BLM begins work on revisions

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

The Bureau of Land Management has started revising the agency’s 1999 Newcastle Resource Management Plan, a document that guides the management of the 292,000 surface acres and 1.6 million acres of mineral estate in Niobrara, Weston and Crook counties, according to Tyson Finnicum, public affairs specialist for the BLM High Plains District. 

A pre-scoping meeting was held on Aug. 30, and it was discussed by consultant Dru Bower with DRU Consulting on Sept. 6 during the Board
of Weston County Commissioners meeting. 

Bower works with the county as a representative and consultant in various situations, including work with the Thunder Basin National Grassland, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. 

“The BLM decided to have a pre-scoping meeting, which is not required,” she said. “They did not do a good job advertising for it. I found out the day before in Newcastle and could not make it.” 

4W Ranch owner Bob Harshbarger echoed Bower’s sentiments about the meeting. 

“On the scoping meeting, it was very short notice by the BLM. I did come in and attend that. I was the only one from Weston County there,” he said.

Harshbarger noted that while it was short notice, it would have been nice to have a Weston County commissioner there. Both he and Bower acknowledged that a commissioner from Niobrara County and a commissioner from Crook County were in attendance. 

“Historically, the BLM has tried to not involve the general public in the current land management plan,” Harshbarger said, noting that he saw the change beginning in 1990.

The News Letter Journal was not aware of the meeting and therefore could not attend, but the agency has acknowledged the need for public involvement in the process moving forward.

The BLM has extended the land use plan comment period on the document until Oct. 28, Finnicum reported to the News Letter Journal. He noted that this extension was the result of feedback received, and indicated that subsequent meetings are in the works. 

“The BLM’s land use plans allocate resources and determine appropriate multiple uses for public lands, provide strategies to manage resources and establish systems to monitor and evaluate resource health and effectiveness of management,” he said. 

These meetings, Finnicum said, are the BLM’s way of engaging the public early in the process, before the formal planning begins. 

“We want to hear from the public about the places or uses they’re interested in and help us identify potential issues or land use conflicts up front,” he said. “From there, we take that feedback into consideration as we identify planning alternatives or analyze environmental impacts. This early outreach also gives folks a chance to learn about the planning process so they participate when the formal process kicks off.” 

A Notice of Intent to officially initiate the process is expected to come next summer. 

“Public involvement is crucial to land use planning, and at this early stage, can help the BLM identify the parameters of the project, as well as planning issues that need to be considered,” Finnicum said. “BLM will then take that input into consideration and work with its cooperating agencies, including the county commissioners and state agencies, to develop alternatives that will then be published for public review and comment.” 

The planning process can take some time and likely changes to the plan are unknown at this time. During the process, people will have the chance to provide comments during the formal scoping period, as well as review the draft plan and associated environmental impact statement once it’s developed and provide feedback,” Finnicum said. 

“The planning process often takes multiple years to complete and includes multiple opportunities for public involvement — like comment periods, meetings and more — throughout the entirety of the project,” Finnicum said. 

In the end, the agency hopes to have a plan that will “allocate resources and determine appropriate multiple uses for public lands, provide a strategy to manage resources, and establish systems to monitor and evaluate the health of resources and effectiveness of management practices,” he said. The specifics in the plan will be based on the agency’s multiple use and sustained yield mandate. 

The plan will be designed to manage the area for the next 15 to 20 years. 

The public can provide input during the pre-planning phase by mailing written comments to the Newcastle Field Office at Attn: NFO RMP Project Manager, BLM Newcastle Field Office, 1101 Washington Blvd., Newcastle, WY 82701 or online via the ePlanning project page at 

The BLM is also planning to host an additional pre-scoping meeting in Lusk and will provide further notice when that is scheduled. 

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