Boulder travel plan progresses

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Evaluations of trails, roads and two-tracks within the Boulder travel management plan area are in the works by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Pinedale Field Office (PFO).

Joel Klosterman, outdoor recreation planner, said Tuesday that the PFO – which has inventoried and mapped routes in its Boulder area and considered comments – might be releasing the draft environmental assessment (EA) of three alternatives for public comment sometime this fall.

“To be determined,” he added. “We’re still fine-tuning the alternatives.”

The plan will designate travel routes for BLM-managed lands southeast of the Boulder area, implementing transportation management decisions from the Pinedale Resource Management Plan, according to the BLM.

Klosterman explained what work was done after the public scoping period earlier this year.

“During route evaluations, we look at each individual route and see if there are any conflicts – wildlife, cultural, legal – and based on that and our specialists’ input, we come up with three recommendations for each route,” he said.

The inventories routes will then be combined to focus on certain objectives for each alternative.

When the draft EA is completed, the three proposed alternatives will be displayed on three “theme-based” maps, one based on conservation, one concerning public access and one “blended” alternative, he said.

With the draft EA’s release, the PFO will open another public comment period.

As they are working now to fine-tune these alternatives, several cooperating agencies – the Sublette County Board of Commissioners for one – will also provide input on the alternatives, Klosterman said.

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, county commissioners approved and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize their status as a cooperating agency with the PFO’s Boulder travel management plan update.

The MOU means that while the BLM retains first and final responsibility for following the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process, commissioner Joel Bousman or “backup” commissioner Mack Rawhouser can provide input to PFO manager Caleb Hiner or “backup representative” Lauren McKeever.

In past months, commissioners have been very involved with the Boulder travel management plan and the MOU puts them on equal footing with the Sublette County Conservation District and several state agencies that are also cooperating agencies.

“They’ll help us fine-tune the EA and submit their input,” Klosterman said.

Bousman explained why the commissioners’ requested MOU status with this process.

“We have several MOUs with both the BLM and Forest Service,” he said. “Most are project specific to whatever is being proposed that the county thinks they need a seat at the table.  We are a cooperating agency in regards to the Boulder Travel Management Plan.”

He added, “The county is concerned that if roads are being closed it could affect not only recreation, but also the ability of grazing permittees to manage their grazing allotments and range improvements. Public land grazing is critical to maintain the custom and culture of our community. Also, many hunters use this area for hunting antelope in the fall.

“The overriding role of the county in regards to the travel management plan is to make sure the BLM understands the importance of roads to maintain and support the custom and culture of our county.”


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