Spokane, Wash. -- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) authorizing issuance of a right-of-way (ROW) grant to Pacific Power to construct, operate, and maintain an electric transmission line on BLM-managed public land for the Vantage to Pomona Heights 230 kilovolt (kV) Transmission Line Project (Project).
The new transmission line would run from Pacific Power's existing Pomona Heights Substation east of Selah, Washington, in Yakima County to the Bonneville Power Administration's existing Vantage Substation east of Wanapum Dam in Grant County, Washington.
The BLM identified the New Northern Route (NNR) Alternative as the Agency Preferred Alternative and the Environmentally Preferred Alternative in the ROD. BLM identified the Agency and Environmentally Preferred Alternative after reviewing comments from Cooperating Agencies, affected Tribes, and interested members of the public. Relative to other alternatives analyzed, the NNR Alternative has fewer resource impacts because of its shorter overall length, its distance from known occupied Greater Sage-Grouse use areas, and the fact that it is co-located with other existing transmission facilities.
The ROD approves, with all mitigation measures identified in the ROD, issuance of a ROW grant for the Agency Preferred Alternative, the NNR Alternative - Overhead Design Option. The BLM Spokane District Manager signed the ROD, which constitutes the final decision of the BLM and makes the authorization for issuance of a ROW decision effective immediately. However, there are additional requirements, such as completing the Plan of Development, mitigation plans (Greater Sage-Grouse), and other information requirements that must be met by Pacific Power before receiving permission to use the authorized area of public lands for the Project.
The ROD and supporting documents are available electronically on the National ePlanning NEPA Register at: http://1.usa.gov/1S4ssrO.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.
More than 100,000 acres of federal lands will be protected to safeguard critical watersheds
Portland, Ore. --The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management has signed a public land order for a 20-year term withdrawing lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM in the southwest corner of Oregon, subject to valid existing rights.
This withdrawal includes 95,805 acres of National Forest System lands on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and 5,216 acres of Bureau of Land Management public lands in the Medford and Coos Bay Districts of the BLM. The lands are in Josephine and Curry Counties. The Assistant Secretary's Order withdraws these lands from settlement, sale, location, and entry under the public land laws, location and entry under the U.S. mining laws, and operation of the mineral and geothermal leasing laws, for a period of 20 years while Congress considers legislation to permanently withdraw those areas. This action will also protect the natural resources in the southwestern Oregon watersheds from possible adverse effects of mineral development.
This withdrawal does not prohibit or restrict any other authorized uses on these lands. The withdrawal protects these watersheds from possible adverse effects of mineral development. Also, while this action prohibits the location of new mining claims, it does not prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing mining claims.
The area covered by this action is generally known as the Klamath Mountains and includes the Rough and Ready-Baldface Creek and the Hunter Creek-North Fork Pistol River subwatersheds of southwestern Oregon. The defining characteristic of the proposal is the North Fork of the Smith River, which originates in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and drains most of the area under consideration for withdrawal. Creeks that feed into the North Fork and other rivers that flow to the Oregon Coast offer unique ecological features stemming from the confluence of the Coast Range, Cascades, and Siskiyou Mountains. A high concentration of rare plants, forested trails, and scenic views are all emblematic of these drainages. Rough and Ready Creek and Baldface Creek are listed as eligible for National Wild and Scenic River designation by the U.S. Forest Service.
The areas protected include the watershed of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River in Oregon and the watershed of Rough and Ready Creek. These rivers are known for their wild salmon and steelhead populations, and provide vital economic, recreation and natural resources to the area.
Additional information about the BLM's mineral program is available online at: www.blm.gov.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the results of a comprehensive, public review of the Nation's federal coal program. The review, based on hundreds of thousands of public comments and prompted by a Secretarial Order issued in 2016, examined concerns about the federal coal program that have been raised by the Government Accountability Office, the Interior Department's Inspector General, Members of Congress and the public.
"Based on the thoughtful input we received through this extensive review, there is a need to modernize the federal coal program," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "We have a responsibility to ensure the public -- including state governments -- get a fair return from the sale of America's coal, operate the program efficiently and in a way that meets the needs of our neighbors in coal communities, and minimize the impact coal production has on the planet that our children and grandchildren will inherit. The only responsible next step is to undertake further review and implement these commonsense measures."
