By Trina Dennis Brittain
Rocket Miner 

BLM provides guidelines for comments regarding management plan

 

January 11, 2024



Via Wyoming News Exchange

ROCK SPRINGS — There are quite a few barriers between the use of technology and older adults, especially when thousands of organizations depend on technology for public input.

A Sweetwater County resident brought forth concerns regarding comment guidelines for the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan.

Cleve Holloway addressed the Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 2, after a recent visit to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office.

According to Holloway, he went to the BLM office hoping to receive printed guidelines on how to send substantive comments, but representatives at the Rock Springs Field Office did not accommodate his request.

“We have that information, and we’ll be happy to share it with you,” said Chairman Keaton West, expressing the importance of sending a substantive comment. “If it’s not substantive, they will throw it out.”

Holloway expressed disappointment that the BLM doesn’t notify people that their comments were thrown away without giving them a reason for it.

“I think we should know what’s wrong with those comments,” said Holloway, mentioning that the local newspapers should also share the guidelines to good public comments.

Commissioner Taylor Jones noted that another comment writing workshop will be conducted soon and reminded Holloway that he can submit more than one comment.

“Just because you turned one in doesn’t mean you’re done,” said Jones. “If someone feels that their comment was thrown away, I’d encourage them to write more comments and send them in.”

He added, “There’s no limit on how many you can turn in.” 

Holloway presented a one-page document he received from the BLM to the Rocket Miner. The document stated that “only specific, substantive and constructive comments will be addressed in the NEPA analysis,” but there was no explanation of what defines a substantive and constructive comment on the page. 

The printed document allows residents to fill out their name, address, email address and phone number as well as a few lines for the comment, noting that there is more room on the back of the sheet. 

The sheet states that comments must be received on Nov. 16, 2023.

“They still haven’t updated the deadline date,” Holloway chuckled, mentioning he received the document after Nov. 16. “There are a lot of us who don’t use a computer, but everyone should be able to weigh in, no matter how they do it.

“All I asked for was guidelines for good comments to the BLM; I needed them to be printed on a piece of paper. That’s all.”

Commissioner Mary Thoman was able to provide a printed version of the Guide to Good Public Comments from the BLM’s website to Holloway.

According to the Guide to Good Public Comments, comments that provide relevant and new information with sufficient detail are most useful and are referred to as substantive comments. The BLM reviews all comments and identifies the topics that are substantive for consideration in the final published document. 

According to the BLM, a substantive comment is a comment that does one or more of the following:

Questions, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information in the RMP and Environmental Impact Study (EIS)

Questions, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of, methodology for, or assumptions used for the environmental analysis

Presents new information relevant to the analysis

Presents reasonable alternatives other than those analyzed in the EIS or causes changes or revisions in one or more of the alternatives The guide also stated that the comment must provide specific and detailed text changes:

Includes the section, management action or page number to help the BLM find the exact location of the subject of your comment.

Clearly identifies where the issue or error is located and why you believe there is an error and proposes alternative ideas to address the issue/errors.

Provides constructive solutions with documentation or resources to support your recommendations. Includes any knowledge, experience or evidence as it relates to your observations and comments.

Provides GPS readings, if possible, when referring to specific locations. Avoids vague statements or concerns that don’t give the BLM something on which to act.

Comments are not votes for or against a decision. BLM must rely on supporting information, not the number of comments received. Multiple comments and topics with the same concern are considered one comment. Avoid using form letters to convey your opinion. Your unique way of writing a comment helps the BLM understand your point of view.

An example of a helpful comment would be, “I disagree with closing Route 245A in Alternative E. I need this road to access my private land!”

An example of an unhelpful comment would be, “Stop closing our roads!”

The guide to good public comments can be found on the BLM’s website.

According to Micky Fisher, BLM’s public affairs spokesman, negative exchanges between residents and staff is something that BLM doesn’t want to see take place at the office.

Fisher explained that the staff at the office has been acquainted with Holloway, since he visits them frequently. 

Fisher said that “from the sound of it,” Holloway and a BLM representative “had a pretty long chat.” 

The representative gave Holloway a rundown of the RMP process and offered to print the RMP out for him. Holloway declined it. They discussed “what a substantive comment looks like” and “even talked about Alternative B.”

Fisher added that they “could have gone a step further and made sure that he had a copy” of the Guide to Good Public Comments.

“We don’t want someone to feel that way after they leave the office; that was never our intention by any means,” he expressed. “Anytime anybody comes into the office, regardless of their age, we provide them with the same opportunities to get printed documents.”

He said that BLM gives citizens the option to submit their comments to the agency in person or by mail.

“We have no gripes in printing off anything by request,” he pointed out. “We want them to feel good about leaving with the information they went in for, especially for something of this nature that affects the public drastically.

“We’re sorry that he felt that way.” 

A public comment writing workshop will be hosted at The 307 Real Estate Group, 426 S. Main St., in downtown Rock Springs, 4-6:30 p.m.,Wednesday, Jan. 10. The workshop will be hosted by Sen. Stacy Jones, Sen. John Kolb, Rep. Joshua “JT” Larson and Sweetwater County Commissioner Taylor Jones.

This story was published on January 6, 2024.

 
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