BLM is Working to Plan Best Use of Land
By Selma Sierra
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act mandates that Bureau of Land Management manage public lands for multiple uses such as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, energy exploration and production, conservation and timber production. Additionally, the act establishes that the 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 and update them 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 Moab, Richfield, Price, Vernal, Monticello and Kanab. 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 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 in the coming weeks.
Today the public debate is dominated by 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. 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 1 million acres of public land, in addition to nearly 2 million acres of existing wilderness study areas.
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 use to designated roads and trails. The growing popularity of OHVs and population growth create a need to more closely manage this type of recreation.
The 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 a 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.
Selma Sierra directs the Bureau of Land Management in Utah.
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