The rumors about the Bureau of Land Management Kingman Field Office Travel Management Plan (TMP) and Environmental Assessment that is currently out for review and comment has garnered the attention of a lot of local folks, and in some cases, has upset a few.
But are these isolated concerns valid?
Is this plan some kind of nefarious government conspiracy to lock up more public lands from being used by the public?
After interviewing several people from BLM and reading through the many documents and maps, I believe that the answer is a simple NO, at least not in this case.
That is not to say there aren’t issues the general public will have to deal with. The current plan, which is out for public review and comment, is a large and complex document full of words and/or phrases I bet many folks don’t understand. For lack of a better definition, I’ll refer to it as “Government Speak.”
For example, do you know what the phrase “fugitive dust” means? What is a “visual resource” or “Ground Transportation Linear Feature?”
In the past, I had heard and knew what a lot of those terms meant, but now, many of these terms I don’t know what they are. Come on, seriously, “fugitive dust?”
So when you set down to read all of the documents that are part of this plan, don’t be surprised if you don’t know what some of the terms mean. And don’t be intimidated. After all, it is the government, right?
Let’s back track and see what started all of this. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) outlined what was to be done. Its 43 CFR 8340 says that the BLM is charged with doing an inventory and designate if a road or trail is to be open, closed, or limited. According to the TMP, “The intent of the plan is to establish a comprehensive travel network and develop action plans while protecting resources and meeting both current and future access needs to the public lands in this area while minimizing conflicts among users of the travel network.” Remember this; the plan is ONLY for BLM administered public lands, NOT state or private lands.
BLM has been mandated for many years to do these TMPs. Every BLM office nationwide was ordered to do them. Matter of fact, the Kingman TMP started way back in 2004, and it was ordered by decree by then President George W. Bush.
That’s when the local BLM office started inventorying and classifying all the roads and trails in this area. And due to the thousands of roads and trails here, it has taken BLM this long to get all the information it needed to put this TMP together.
And it didn’t do this alone. Other agencies, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, also gave the BLM input on areas they had concerns with. One of these involved desert bighorn sheep lambing grounds in Mohave County.
There were over 100 individuals, businesses, and organizations contacted by the agency. Ten Native American tribes were contacted, as were at least 13 government agencies, including the City of Kingman and the counties. There were meetings with the livestock industry, which was given maps and given the opportunity to make comments.
Public open houses were held in Kingman, Bullhead City and even Wikieup.
I spoke with members of the AZGFD (Region 3) and to several BLM personnel regarding this plan.
I asked Dee Kephart, who is the Region 3 habitat manager, if she and the department were aware of the TMP, and she said they were. Kephart said that they had given input to the BLM, but she thought that the department would make some final written comments. However, she added there weren’t any major issues with the plan as far as she knew.
Clayton Crowder, chief of the Habitat, Evaluation and Lands Branch at AZGFD, confirmed what Kephart said. In a text to Jim Unmacht, CEO of the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, he stated, “Our Region 3 folks have been TMP team members and we have been participating throughout the process. As far as I know we have been able to address any concerns that came up along the way.”
I had heard through several sources in Kingman that some of the area ranchers were not happy with the plan. However, when I spoke with Anita Waite, owner of Cane Springs Ranch which is located north of Wikieup, she said she didn’t have any issues with the plan. Matter of fact, Waite noted she told BLM to keep the roads on her ranch open.
“The BLM has gone above and beyond to try and inform the ranchers about this process,” Waite said.
I met with Matt Driscoll, outdoor recreational planner from the Kingman Field Office of the BLM, and asked him if he was aware of any complaints from the local ranching community. Driscoll said the agency had reached out to the ranching community and had given them maps and other data regarding the proposed plan. Driscoll said he didn’t believe there were any major issues with the area livestock producers.
The agency also had a public meeting on the plan several weeks ago in Kingman, and according to Driscoll, “About 150 people were in attendance.” Maps were distributed and charts outlining the plan were up for review.
People in attendance included members of 4-wheel-drive clubs who had questions about routes that might be closed.
A question came up about how RS-2477, which deals with roads on public lands, would apply to this TMP. Amanda Dodson, field manager of the Kingman Field Office, sent this information.
“Under Section 3.2 of the BLM Administrative Determination on RS 2477, it states, a TMP is not intended to provide evidence bearing on, or address the validity of any Revised Statute 2477 assertions. RS 2477 rights are determined through a process that is entirely independent of the BLM’s planning process.”
Driscoll noted that the agency had reached out to a number of 4-wheel-drive clubs in Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and Kingman.
Also contacted was Mohave County because it is listed as cooperating agency, as is La Paz County. Even the Mohave County Search and Rescue were also contacted about the plan.
The BLM has offered up four alternatives for the public to comment. They range from no action to Alternative C, which is a compromise for both resource protection and access.
Driscoll noted that what the agency is seeking is “meaningful input from everyone” on the plan. That means rather than just making a general comment like, “I don’t want to see any roads and trails in the Hualapais closed,” what you need to do is to look at the maps, and select what roads/trails you want to remain open and why.
I’ve looked at the maps and see some roads and trails I have questions about. I’m going to make a few specific comments. If you have issues with any part of the plan, then you should, too. Yes, there are a lot of documents to review, but if you are interested in access on public lands, take the time to review them and comment on them.
You have until Sept. 18 to send in your comments.
You can comment by sending them in electronically by email at email@example.com, by FAX at 928-718-3761, or by mail to BLM, Kingman Field Office, 2755 Mission Blvd., Kingman AZ 86401.