Pinedale BLM RMP meeting notes
Public meeting on April 11, 2007 - Reporter’s Notes
by Dawn Ballou, Editor, Pinedale Online!
April 12, 2007
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a public meeting in Pinedale on Wednesday to get input for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Pinedale Resource Management Plan (RMP) for public lands administered by the BLM Pinedale Field Office. Testimony from the hearing, along with written comments, will be taken into consideration on the RMP. Public comment is being accepted until May 18, 2007.
Approximately 100+ citizens attended the Pinedale session, with standing-room only in the Lovatt Room of the Pinedale Library. Twenty-three people gave testimony during the formal hearing session. Each was given 5 minutes to speak. Only one person was allowed to speak representing a special interest group.
Speaking were private general citizens, local landowners, environmental group representatives, citizens with in-depth backgrounds in specific scientific fields, local ranchers, and former employees of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
No one spoke in favor of the BLM’s proposed increase in emphasis on drilling for energy resources or willingness to sacrifice further wildlife values in exchange for recovery of the natural resources.
Noticeably absent in giving formal testimony were any local, county or state elected officials or representatives from the major oil and natural gas companies to speak on behalf of the proposed BLM alternative in the RMP.
Scroll down this article for background information, then highlights of comments from the public testimony at the Pinedale public meeting.
This was one of a series of public meetings being held in several towns to gather public hearing. Meetings have already been held in Rock Springs and Jackson. Another is scheduled for Marbleton this evening at the Marbleton Town Hall. The format was a 3-hour informal public meeting session from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm where citizens could talk one-on-one with BLM personnel and view map displays. RMP Revision team members were on hand at each meeting to answer questions and provide information on their portion of the RMP revision.
After the informal session, a formal public hearing was held beginning at 6:00 pm giving members of the public time to make comments, which were recorded by a court recorder as official comment for the record.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on the Pinedale RMP, call Kellie Roadifer, RMP project lead, at (307) 367-5309; or go to the Pinedale BLM website at: http://www.blm.gov/rmp/wy/pinedale
(This section derived from BLM verbiage explaining what the RMP is intended to do.)
The Record of Decision for the Pinedale Resource Management Plan (RMP) was finalized in December 1988. BLM has decided to revise the current RMP due to the latest knowledge about natural gas reserves, technology for retrieving gas, and issues about threatened, endangered and other wildlife species, and increased demand for public lands resources.
A facet of the performance-based approach in BLM's draft RMP/EIS is division of the planning area into several management areas. Each zone would have different goals for management of oil and gas production and wildlife habitat. Under the current draft, one area would be focused on efficient recovery of oil and gas, with an emphasis on habitat conservation and reclamation of wildlife habitats (both interim and final reclamation).
A second area would be available for oil and gas leasing, with strict limitations on development at the exploration stage to conserve habitats and other resources. A third area would be unavailable for oil and gas leasing. The fourth area would be available for oil and gas leasing with No Surface Occupancy stipulations.
Under the preferred alternative, regional income is expected to exceed $6.9 billion, and employment is expected to average more than 10,000 direct and secondary jobs per year.
The present value of mineral tax revenues would be expected to be slightly more than $11.7 billion.
Mitigation measures and performance-based management incorporated in the Preferred Alternative would limit impacts to wildlife habitat and populations, but would not eliminate impacts. Some reductions in wildlife habitat, including greater sage grouse, mule deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope, could occur.
Twenty-three people gave testimony during the formal public comment portion of the April 11th meeting in the Lovatt Room of the Sublette County Library in Pinedale. Not one person spoke out in favor of the ramp up in natural gas drilling in the Upper Green River Valley.
Repeating comments included:
- Asking the BLM to slow down the pace of development on leases and drilling in the Upper Green.
- Keep drilling activity out of the Hoback/Rim area and Upper Green River Valley north of Pinedale.
- Asking for more time for the public to review the RMP document to review and digest the contents.
- Honor their mandate for multiple-use mandate and give wildlife, air quality, water quality and scenic values as high a management emphasis as they are now giving oil and gas drilling and development.
(Below are reporter’s notes of the highlights of the testimony of each of these speakers.)
