RBC I On Nov. 11, the Bureau of Land Management White River Field Office hosted public meetings in Meeker and Rangely to discuss the scoping process of updating their Travel and Transportation Management Plan for the 6.2 million acres managed by the White River Field Office.
The stated purpose of the meeting was to overview the process and strategies used for developing the plan as well as to create public interest. According to the presentation, the reasons for updating the plan include difficulty in managing existing routes and to make the terminology more consistent with current BLM policy.
“Your participation and collaboration are key to this process,” said Kent Walter, director of the White River Field Office in Meeker.
The process is currently in its infancy with the BLM currently seeking scoping comments and hoping to begin implementation in the summer of 2017.
Before this process could begin the BLM had to complete inventories on all existing travel routes in order to develop a baseline. These inventories are available for review from the BLM and were collected in 2014 for the Eastern portion of the field office and in 2015 for the western portion.
The areas north of Highway 40 are yet to be completed. During the collection of information, the BLM obtained just less than 8,000 photos and approximately 3,850 miles of routes mapped via GPS.
Each of these inventoried routes were catalogued with 11 attributes, including inventory date, segment number, planning category, width, maintenance method, use level, route number and name, surface type, construction method and use class.
The BLM will begin by looking at designations for all areas of the field office, labeling them as either “open,” “limited” or “closed” OHV areas. It should be noted that OHV refers to any off-highway motorized vehicle, not just ATVs.
Open areas are intended for heavily used areas where all types of vehicle use are allowed at all times. Limited designations are for restricted transportation. Examples include limiting types of travel (motorcycles, ATVs, high clearance vehicles), time or season of use or authorized vehicles only. Closed areas prohibit all OHV use in an effort to protect resources or visitor safety.
When determining the designations, the BLM will consider things such as the protection of resources including soil, vegetation, air and wildlife, promotion of safety to users as well as seek to limit conflicts between users of the public lands.
The information the BLM is seeking via public comment include input on planning criteria and issues and concerns about potential conflicts in resource or use.
These comments are due by Dec. 4. After comments have been gathered and processed, the BLM will make them available for review on their website as part of its scoping report.
Once the scoping process is complete. the BLM plans to work with cooperative agencies such as the towns of Rangely, Dinosaur and Meeker as well as Rio Blanco, Moffat and Garfield counties, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the White River and Douglas Creek conservation districts, among others, to create alternatives to address issues identified as part of the scoping process.
The alternatives will then be presented to the public at large and the North West Colorado Resource Advisory Committee for a 30-day review.
By the fall of 2016, the BLM plans to review the draft and complete an environmental analysis for the routes. This will be followed up by a 30-day public protest/comment period.
The BLM expects to issue a formal decision on the travel management plan in the spring of 2017.
Comments regarding the scoping portion of the plan can be submitted on the White River Field Office website.