The Churchill County Commissioner held a workshop Tuesday to discuss their concerns with the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Plan.
Chairman Pete Olsen said the meeting was not to bash the BLM but to get constructive criticism from the pubic on the RMP that can be submitted with the commissioners’ comments.
County Manager Eleanor Lockwood presented the county’s concerns with the public. She said Churchill County has identified numerous areas of conflict between the Draft RMP and the 2010 Master Plan.
She said the conflicts with Churchill County’s policy plan for public lands such as minerals, fluid minerals and geothermal resources; soil, vegetation and watershed; and water resources.
“Promotion of private development of water resources for beneficial use, the RMP does not address this in Soils and Water Resources section or Livestock Grazing section,” Lockwood said. “The RMP proposes acquisition of water rights by BLM, this is not consistent with the Master Plan. The county opposes Wild Horse and Burro use of privately held water and the RMP does not address this.”
Wildlife management concerns are lands with wilderness characteristics, if managed as wilderness, may impede air and ground access for activities such as guzzler construction and maintenance or active wildlife management requiring helicopter use, Lockwood said.
“The state of Nevada has statutory responsibility for administration of water law, and acquisition of water rights by BLM is in conflict with the Master Plan,” she said.
Lockwood said public safety trumps any proposed action of the RMP. She said search and rescue activities should not be constrained or impacted by the RMP. For fire fighting, the county maintains an interlocal contract between the county and the Nevada Division of Forestry.
“The county recognizes the sheriff as the primary law enforcement authority,” she said. “I’ve spoken to Ben (Sheriff Trotter) and he has informed me that he will go wherever and do whatever he has to do to make sure the public is safe.”
There are three Areas of the Critical Environmental Concern in Churchill County. Lockwood said Grimes Point Archaeological District is one and the county supports Alternative E that is an ACEC designation but adjust the boundary to allow continued and future use of the county gravel pit.
Fox Peak Cultural is another ACEC, and the county generally supports Alternative E designation except to exclude from the boundary the CC Communications Job Peak communications site.
“We are not aware of published documentation to support the proposed boundary,” she said.
The third ACEC is the Clan Alpine-Sage Grouse Habitat Management. Lockwood said the county supports Alternative C, proposed Clan Alpine and Desatoya Greater Sage Grouse ACECs, but suggest that the boundaries for these proposed designations be refined to reflect current and known historic sage grouse habitat.
Lockwood said the RMPs Lands with Wilderness Characteristics propose to comply with the Secretary of Interior’s Order 3310; however, current naval flight activity over this area impedes the solitude and other characteristics important for maintenance of wilderness.
“This is in direct conflict with the goal of the Lands with Wilderness Characteristics,” she said. “Outstanding opportunities for solitude … should be maintained or enhanced.”
One of the county’s Lands with Wilderness Characteristics primary concerns is BLM’s management will likely preclude vehicular access, which will negatively impact access and maintenance of CC Communications Job Peak communication repeater site on the south end of the Stillwater Additions; access to important wildlife habitat and use of appropriate wildlife management tools by the state; recreational use areas and OHV routes; future mining development; and access to existing grazing allotments.
Lockwood said Alternative E proposes to limit travel to existing roads and trails; however, the BLM has no existing inventory and limitations to existing and future recreational opportunities, to future mineral/mining exploration and development and to maintenance of wildlife improvements and grazing.
Lockwood said the county supports Alternative A, open to motorized and mechanized travel.
“We propose that BLM enters into a MOU (mutual of understanding) with Churchill County to cooperatively develop an inventory of all existing roads, trails and routes,” she said. “Both the BLM and Churchill County will provide resources. Through a public process, the management and designation of roads will be developed and a travel and transportation plan shall be developed cooperatively with Churchill County.”
Lockwood said comments are due by April 27 and the county’s final comments will be considered by the commissioners on Wednesday.
Commissioner Bus Scharmann stressed the importance of the community submitting their concerns to the BLM. He said it’s important for the BLM to hear the concerns of the residents the RMP will affect.
“But no matter our responses, the BLM will take our statements behind closed doors and do what they want with it and go with their original plan,” he said.
All of the commissioners agreed that it’s important to address concerns with the BLM and submit comments by the specified date.