1. Tucker Smith (Landowner in Rim area):
- The Hoback Rim/North Beaver Creek area are the first and last impression tourists have of the Upper Green River Basin. The area has important historical and big game values.
- Hoback area is a haven for big game (elk, moose, deer, antelope), with several nearby elk feedgrounds. Sage grouse leks are present in the area.
- Several landowners have felt strongly enough about protecting scenic and wildlife values of land in the area they have entered into conservation easements on their property to protect their area of the Upper Green values for future generations.
- “How much does Sublette County have to sacrifice?” Do we have to sacrifice all our scenic, air quality, water quality and wildlife values for natural gas?
- He has been told these public comments will have no effect on the BLM’s decision. He hopes that is not true.
- Smith asked for no more leasing on the Rim or Upper Green.
Ron Rhine (Cora resident):
- The water table in the Upper Green is high. If drilling hurts the water quality in the Upper Green, that hurts water that travels all the way down to Lake Mead and would have a huge impact on many downstream water consumers.
- BLM should be more straight forward on the facts.
- Truck traffic from drilling activity would be a safety issue for residents and school children in the Upper Green area north of Pinedale in the Cora area and add to traffic problems in Pinedale.
- The BLM puts a higher value on gas than on any other resources out there (deer, antelope, grouse, water). The BLM has a responsibility to manage all the resources, not just one or two.
Gordon Schwabacher (Rancher and Landowner on the Rim):
- More time. The public needs more time to review the RMP document in order to digest all the complex issues and be able to give comments. Busy season now with calving, ranching, other activities. Not enough advertising for this meeting. Confusion between BLM RMP and Anticline DSEIS. Complex issues, hard for public to understand. Many water and wildlife issues.
- He asked the BLM for additional 60 days or more for public to get an understanding of what the RMP is all about.
Linda Baker (Community Organizer for the Upper Green River Valley Coalition in Pinedale):
- Her comments are preliminary to additional comments their organization will submit at a later date.
- Upper Green River Valley is vitally important as a world-class wildlife and fisheries mecca, outstanding vistas, distilled quality water, enviable quality of life, safe small-town atmosphere. Paired with some of the most productive natural gas fields in the country. Potential for extraordinary growth of gas fields. Public has waited over 4 years for this natural resources plan. No ordinary RMP should be expected. BLM employees have worked under extreme duress while trying to stay ahead of pressure from D.C. to get out the APDs.
- BLM is a federal agency with oversight over America’s priceless natural resources and public lands, the RMP is a “disappointing document to say the least.”
- These alternatives “suggest removal of existing seasonal protections and significant portions of crucial winter, nesting, transitional, parturition ranges for mule deer, pronghorn, moose, elk and sage grouse setting a dangerous precedent wherever energy development occurs in the Rocky Mountain West. Crucial winter ranges, wildlife migration corridors, and other important habitats are population-limiting habitats. A significant and little understood phenomenon known as ‘habitat fidelity’ must not be overlooked.” Extensive fragmentation and degradation of these special places have the potential to add to other limiting factors and extripate our wildlife to levels below the severe declines we have already witnessed in just the last five years.”
- Offsite mitigation does not replace crucial winter and other ranges that serve wildlife populations.
- BLM must require more than voluntary wildlife studies.
- BLM’s “Best Management Practices” suggested here are better described as “Fair Management Practices”.
- There is relatively little habitat that would be considered off limits to oil and gas development no matter the cost.
- Outcome based or performance-based management as described in the document comes with no timeline or BLM implementation plan to explain how all the programs will be carried out.
- UGRVC asks for four things: 1) Maintenance of seasonal and surface wildlife protections where oil and gas is developed; 2) Required and prudent management practices that truly mitigate and protect our wildlife, air and water quality; 3) A comprehensive habitat assessment that maps and categorizes wildlife habitat; 4) Confirmed, non-waverable special management area designations where existing non-developed oil and gas leases will be allowed to expire, be traded or sold and permanently retired from leasing. Wildlife, air, water reclamation mitigation and hazardous material plans need to be clearly outlined for public review.
Gannett Horn (Property owner in Upper Green):
- Oil and gas drilling is a huge threat to our way of life in the Upper Green.
