ST. GEORGE – A 30-day extension of the comment period for controversial land management plans in Washington County was announced Wednesday by the the Bureau of Land management, and county officials are pleased.
The proposed management plans have stirred heated debate – county, municipal and transportation officials say the plans go too far in restricting land use, while conservationists favor more restrictive elements of the plans.
The move extends the comment period for resource management plans for the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash national conservation areas and an amendment to the current St. George Field Office RMP. The public comment period will now end on Nov. 16.
County Commissioner Victor Iverson believes the extra time will be helpful.
“The county is pleased that the BLM has given us this extension and and is allowing us to continue to make sure that our comments are meaningful and useful in the process,” Iverson said.
“I hope that this means that they’ll actually listen to our comments and allow us to be in this role as a cooperating agency … and draft a plan that will be workable for the citizens of the county.”
The draft plans and amendment lay out a range of alternatives and offer a variety of proposed management objectives and actions, the statement said.
“Providing a reasonable range of alternatives gives reviewers an opportunity to compare and contrast the effects of various alternatives when evaluating the draft documents and submitting comments,” BLM-Utah Color Country District Manager Heather Whitman said in a statement.
One of the proposed alternatives offered for public review and comment is the Alternative B, the BLM’s preferred alternative. However, the final plans could adopt Alternative B or a combination of alternatives. Nothing in the draft documents available for review should be considered final, the statement said.
The BLM will carefully consider comments to help develop Proposed RMPs for the two NCAs, a Proposed RMP Amendment, and a Final EIS, the statement said.
St. George Field Office Manager Brian Tritle has mixed feelings about the extension.
“I am glad that the county and others who have raised issues and basically said ‘We have a need to have more time to really digest this,’ I’m grateful to have that time and I’m grateful to have the time to work with them,” Tritle said.
However, the BLM is still under a court-ordered deadline for completion of the final management plans by June 30, 2016.
Extending the comment period will make meeting that deadline even more difficult, Tritle said, because there are several more steps in the planning process that need to be completed by the deadline.
“We are definitely going to be strained and put under stress in terms of time to do the job,” Tritle said.
BLM extends office hours, offers resources
To provide additional time for citizens to ask questions about the draft plans and learn more about submitting substantive comments, the BLM St. George Field Office will extend its regular office hours several times before the comment period closes on Nov. 16. The BLM St. George Field Office is located at 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, Utah.
BLM staff familiar with the draft plans and draft amendment will be available to answer specific plan-related questions during the following times:
- Tuesdays – 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 27, Nov. 3, and Nov. 10
- Saturdays – 9-11 a.m. Oct. 24 and Nov. 7.
How to comment
Written comments will be accepted by letter or email until Nov. 16, 2015. Please note that the most useful comments are those that contain new technical or scientific information relevant to the proposed action. Comments should be as specific as possible.
Comments which contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response but may be considered in the BLM decision-making process. Please reference “NCA RMPs” when submitting comments.
Please reference “NCA RMPs” in your correspondence. Written comments may be sent by email or mail using the following addresses:
BLM-Utah St. George Field Office
Attn: Keith Rigtrup
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, UT 84790
Before including an address, phone number, email address or other personally identifiable information in any comments, be aware that the entire comment — including personal identifying information — may be made publicly available at any time. Requests to withhold personal identifying information from public review can be submitted, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to accommodate those requests.
- The Draft RMPs, Draft RMP Amendment, and Draft EIS are available online here
- Frequently asked questions about the draft management plans are available here
- To learn more about submitting comments, see A Citizens Guide to NEPA
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