Debbie Coffey      Copyright 2012    All Rights Reserved.

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About every 15-20 years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rewrites a Resource Management Plan for areas that include not only rural areas, but big cities like Los Angeles.

Then, for the next 15-20 years, every proposed project, plan and Environmental Assessment is based on this Resource Management Plan (RMP).

HOW BLM CLOSES PUBLIC ROADS

With these RMPs, the BLM (along with the Forest Service) has ramped up limiting & closing off public access to public roads and lands. In RMPs (Route of Travel Designations), the BLM designates public roads as “open,” “limited use” or “closed” to Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs). This can include 4 wheel drive pickup trucks, not just All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and dirt bikes. Public lands can also be designated as “open,” “limited” or “closed.” Designations can change from “limited” to “closed.”

Supposedly, BLM and the USDA’s Forest Service are closing and limiting use of public roads and public lands to protect the resources of public lands. But, it’s important to consider the EXTENT to which they’re doing this. It goes far beyond protecting habitat.

For instance, at the Tavaputs Plateau in Utah, the BLM has been trying to close roads that lead to some of the most popular routes and scenic vistas in that county. It’s also the area where Bill Barrett Corp. is conducting a massive natural gas field development The BLM intends to close the roads for 30 years.

If these road closures are really about protecting habitat, then how can BLM possibly justify how your 4 wheel drive truck could cause more harm to the environment than a massive extraction project that has about 488 well pads (with 20 well pads in Wilderness Study Areas and 218 well pads in areas with Wilderness Characteristics), 164 miles of new roads, 3,390 acres of initial disturbance (before reclamation) and 1,705 acres of long term disturbance?

It seems that BLM, Forest Service and Congressional concern for protecting the environment is selective. While you’re being shut out, other “uses” (that are more likely to cause harm to the environment) are allowed to take shortcuts.

THE BIG CHANGE IN RMPs

RMPs used to be about 160 pages or less. Now, the new RMPs can be over a thousand pages (with an additional CD of Route of Travel Inventory Maps). The old RMPs had straightforward topics in the table of contents like land use allocations, livestock grazing, land tenure adjustments, oil and gas lease stipulations, and areas of critical environmental concern. More