The citizens’ group that advises the BLM in central Montana (the Resource Advisory Council, or RAC) this week recommended that BLM consider the notion of a land swap as the agency looks to restore motorized access to the Bullwhacker area of the Monument.
Camping out in the Bullwhacker, referred to in the Monument Proclamation as “some of the wildest country on all the Great Plains”. (Photo Mary Frieze.)
We’re pleased that the RAC unanimously recommended that BLM include an option that was favored by much of the public who turned out at several scoping meetings on this issue last winter.
We’re less pleased about a few headlines and interpretations of this vote that we think are misleading. The RAC did *not* vote to favor, support, or lean towards the draft proposal that the current Bullwhacker Road landowners are currently circulating. (More on that below.) The RAC simply voted to recommend that BLM include a swap as an alternative when BLM puts together its Environmental Assessment on restoring Bullwhacker access.
From the Great Falls Tribune:
The RAC’s vote wasn’t specific (to) the Wilkses’ proposal, explained Jonathan Moor, spokesman for the BLM’s Central and Hi-Line districts. The vote was more general, in the sense that some sort of land swap should be considered as an alternative.
The 15-member Resource Advisory Council is made up of people who use BLM-managed lands and advices the BLM on issues…
The council’s recommendations are non-binding.
The vote was unanimous with the 14 members of the council. One seat is vacant.
By voting this way, the RAC was doing its job. The public continually asked BLM about land swaps during last winter’s scoping meetings (which is what scoping meetings are for, to inform BLM planners about the public’s interest in whatever decision BLM needs to make). It seems reasonable that the RAC would recommend that BLM include this public sentiment as the agency formulates its alternatives.
What happens next: BLM will be putting together its Environmental Assessment on restoring access to the Bullwhacker. Once that’s out — it could be released next month, it could be released in November, we have no idea — the EA will be open for public comment. (Please click here if you’d like to read more about BLM’s decision-making process.) Even these preliminary steps will probably take months. We’re pretty sure that restoring access to the Bullwhacker, like every other big-ticket item BLM works on, will be a long process.
Now to address the draft proposal that the landowners released last week. The Friends hasn’t taken an official position on this particular draft yet, but we do encourage our members and all members of the public who care about the Monument and about this issue to read it thoroughly. Please click the link below to bring up the PDF file of the draft.
2015 Land Exchange Proposal(7-8-15)
If you need some more background information on the issue, please click here.
We’ll keep you posted as this issue develops. Thanks for all you do.
Beth Kampschror, Executive Director