Secretary Jewell first called for an open and honest conversation of the federal coal program in March 2015. Today's report outlines the need for modernization of the federal coal program in the following key areas: ensuring a fair return to Americans for the sale of their public coal resources, assessing the structure and efficiency of the coal program in light of current market conditions, and considering impacts on communities and the environment including climate change.
"Over the past eight years we have focused on modernizing and strengthening the way that energy is produced in America. As a result of that work, solar, wind and geothermal power are the fastest growing sources of energy in the United States and oil and gas are produced in safer and cleaner ways. It is vital that we update our nation's coal program as well. This report provides the critical starting point for the modernization that is needed," said BLM Director Neil Kornze.
The report sets out the best policy ideas available for addressing these important issues, and identifies the additional data and technical work needed to decide how to move forward.
Today's report also identifies a number of good government modernization activities that will be taken in the near future to improve the program. These include increased transparency of the leasing program, increased protection for private surface owners and opportunities to prevent wasted natural gas from coal mines. Additional areas to be considered include: adjusting rental rates and bonus bids paid for leased coal to reflect inflation (which have not been updated in more than 30 years); strengthening financial and environmental responsibility requirements for operators who are permitted to bid on coal leases; and undertaking actions to improve lease process efficiency.
The production of federal coal accounts for more than 40 percent of all coal produced in the United States and is responsible for 10% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. While energy markets, communities, environmental conditions and national priorities have undergone major changes in recent decades, the BLM's management of the federal coal program has stayed relatively static.
Next steps in the review process include finalizing the additional analysis identified in the report and completion of the programmatic environmental review required by Secretary Jewell's January 2016 order.
Consistent with the practice during two programmatic reviews of the federal coal program that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, the Interior Department has instituted a pause on issuing new coal leases while the review is underway. The pause does not apply to existing coal production activities. There have been limited, commonsense exceptions to the pause, including for metallurgical coal (typically used in steel production), small lease modifications and emergency leasing, including where there has been a demonstrated safety need or insufficient reserves.
Companies can continue to mine the large amount of coal reserves already under lease, estimated to be enough to sustain current levels of production from federal land for approximately 20 years.
The report is available here: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=dispatchToPatternPage¤tPageId=93180
$19 million distributed to support county services in western Oregon
Portland, Ore. -- Today the BLM announced the distribution of over $19 million to 18 counties in western Oregon. These payments follow a formula established in the 1937 Oregon and California (O&C) Lands Act and the Coos Bay Wagon Road (CBWR) Act, both of which authorize timber receipt-based payments to western Oregon counties, and both of which remain in effect following the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
Payments made through the authority of the O&C Lands Act and CBWR Act are essential to O&C counties and help offset county timber and tax revenue not generated by Federally-managed forests. The counties use these funds for county services such as law enforcement, road maintenance, health services, schools, libraries, and other county services.
The O&C Lands Act provides that 50 percent of receipts from the sale of timber on O&C lands are distributed among the 18 O&C counties including Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill counties. Coos and Douglas counties have Coos Bay Wagon Road and O&C lands within their boundaries, so payments to those counties are covered by both the 1937 and 1939 statutes.
The Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, known as the O&C Lands, lie in a checkerboard pattern through eighteen counties in western Oregon. These lands contain more than 2.4 million acres of forests with a diversity of plant and animal species, recreation areas, mining claims, grazing lands, cultural and historical resources, scenic areas, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness.
Additional information about the BLM's forestry program is available online at: https://www.blm.gov.
Bureau of Land Management veteran Jamie Connell, currently Director of the BLM's Montana/Dakotas State Office, has been named the new Director of the BLM's Oregon/Washington State Office based in Portland, Oregon.
BLM Director Neil Kornze, who announced the appointment today, noted that "Jamie brings extensive experience and a depth of natural resource knowledge with her to her new post. She understands the challenges of public land management at a time when the American people recognize the scenic, recreational, and economic values of these lands as never before."
Connell, a 31-year BLM veteran, has served since October 2010 as head of the BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office, based in Billings, Montana. In her new capacity, Connell will oversee more than 16 million acres of public land in Oregon and Washington that comprise a mix of heavily forested lands west of the Cascades and the dry, sagebrush ecosystems of the Great Basin. These BLM-managed lands support diverse uses, resources, and values, including recreation, wilderness, wildlife, timber harvesting, livestock grazing, wild horses and burros, and mineral extraction.
