US Senator Bennet Echoes Local Concerns with Proposed Resource Management Plan for BLM Uncompahgre Field Office

After Last Minute Changes by BLM Undercut Local Governments, Bennet Asks BLM to Reengage with Community

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to reiterate concerns expressed by the State of Colorado, local governments, and a diverse group of local stakeholders with the proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) recently put forward by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO). The stakeholders note that the plan does not reflect years of collaborative work by local communities and lacks adequate measures to protect water supplies, air quality, wildlife habitat, and the burgeoning recreation economy.

“The drastic and unexplained changes to the PRMP have undercut the governments’ good faith engagement efforts. BLM’s decision to introduce the PRMP with new provisions that directly contradict local feedback at the last minute, and provide no opportunity for individuals, cooperating agencies, and stakeholders to share feedback, undermines years of collaboration and local engagement,” wrote Bennet. “The lack of transparency and unwillingness to work with the involved communities is troubling.”

Bennet requested that – before finalizing any proposal – the BLM reengage with local stakeholders to develop a plan that respects the careful balance developed by local governments, sportsmen, businesses, conservationists, and agriculture leaders over the years.

“As a western Colorado native, I know that you share a love for the land and our diverse communities. As these communities continue to change, economies that once depended primarily on natural resource development now also rely on wildlife habitat, recreation, and agri-tourism. To thrive, they need partners in Washington who will listen to their concerns and act in their interests. Therefore, before your agency finalizes any plan for the UFO, I request that you work with these communities to develop a final plan that respects long-standing local priorities and represents a balanced use of our nation’s public lands,” concluded Bennet.

Leading up to the release of the final PRMP in June, which guides public land management across 675,000 acres in Montrose, Ouray, Gunnison, Delta, San Miguel, and Mesa Counties, the BLM held hundreds of meetings, conducted research, and received thousands of comments to inform the plan. The unexpected changes prompted Dan Gibbs, director of the state Department of Natural Resources, and three Colorado counties to submit formal protest letters to the BLM. Governor Jared Polis also sent a letter to the BLM expressing his concerns with the plan.

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Secretary Bernhardt:

I write to highlight issues that the State of Colorado, local governments, sportsmen, businesses, conservationists, and agricultural leaders have raised regarding the proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) and final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO). The enclosed letters suggest the PRMP currently lacks adequate measures to protect water supplies, air quality, wildlife habitat, and the burgeoning recreation economy. I request that you reengage with the community to develop a balanced plan that respects local priorities before the Department finalizes the current proposal.

Local governments in the area are invested in the PRMP because the UFO’s management of natural resources deeply affects their way of life. They have been engaged throughout the BLM UFO planning process, both on behalf of their residents and through their status as cooperating agencies. Yet the drastic and unexplained changes to the PRMP have undercut the governments’ good faith engagement efforts. BLM’s decision to introduce the PRMP with new provisions that directly contradict local feedback at the last minute, and provide no opportunity for individuals, cooperating agencies, and stakeholders to share feedback, undermines years of collaboration and local engagement. The lack of transparency and unwillingness to work with the involved communities is troubling.

As you will see in the attached letters, the communities that the PRMP affects are very concerned about what the plan will mean to the careful balance they have developed together over the years. Three Colorado counties have filed formal protests to the PRMP. Their concerns include threats to clean water, lack of consideration for at-risk wildlife, and negative effects on their local economies. The PRMP’s proposed leasing in the North Fork Valley is particularly concerning to many agricultural producers in the Valley who believe that oil and gas development will threaten the already fragile local water infrastructure and harm their operations.

As a western Colorado native, I know that you share a love for the land and our diverse communities. As these communities continue to change, economies that once depended primarily on natural resource development now also rely on wildlife habitat, recreation, and agri-tourism. To thrive, they need partners in Washington who will listen to their concerns and act in their interests. Therefore, before your agency finalizes any plan for the UFO, I request that you work with these communities to develop a final plan that respects long-standing local priorities and represents a balanced use of our nation’s public lands.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Bennet

Michael Bennet is a member of the United States Senate Committees on Finance; Intelligence; and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.