BLM Management Plan Nears Final Approval - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

BLM Management Plan Nears Final Approval

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BILLINGS -

The Bureau of Land Management's Billings Field Office manages more than 400,000 acres of public land, across eight counties located in and around the Billings area. On Wednesday evening, the Federal agency held a public meeting on its vision for the area's future.

"Current plan was written in 1984, and it's been amended 12 times." said Jim Sparks with BLM. He went on to say that many things in the area have changed since the 80s.

"We didn't have wind energy in 1980s. We did, but not to the scale it is now. So we didn't address it in that 1984 plan."

The BLM began drafting its new Resource Management Plan for public lands in the region in 2008.

"The draft lays out four alternatives for all the resources and uses that the BLM manages for the public." said Sparks. The four alternatives ranges from one that proposes no changes, to one that will put natural conservation and preservation first. According to Sparks, the fourth alternative plan is the one the BLM prefers.

The meeting on the Resource Management Plan was well attended on Wednesday, with many of those on hand being members of the Billings Motorcycle Club.

"There was an action alert of some sort that came from a group, I don't know who the group was that initiated it, that said we're having a meeting on the South Hills tonight, and that BLM is proposing to close the public lands of the South Hills." said Sparks.

According to plans available on BLM's website, there is an alternative plan on the books that will close off the South Hills to motorcycle traffic. However, Sparks said that is not what the BLM prefers.

"In our preferred alternative, South Hills will remain open, with the current buffer zones that are there, maybe a little bigger, because of subdivisions that have expanded there." said Sparks.

"We'd really like to know what's going on, just to know what they're doing, and how we can work with them." said Billings Motorcycle Club Secretary Mike Weiland.

People have until June 28th to file a public comment with BLM. The BLM expects to finalize the Resource Management Plan by summer of 2014. To learn more about the plan, click on the connections tab.