Public comment for revised Grand Staircase Escalante NM management plan (comments open 11 Aug - 9 Nov)

fossana

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A 90-day public comment period is opening tomorrow for the revised Escalante Management Plan. From the announcement:
The Bureau of Land Management today published a Notice of Availability and opened a 90-day public comment period for the Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which would replace the existing 2020 Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plans for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and 2020 Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan for the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area that together guide the management of approximately 1.87 million acres of public lands. The comment period closes Nov. 9, 2023...

The draft RMP and EIS includes consideration for proposed areas of critical environmental concern and recreational target shooting closures. The plan, associated documents and instructions for submitting comments electronically (preferred) are available at the BLM National NEPA Register and at the BLM Paria River District Office. Comments may also be mailed to ATTN: GSENM RMP Project Manager, BLM Paria River District Office, 669 S Highway 89A, Kanab, UT 84741...

BLM plans to hold five open-house forum public meetings with opportunities to speak with resource specialists: two virtual meetings and three in-person meetings, one each in Escalante, Kanab, and Panguitch. Dates and locations of public meetings will be announced at least 15 days in advance through local media, social media, newspapers, and the BLM National NEPA Register.

Of note, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released a map based on BLM's 2020 data showing that the Escalante River watershed is in poor condition due to grazing. Some of the green areas are labeled as "Determination Not Complete". I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has noticed the lack of fencing for drainages accessing the Escalante River or encountered one of the rogue cattle living down in the supposedly off-limits grazing area along the banks of the river.

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@fossana I appreciate you posting these in case they are missed in the regular news or elsewhere.
Anyone with an interest should review and comment- it looks like commenting opens tomorrow 8/11.

 
The virtual and in-person public meetings have been announced:

The BLM will host five public meetings. Dates, times, and locations of the meetings are:

In the past I've found the BLM staff invaluable in providing guidance on how to most effectively draft comments (i.e. addressing the methodology), and educating the public on what resources stand to be impacted or where further research is needed to identify the potential impact (e.g. paleontological surveys in GSENM).
 
Friendly reminder that public comments are due by Nov 9th. I recommend you get this in before the 9th to avoid any last minute technical issues if there's a rush of last minute submissions. You can find the docs, maps, and comment link here.

Some notes from a recent briefing:
  • The management plan alternatives, A-D, are organized from least to most conservation focused, with D prioritizing conservation highest.
    • C is the BLM preferred alternative, and is a substantial improvement over the plan approved during the Trump administration (not surprisingly).
    • The most likely scenario is that the BLM will choose toward C with some elements swapped from other alternatives based on public comment.
  • There is a detailed matrix comparing the alternatives in volume 1 starting on PDF page 69. You can also find the executive summary at the beginning.
  • Maps are in volume 2.
  • The management plan is combined with an environmental impact statement, so the overall doc is quite detailed (>1000 pages).
  • If you use canned talking points from another source, please rephrase them in your own words. Copy/paste comments sent from multiple sources will get consolidated and treated as a single comment.
  • Include specific references, data, or observations to back up your opinions.
  • One area where the BLM can improve with regard to management plans is having metrics/milestones to demonstrate its goals are being met. Keep this in mind when reviewing the plan.
I forgot to add my contribution to the briefing:
  • PEER rangeland health map based on BLM's data, showing that livestock are contributing to GSENM rangeland not meeting BLM's health standards and that the rangeland is not being routinely monitored. You can search the map by grazing allotment (e.g. Upper Paria). Specific grazing allotments are called out in the matrix for retirement.
 
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Friendly reminder that public comments are due by Nov 9th. I recommend you get this in before the 9th to avoid any last minute technical issues if there's a rush of last minute submissions. You can find the docs, maps, and comment link here.

Some notes from a recent briefing:
  • The management plan alternatives, A-D, are organized from least to most conservation focused, with D prioritizing conservation highest.
    • C is the BLM preferred alternative, and is a substantial improvement over the plan approved during the Trump administration (not surprisingly).
    • The most likely scenario is that the BLM will choose toward C with some elements swapped from other alternatives based on public comment.
  • There is a detailed matrix comparing the alternatives in volume 1 starting on PDF page 69. You can also find the executive summary at the beginning.
  • Maps are in volume 2.
  • The management plan is combined with an environmental impact statement, so the overall doc is quite detailed (>1000 pages).
  • If you use canned talking points from another source, please rephrase them in your own words. Copy/paste comments sent from multiple sources will get consolidated and treated as a a single comment.
  • Include specific references, data, or observations to back up your opinions.
  • One area where the BLM can improve with regard to management plans is having metrics/milestones to demonstrate its goals are being met. Keep this in mind when reviewing the plan.
Do you know if anything is being done about getting HITR road graded once in a while. It's really a nightmare.
 
HITR does get graded once in a while, but not necessarily the whole thing. One of the late summer road reports said it had been graded to Red Well.
This is from a 2017 story in the SL Trib, not sure the current maintenance cadence:

Bremner [Garfield Co engineer] figures his crews regrade the entire road up to 20 times each tourist season, from April to October, plus an additional six times a year for the Garfield County end.

I'm thankful I don't have to drive again this year.
 
HITR does get graded once in a while, but not necessarily the whole thing. One of the late summer road reports said it had been graded to Red Well.
This is from a 2017 story in the SL Trib, not sure the current maintenance cadence:


I'm thankful I don't have to drive again this year.
I remember when it used to get graded. Sure has been a while.
 
I remember when it used to get graded. Sure has been a while.

I flagged this again at the Escalante blm office on Monday. Was told it’s the county who “maintains” it and the road does get graded twice per year according to the person in the office, but there is a lot of traffic.

A few years ago we met a local Boulder couple and they made it clear the road only gets graded right before the ranchers take the cows down the road and right before the ranchers bring the cows back up ;)
 
I flagged this again at the Escalante blm office on Monday. Was told it’s the county who “maintains” it and the road does get graded twice per year according to the person in the office, but there is a lot of traffic.

A few years ago we met a local Boulder couple and they made it clear the road only gets graded right before the ranchers take the cows down the road and right before the ranchers bring the cows back up ;)
I think the BLM person in the office ought to actually drive it. Cedar Mesa roads get graded/repaired, the road to Hans Flat gets graded. The Boulder couple's reply sounds possible. I have friends who live in Escalante & they won't drive the road.
 
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