Connell, a native of Butte, Montana, received her B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Montana Tech in 1985, when she began her BLM career as a petroleum engineer in Miles City, Montana. Connell's managerial experience includes stints for the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service in locations across the West, including Great Falls and Malta, Montana; Boise, Idaho; and the cities of Montrose, Silverthorne, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction, all in Colorado.
Connell and her husband John enjoy hiking, skiing, canoeing, upland bird hunting, and fly fishing.
Today the BLM announced a two year mineral segregation of 340,079 acres of National Forest System land on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Okanogan County, Washington.
The segregation temporarily withdraws these lands from location and entry under the United States mining laws, and operation of the mineral and geothermal leasing laws for a period of two years while Congress considers legislation introduced by Senators Murray and Cantwell to permanently withdraw those areas.
This action protects the upper Methow River drainage from possible adverse effects of new mineral development. While this action prohibits the location of new mining claims, it does not prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing mining claims, nor does it prohibit any other authorized uses on these lands.
In addition, the Federal Register notice concurrently proposes a 20-year mineral withdrawal of the area at the conclusion of the two year segregation. Today's publication of the Federal Register notice begins the official start of a 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal, which will end on March 30, 2017.
Written comments should be sent to the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, P.O. Box 2965, Portland, OR 97208-2965 or may be sent electronically to BLM_OR_WA_WITHDRAWALS@blm.gov. The public will also have the opportunity to verbally comment or provide written comments at a public meeting to be scheduled in early 2017.
Information regarding the withdrawal application will be available for public review at the BLM Oregon State Office, 1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204, and at the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, WA 98801.
WASHINGTON, DC -- As part of its continuing efforts to conserve habitat vital to healthy populations of the Greater Sage-Grouse in the West, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the draft proposal to withdraw a subset of lands that are sage-grouse strongholds from future mining claims.
Based on public comments received during the scoping period over the last year, the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzes five alternatives, ranging from no action to the withdrawal of approximately 10 million acres of federal locatable minerals in certain areas that are particularly crucial to the Greater Sage-Grouse in six states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
The announcement, which will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, opens a 90-day public comment period that will end March 30, 2017. The BLM will also host eight public meetings throughout the West in February to gather input on the proposal and alternatives to the proposal.
"We appreciate the input we've received from states, tribes, and other important stakeholders to help develop this draft analysis of the proposed mineral withdrawal," said Kristin Bail, BLM assistant director for resources and planning. "We look forward to working closely with the public in the coming months as we finalize a proposal to protect important Greater Sage-Grouse habitat from potential future disturbance resulting from mining claims."
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell first announced the proposed withdrawal in September, 2015, as part of the unprecedented, landscape-scale effort that began with BLM's and its state and federal partners' successful efforts to prevent the Greater Sage-Grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
To develop the proposal and its alternatives, the BLM held public meetings in November 2015 in the six states to gather information and comments about whether to withdraw these areas from the location of new mining claims for up to 20 years. The BLM also incorporated a mineral resource assessment prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey to help develop a reasonably foreseeable development scenario for the draft EIS.
In addition to releasing the draft EIS today, the agency published a Notice of Amended Proposed Withdrawal that would add about 388,000 acres to the approximately 10 million acres that are already temporarily segregated under the mining laws until Sept. 24, 2017. These lands represent a proposal by the State of Nevada that areas adjacent to SFAs that contain high value habitat and identified Greater Sage-Grouse populations should be withdrawn, instead of high mineral development potential areas in the SFAs. The draft EIS includes an alternative that evaluates the environmental consequences of this substitution.
Neither the segregation, nor any subsequent withdrawal, would prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing claims.
At one time, the Greater Sage-Grouse population likely numbered in the millions, but is estimated to have dwindled to 200,000 to 500,000 individuals range-wide. Sagebrush, the Greater Sage-Grouse's primary habitat, also supports more than 350 other animal and plant species in the Western United States.
A fact sheet, draft EIS and Notice of Amended Proposed Withdrawal, dates and times for public meetings and a map of the proposed withdrawals are available here:
You can comment by mailing written comments to Mark Mackiewicz, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) WO, C/O Price Field Office, 125 South 600 West, Price, Utah 84501 or by submitting electronically to email@example.com.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America's public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.