greater than Alternative A and C and lower than Alternative D. This is due primarily to the higher reasonably foreseeable development rate predicted for oil and gas activities than for Alternatives A or C but lower rate than Alternative D. The development rate for coal mining activities is lower than Alternative A and D and the same as Alternative C. Estimated emissions for Alternative B increase over the base year for all pollutants due to increases in oil and gas development, solid minerals mining, and OHV use.

Overall, proposed resource management actions under Alternative B would protect soils. Compared to Alternative A, the reduction in open routes and the limited extent of areas open to intensive use would minimize related soil impacts. In addition, more areas would be closed to mineral development than under Alternative A, and more acres would be limited by NSO and CSU stipulations to protect resources, which would minimize related soil impacts.

Under Alternative B, approximately 203,100 acres would be closed to wood product sales and/or harvest (not including Christmas tree harvest) (63 percent fewer acres than under Alternative A), including areas identified as unsuitable for timber harvest based on other resource concerns. Small clear cuts would be allowed in specific areas.

Under Alternative B, recreation users would be directed toward the 78,300 acres of SRMAs (78 percent fewer acres than under Alternative A), concentrating impacts on soils in those areas and reducing impacts throughout the rest of the planning area. Under this alternative, areas currently open to cross-country motorized use would be closed, leaving 187,900 acres closed to motorized use (5.3 times more acres than under Alternative A) and 5,400 acres open to cross-country motorized and mechanized travel (57 percent fewer acres than under Alternative A).

Restrictions proposed to protect water resources would also contribute to improved soil health. Examples include closing river corridors of the Colorado, Dolores, and Gunnison Rivers to mineral materials sales and non-energy mineral leasing and development, which would help protect soils in these areas from erosion, compaction, and contamination; establishing buffer zones to major rivers, streams possessing lotic riparian attributes, definable streams, and lentic riparian areas that would minimize or heavily stipulate disturbances; and restricting seismic operations near springs and perennial streams.

For the BLM, the most effective comments will address specific details of the Draft RMP, including methodologies, sources of information, and components of the alternatives. All comments received will be considered during BLM’s decision-making process, but only specific comments will be addressed in the Proposed Plan/Final EIS. They prefer comments that, while stating a preference for certain management actions in the alternatives, also include rationale for that preference.

Learn more about the RMP process.
Read the draft RMP and draft EIS.

Comment on the Alternatives using the form below!


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