Factsheet on the Bureau of Land Management’s Las Vegas – Pahrump Resource Management Plan
- Shevawn Von Tobel, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, (775) 324-7667, [email protected]
- Jaina Moan, Friends of Gold Butte, (708) 831-3642, [email protected]
Currently there is debate about the scope and contents of the draft Las Vegas-Pahrump resource management plan, which was released in the fall of 2014 and is available for public review. Some public lands users are concerned with potential changes to access, some are concerned with places known as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), and others take issue with the lack of protections afforded to wilderness-like public lands, among other issues. This document is intended to provide clear, unbiased information regarding the draft management plan, and we make ourselves available to speak further about the importance of balancing multiple uses on southern Nevada’s public lands.
Outside of our cities and towns there are many public lands – lands owned by the American people and managed in trust by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – across southern Nevada. These are places that residents and visitors enjoy for recreational purposes, as well as serving other multiple uses that support the economy of Nevada, such as energy production and mineral resources.
BLM manages these lands in a way that strives to balance the many uses we have for these places. Federal law requires the agency to include the public in their decision-making about this management; they must disclose how and where they propose to manage lands while providing multiple opportunities for people to provide information and opinions about potential management decisions. Overarching management decisions regarding BLM lands is contained with Resource Management Plans, which are usually revised every 20 years or so with public input.
What is the Las Vegas – Pahrump Resource Management Plan?
The Las Vegas-Pahrump Resource Management Plan contains a management framework for all public lands managed by the BLM within the confines of it planning boundary, which generally includes most of the southern Nevada BLM district. The plan does not make management decisions regarding lands not managed by the BLM such as private, county, or military lands. Furthermore, the RMP generally does not make specific decisions about development, such as exactly where a solar farm should be cited. Rather, it identifies places where development – should they occur in the future – may or may not be compatible.
What stage is the Las Vegas Pahrump RMP at right now?
The revision of an RMP takes several years, with multiple opportunities for the public to review and comment on the plan. The Las Vegas-Pahrump RMP revision began in 2010 with a notice requesting information from the public regarding issues and opinions about public land management. Then, last October (2014) the BLM released its draft RMP which contains four different scenarios of how public lands could be managed, including an alternative that represents BLM’s preferred, preliminary choice. This draft plan has been available for public review since then, and will remain open for comment through March 9th, 2015. After that time, the agency will work to further refine the plan based on the information it receives and issue a Proposed RMP, likely next year. The Proposed RMP will also be available for public review prior to the signing of a Record of Decision, which marks the end of the revision process and formally puts the finished plan into place.
What are some of the major issues that have surfaced in the draft plan?
- Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). These are areas the BLM identifies as part of the RMP in order to protect a variety of sensitive resources such as important habitat for imperiled wildlife, sensitive cultural resource areas such as archeological sites, rare geological features, or other unique attributes that deserve some form of conservation and special management. In the preferred alternative, about 41% of the public lands are classified as an ACEC, about an 8% increase of lands currently managed as such. In almost all cases, this classification does not preclude people from visiting, enjoying or travelling through these areas, but does provide restrictions on more intensive development such as solar farms, powerlines, and mining. Each ACEC has management stipulations tailored to the resource it is intended to conserve, so management varies among them.
- Off Road Vehicle Use. The Las Vegas-Pahrump RMP will make some changes to how off-road vehicles are managed. Currently, about 90% of public lands allow for off-road vehicle use on existing roads and trails. Under the preferred alternative in the draft RMP, about 94% of public lands would be available to off-road vehicles, on routes that will be designated through a separate, future planning effort dedicated solely to identifying roads and trails. This process will also include the public and will commence after the RMP is completed.
- Lands with wilderness characteristics. Only Congress can designate new wilderness areas, though the BLM has a responsibility to inventory its lands and decide which, if any areas have wilderness values, such as naturalness, opportunities for solitude and outstanding opportunities for quiet recreation such as hiking and horseback riding. Lands with wilderness characteristics are neither designated Wilderness Areas nor Wilderness Study Areas and have no compulsory management requirements. The BLM must make decisions about how they will manage these lands with wilderness characteristics, including whether they will prioritize other uses for these areas or provide management rules that maintain the wilderness qualities of those areas. Currently, the preferred alternative identities about 8% of the planning area as having wilderness characteristics (outside of Congressionally designated areas) while proposing to specifically manage only about 1% of public lands to conserve wilderness characteristics. Other alternatives propose less or more protections for these areas. The BLM’s inventory of lands with wilderness characteristics is not currently complete, and may be revised as the management plan works its way towards finalization.
- Renewable Energy. The Las Vegas-Pahrump RMP contains a framework for where potential renewable energy projects may be built, further refining previous efforts to facilitate increased production of electricity from renewable sources. The draft RMP’s preferred alternative identifies a small number of areas (<1% of public lands) as Solar Energy Zones – areas where development projects may be fast-tracked. Additionally, about 13% of other public lands are identified as areas that may be appropriate for solar energy development, though are not optimal areas due to other resource values that occur there. Wind energy development is addressed in the RMP as well in a similar fashion, with about 6% of public lands being potentially available for projects.
- Mining. Currently, about 64% of public lands are available for locatable mineral entry (e.g. gold and copper). The draft Las Vegas-Pahrump RMP’s preferred alternative would slightly add to areas that would potentially be withdrawn from future mining, proposing that about 58% of public lands would be available for this use.
Many other issues are addressed in the Draft Las Vegas-Pahrump RMP. To review the document and/or provide comments to the BLM regarding how it should be further revised prior to the issuance of a Proposed RMP, please visit https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=dispatchToPatternPage¤tPageId=12401