Steve Tryon, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s Oklahoma Field Office, answers questions from the audience Wednesday during one of the 17 public scoping meetings BLM scheduled through the month of January to seek input on the agency’s Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. The final RMP will guide management decisions for public resources in the three-state area of Oklahnoma, Kansas and Texas. L&T photo/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Friday was the deadline to comment on the proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The deadline for that agency to make a decision the listing is March 30, and Wednesday night, Steve Tryon, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s Oklahoma Field Office, told an audience at Liberal’s Memorial Library that Fish and Wildlife is endorsing a proposal from the five states affected by the listing to put in place certain conservation measures.
“They’re reaching out to energy providers to enter into something called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with assurances,” he said. “Some operators are in the process now of adding millions of acres under lease to this agreement which promises to give certainty to oil and gas development even if the bird is listed.”
Tryon said practices put into place a few years ago in New Mexico on BLM land have worked remarkably well.
“We have turned some of the mitigation fees that oil and gas operators have provided into more than a million acres of restoration which theoretically was good for the birds elsewhere,” he said. “This is an example of how we partner with energy companies to say we, the federal government as a whole, give certainty, and what we get in return is better habitat offsite for in that case a couple of species.”
Tryon said there are some operators who are actively signing up or enrolling acreage at the moment.
“They’re doing that with an outfit called the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, or WAFWA,” he said.
Tryon said the lesser prairie chicken has been identified as an important element in the preparation of BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement.
The EIS will result in a BLM Resource Management Plan, which creates the management framework for the OFO.
The RMP will replace plans put in place in the 1990s in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The need for an RMP is to respond to new policies including but not limited to energy, demand for limited resources, appropriate protection of sensitive resources, increases in conflict between competing resource values and land uses and other issues that have surfaced since the approval of existing RMPs.
The overall objective of the planning effort is to provide a collaborative planning approach that assists BLM in updating management decisions of the current plans.
Wednesday’s meeting was just one of 17 planned in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas that provided early public involvement that is crucial to identify issues that should be addressed through the process.
The scoping period provides the public with an opportunity to learn about the RMP, to help identify issues and concerns to be addressed in the EIS and to provide input used in developing alternatives.
The final RMP will identify desired outcomes, future conditions to be maintained or achieved and specify uses of resource allocations that are allowable, restricted or prohibited, including any restrictions needed to meet desired outcomes.
The OFO planning area encompasses 411,585 square miles, or 263 million acres, across Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas and contains a population of more than 32 million people.
The planning area comprises federal, state and private lands as well as Native American reservations, hundreds of counties and thousands of municipalities.
The decision area is only the surface land and subsurface mineral estate within the planning area for which the BLM or Bureau of Indian Affairs have authority to make land use and management decisions.
The BLM decision area is comprised of 104,000 acres of surface lands, 593,000 acres of split-estate land (private land with federal mineral interests) and an additional 5,270,000 acres of federal mineral estate on lands managed by other federal agencies.
An RMP, similar to a county master plan, is a land use plan that describes broad multiple-use guidance for managing public lands administered by the BLM.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act directs the BLM to develop such land use plans and to provide for appropriate uses of public lands.
Decisions in land use plans guide future land management actions and subsequent site-specific implementation decisions.
Comments about the proposed RMP are welcomed, reviewed, and considered throughout the planning process.
Comments may be submitted by e-mail to BLM_NM_
. Alternatively, comments can be made by printing and filling out the mail-in (or fax-in) comment form, available from the project website at www.blm.gov/nm/oklahoma.
Comment forms may be delivered to the BLM at 7906 East 33rd Street, Ste. 101, Tulsa, OK 74145, Attn: Laurence Levesque; or faxed to (918) 621-4130, Attn: Laurence Levesque.