- Push for energy development is being done for finite, short-term financial gains. Alternatives represent poor planning. BLM is using inaccurate maps and has poor information for their planning purposes. They need to get good information on every resource they manage.
- The BLM has said they will lease mineral drilling rights in the Upper Green north of Pinedale regardless of who owns the surface property.
- The entire Wind River front should be permanently off-limits to drilling for federal minerals no matter who owns the surface.
- The Class I Airshed should be maintained. There is no air quality map. Other maps BLM is using are inaccurate.
- Implored BLM to get good information on how every resource would be affected by the RMP.
Kevin Roche (Private citizen, Property owner on the Rim):
- Hoback Rim has irreplaceable historical importance, scenic values and is a wildlife haven. He stated he feels the area is totally unsuitable for energy development.
Alexandra Fuller (Noted Writer, Property owner on the Rim):
- BLM has not sought input from “Philosophers”. All things in the universe are connected. Human beings cannot and should not exhibit species dominance over the Earth. The government is guilty of stealing the land from beneath the feet of the people.
- We are leaving it to two to three generations ahead of us to reclaim what we have left.
Jocelyn Moore (Concerned Citizen, Homeowner, Taxpayer):
- In favor of Alternative 1 – No Action.
- The BLM hasn’t followed what is required in the existing Record of Decision (ROD) as far as maintaining water quality in the ROD. She is on the Pinedale Anticline Working Group Water Quality Task Group (but was speaking tonight as a private citizen, not as a representative of the Task Group). Sublette County Conservation District has data has showing the presence of macro-invertibrates that favor degraded habitat already. This data and information have not been used by the BLM on activity that is already occurring. Reports from the Department of Environmental Quality showing degradation to water quality have been “hushed up” by the BLM.
- There is no information currently available that explains the underlying hydrology of the Upper Green River Valley area. The BLM cannot adequately analyze the impacts of water quality to humans and livestock without that information.
- There is no report or study on Produced Water impacts.
- What will be done with additional salty water brought up by well drilling activity?
- The BLM has lost credibility. They have buckled under the pressure of Washington D.C. to push more energy development. She stated she wished the BLM would buckle under the pressure of “us” (the people giving comment in the room). “There you go again.”
John Fandek (Citizen):
- What we have here is a “National Sacrifice Zone.” Our area is experiencing “an assault, an invasion of alien forces facilitated by the BLM.”
- What we are seeing here is not responsible development.
Bob McCarty (Former BLM Wildlife Biologist with 21 years experience working for the BLM and 11 years here in Pinedale):
- McCarty wrote the Wildlife Section of the Pinedale BLM RMP 20 years ago.
- He agreed with others who spoke in this hearing saying more time is needed to review the new RMP.
- BLM now like a revolving door. Many people who come in go to private industry. The local BLM office is a clearinghouse for industry employees.
- Stated the energy push direction is coming directly down from Washington D.C.
- The local sage grouse subspecies population here is on their way to the Endangered Species List.
- He is working with Perry Walker, local air quality scientist, to put together a “concerned scientist citizen group” to address scientific concerns about development in the area. Encouraged anyone interested in this to come talk with them.
- We need to elect better government.
- We need better reclamation techniques.
- Off-site mitigation should be a last resort. We need to take care of habitat where it is.
- BLM needs to do what they say they are supposed to do in their own Mission Statement: “The Bureau of Land Management sustains the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
Perry Walker (Air Quality Scientist):
- BLM operating in the vein of the Mafia, “this is just business.”
- RMP is dangerously misleading. It has conflict-laden statistical information. Much of it is “faith based.”
- BLM needs an independent, 3rd party company to perform EIS work.
- Walker would like to see pollution control measures more stringent than DEQ levels.
- He has just launched a new website with a lot of local air quality information and data: www.pinedaleairquality.com
Joshua Adams (Local Off-Road-Vehicle/ORV enthusiast):
- Preferred Alternative would shut down areas that are currently very popular for public off-road vehicle use and limit activity to existing roads and trails. Area south of WYO 351 is now open, was there for ORV use before Jonah Field came in.
- BLM doing this to keep oilfield activity to existing roads.
- Where they ride there is desert with minimal vegetation or damage to environment.
