The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for its revised Rawlins, WY, Resource Management Plan (RMP), outlining possible actions and their corresponding impacts for the millions of acres of natural gas-rich land in southern Wyoming. And now the agency is awaiting comments and the expected protests.

The proposed Rawlins RMP, which would replace the RMP known as the "Great Divide," is supposed to provide the BLM with direction on how to manage 3.5 million acres of federally administered public land and 4.5 million acres of federal mineral estate in the resource-rich Wyoming counties of Albany, Carbon, Laramie and Sweetwater.

BLM's proposed options offer opportunities for energy and minerals development, as well as protection for wildlife, cultural properties and special management areas. The proposed plan also suggests maintenance practices to allow "adequate" recreation use of the land area.

Four alternative RMPs are included in the FEIS:

The No Action Alternative basically follows the Great Divide RMP, which originally was issued in November 1990, and it includes policies that have been developed since it was completed 18 years ago. However, the three action alternatives present a range of management options.

BLM's proposed plan, Alternative 4, "provides a balance for opportunities to use and develop resources, and ensure environmental conservation," according to the agency. "The proposed plan provides the guidance that emphasizes neither resource use nor resource protection. This balanced alternative best meets the issues and concerns raised during scoping."

Alternative 4 would allow more energy development.

In its "Reasonably Foreseeable Development" for oil and gas projects over a 20-year planning period from 2001 to 2020, BLM is projecting that 8,822 wells would be drilled on about 57,545 total acres. Overall, the BLM estimates that there would be about 5,100 private wells on about 35,400 acres, and 3,700 federal wells on about 22,400 federal acres.

Until the comment period ends on Feb. 3, those who participated in the original RMP planning process may protest the proposed RMP and associated land use planning decisions, BLM stated. Those who participated in the planning process may protest on the issues they submitted during the planning process before the publication of the proposed RMP, but "new issues may not be raised as part of the protest process."

The RMP documents are available at www.blm.gov/rmp/wy/rawlins/. For more information, contact Rawlins BLM RMP Project Lead John Spehar at (307) 328-4264.

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