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BLM recruiting public input on proposed revisions to its plan for land management in the San Juans

Scott Pavey, project planning coordinator, makes a presentation at the Bureau of Land Management public forum on Saturday. BLM is accepting public comment on proposed revisions to its Resource Management Plan, which will direct management of about 1,000 acres of BLM-owned public lands in the San Juan Islands.    - Jane K. Fox
Scott Pavey, project planning coordinator, makes a presentation at the Bureau of Land Management public forum on Saturday. BLM is accepting public comment on proposed revisions to its Resource Management Plan, which will direct management of about 1,000 acres of BLM-owned public lands in the San Juan Islands.
— image credit: Jane K. Fox

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments through June 25 on its revised Resource Management Plan for about 445,000 acres of BLM-administered public lands in Eastern Washington and in the San Juan Archipelago.

To comment or have your name added to a mailing list, visit www.blm.gov/or/districts/spokane/plans/ewsjrmp; e-mail OR_Spokane_RMP@blm.gov; or call Scott Pavey, 509-536-1200.

Saturday, BLM hosted a public meeting from noon to 4 p.m. at Mullis Community Senior Center. The Resource Management Plan, or RMP, will dictate how BLM manages its Washington lands for the next 20 years.

"We were pleased with the turnout," Field Manager Karen Kelleher said. "We had well over 40 people over the course of the day."

The current RMP has been through one revision since its completion in 1987. Kelleher said that one of the primary catalysts for reviewing it now is that the San Juan Islands are not covered by the current plan. "Right now, we don't have a plan in place for the parcels in the San Juans, and we need one."

Additionally, the BLM cited the fact that acreage under their administration has increased dramatically since 1987. Land uses have also changed, as have the condition of the resources they contain.

BLM owns and manages 900 acres in the San Juans, including 27 acres at Cattle Point on San Juan Island. Other lands include more than 400 acres at Chadwick Hill, Iceberg Point, Point Colville and Watmough Bay on Lopez Island; Patos and Turn Point lighthouses; 31 small islands and more than 40 groups of rocks and reefs; 80 acres at Henry Island’s Kellet Bluff; and 80 acres at Turn Point on Stuart Island.

BLM lands in the San Juans were on a list of proposed national monument sites. These lands are considered Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and are already protected: No camping, no development, no fires, no motorized vehicles. Pedestrian use only. National monument status could result in more resources for conservation. Some islanders have expressed concern about how national monument designation might affect the rights of neighboring property owners, and Citizens Alliance for Property Rights has hosted guest speakers on the topic, including state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

A group of local residents are advocating the lands be designated a National Conservation Area, to provide a long-term conservation management plan and the funding to support it. Since 2000, 21 National Conservation Areas in 10 states have been designated as places that have significant conservation, cultural, natural and scientific value.

Advocates say the process for National Conservation Area designation starts as a grassroots, community-based initiative. After input is gathered from the community, a case statement will be written and presented for approval by the San Juan County Council. Once approved, the next step is working with the state’s federal representatives and senators to create the legislation for the designation. This legislation is then added to the annual Consolidated Natural Resources Act for approval from U.S. Congress. This process could be completed in two years.

Saturday, one member of the public raised the concern that only one management plan would not fit the different environments of Eastern and Western Washington.

Scott Pavey, project planning coordinator, said the plan did not have to be a one-size-fits-all document. Kelleher said the vision for the RMP is still very much open. The BLM is open to having a plan with multiple, differing parts, or perhaps more than one version.

At this moment, BLM is concentrating simply on collating public concerns and ideas. "Integrally, we are committed to doing a good job and we know to do that we have to involve the community," said Nick Teague, BML's outdoor recreation planner for the San Juan Field Station.

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