- BLM is punishing the recreators for what is going on in the oilfield.
- He supports Alternative 1 – No Change.
- He wants to keep public access and protect public’s right to be able to go down to recreate.
- Reporter’s Note: This refers to the Burma Off-Road Recreational area south of Highway 351 and east of Big Piney/Marbleton.
David Smith (Local citizen):
- BLM works for a very questionable leadership.
- If you want to see deer, look along the area highways.
- BLM looking for a short term solution…
- Asked BLM to give public more time to let scientists, environmentalists, specialists to look at the available data and give input.
- The natural gas in the Upper Green River Valley “isn’t going anywhere” if not recovered now.
Laurie Bigyiken (Citizen):
- This is a clear example on how this nation has strayed away from conservation.
- BLM has made it so the lease holders will meet with the least possible resistance for their activities, with plenty of leeway for exceptions.
- BLM needs to focus on relative value of resources.
- BLM should slow down rate of oil and gas production and increase rate of conservation.
Ty Huffman (Sportsman, Local Landowner, Grew up in area):
- Lack of time for public to review RMP.
- Lack of specifics in RMP, timeframes are uncertain, impacts to wildlife are uncertain.
- He supports “No Action”.
- “We’ve already passed anything we should have.” Ten years ago no one would have believed we’re at where we are now.
- There is no Multiple Use now. It’s about the one with the most money.
- Slow down. Don’t know what the rush is. The last 8 years are the worst we’ve experienced.
- The BLM is endorsing a magnitude of devastation in the Upper Green far over what grazing ever did.
John Fogerty (Citizen):
(Editor’s Note: He is not the John Fogerty of roots rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival fame. Same name, different person.)
- The obvious, most valuable natural resource Sublette County has is clean water. Water is getting affected.
- Increased drilling pushing farther into the hills of the Upper Green River Valley is hurting water quality which hurts the whole country. There is contamination of aquifers.
- It won’t hurt the gas companies to hold off a bit.
- There needs to be more time for more analysis.
Tom Noble (Citizen):
- From a historical perspective, 30 years ago the Wagon Wheel Project in the Upper Green River Valley, if allowed to proceed, would have made the current oil and gas boom impossible. A group of local concerned citizens stopped that project.
- Look to the past to look to the future. It is bound to be easier to recover the natural gas there now another day in the future. Hold off and rethink the push. Rethink recreation and wildlife.
Rollin Sparrow (Full-time resident, Property owner):
- Two upcoming meetings in front of the House Natural Resources Committee about BLM energy development. One on how present management has upset the balance of natural resources on public land. Another the following week on how the current BLM land management policies are impacting the people and way of life in areas where energy development is occurring. “Congress is awake and looking at this.” The Senate will take it up in the near future.
- PAWG (Pinedale Anticline Working Group) is failing. Good people have spent a lot of time giving input to the BLM and generally got “brushed off.”
- The effects of energy development in our area are going to be a lot larger than the RMP and DEIS say. Much of the impact is unacceptable.
Peggy Bryant (Citizen):
- Public needs more time. Impacts go on for more than 20 years.
- BLM is changing the landscape into an industrial-use area.
- Multiple use needs to be brought up.
- There is no enforcement. BLM doesn’t have the money to monitor the impacts they already have under the current RMP.
- We are being denied public access to public land.
Dwayne Fish (Citizen):
- He hasn’t heard anything tonight from anyone to support the decision the BLM wants to go with.
- He encouraged BLM to listen to the people speaking at this public hearing.
Jeff Stinson (Citizen, lives in Daniel):
- Used to work in oilfield. “Quit out of disgust.”
- Current problems with industry: “blowing wells” (releasing natural gas into atmosphere and fluids into tanks). He has seen cattle drink out of pits at well sites and then walk away and fall over and die. Caustic chemicals are being put down drill holes to dissolve rock. Dead deer out in the oilfield – not sure if winter die off or from them drinking from well pits. There is a 15-acre area outside of LaBarge that if someone lit a match, it would “go up”.
- The BLM needs better management.
Kenny Walker (Senior in High School, graduating this year):
- Everyone can make a difference. Encouraged public to speak up. “This is important.”
- “If we ruin it now, it will never be back.”