Local rancher: Time is now to speak up on BLM plan

Lon Reukauf holds up the four volumes of the BLM RMP and his personal
notebook used to keep records. Reukauf, who serves on several county boards, including the Prairie County Land Planning Board, has been the sole county representative working with the BLM on the project. He is encouraging all
county residents to find out more about the proposed changes to the management
of federal lands and to comment on them.

 By Kay Johnson

“It’s a fairly daunting task.”
That was the description local rancher Lon Reukauf used to explain his goal to read through the Bureau of Land Management’s Miles City Draft Resource Management Plan.
With the four Miles City Draft RMP paperback volumes stacked in front of him — totaling 2,000 pages, filled with area maps and seemingly endless text — and a spiral wire bound notebook covered in handwritten notes and scribblings, it’s clear this is a task Reukauf isn’t taking lightly. 
And it’s one, he says, no Prairie Countian can ignore.
“This plan will be the defining document for Eastern Montana for the rest of most of our lives,” Reukauf said of the Miles City Draft RMP.  “This document probably makes zoning unnecessary.” 
He backs up his comments by describing the wide range of management controls that could be put in place on federal lands throughout the region if the Miles City Draft RMP is adopted without public input from area residents. From protecting sage grouse leks, controlling energy development and creating stringent standards for rangeland health, Reukauf believes the future use of federal lands and the area’s economic landscape hangs in the balance. 
“This is going to control the future of Prairie County through 2035,” Reukauf said.
The Miles City Draft RMP deals with the management of federal lands within the eastern third of the state, running from the Wyo., to Canadian borders, to the eastern border of the Dakotas, with the Musselshell River essentially serving as the western border. Revising the area’s RMP began in 2005. An initial draft was made available to local and county governments in 2011. Now, the public is being given an opportunity to comment on the document.
Public comment on the Miles City RMP is being sought through June 5, 2013. Comments can be emailed to BLM_MT_MCFO_RMP@blm.gov or by faxing (406) 233-3650. Comments can also be mailed to MCFO RMP Comments, 111 Garryowen Road, Miles City, MT 59301.
The area of management includes about 3 million acres of federal land — 2.8 million, to be exact — and about 4 times as much subsurface minerals — exactly 11 million acres. BLM land covers 40,339 square miles within the region covered by the Miles City office, which spells out to 11 percent of all surface land and 40 percent of all subsurface minerals.
Within Prairie County BLM land consists of 42 percent, while 60 percent of sub-surface minerals are BLM controlled. Reukauf believes fears of future energy development occurring in Prairie County will be minimal at best, if the proposed Miles City Draft RMP is adopted as is. 
“If the businesses in town think they are going to share in the economic boom … they’ve got a long wait,” Reukauf said, explaining proposed requirements and regulations put in place under the plan will put Prairie County at the bottom of the list for any hopes of energy development.
As the sole representative for Prairie County working with the BLM on the Miles City Draft RMP, Reukauf is convinced the more local input the better.
“I turned in about 60 pages of comments on the first one,” he said, referring to his reaction to the initial release of the Miles City Draft RMP in 2011.
“People have a chance to affect the final draft of this document,” he added. “This is going to control everybody’s life here. Locals need to speak up, as much as those environmentalists living on the coasts.”
It isn’t about viewing the BLM as the opponent, Reukauf stressed. Rather BLM officials are stuck in the middle, attempting to appease environmental groups located outside the region, while maintaining working relationships with those living within the region. 
An educational meeting outlining bullet points of the BLM Miles City RMP  will be held at the American Legion Hall Tuesday, April 30 at 6 p.m. Reukauf is encouraging not only landowners to attend, but anyone with a stake in the county’s future.
“Commenting on this document is incredibly important if you want to have economic development in this area,” he said.

Published April 24, 2013

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