McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

December 2, 2013

ATTN: BLM seeks public input at meeting on Wednesday

McALESTER — The federal agency that oversees the handling and sale of federally owned natural resources  — such as gas, oil and coal — and land is asking for public input and wants to address concerns over its decisions.

The U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Oklahoma Field Office, said in a press release that one of 17 public scope meetings throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas seeks input on its Resource Management Plan, and Environmental Impact Statement. The local meeting is set to take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn Express, in McAlester, and is open to the public.

Another public scope meeting was set today at 6 p.m. in Tahlequah at the Holiday Inn Express.

The finalized RMP and EIP will guide management decisions for public resources within 104,000 acres of BLM property, 593,000 acres of split-estate land and 5,270,000 acres of federal mineral estate on — and under — lands managed by other federal agencies such as Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, Department of Defense, etc.” in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, according to Laurence “Larry” Levesque of BLM.

The BLM manages nearly 7.5 million acres of federally owned land and minerals in the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. BLM field office also oversees the environmental compliance of those leasing federal lands and minerals and production accountability. The BLM also oversees the rehabilitation of the surface of the federal land that is — or has been — leased, according to Levesque.

For example, Levesque said, BLM owns coal mineral property from the Coal County area through Pittsburg and surrounding counties. He said the RMP will define guidelines for how the properties will be leased and what guidelines are to be followed to protect the properties, the environment and their human populations.

He said the BLM also leases and protects federal land for grazing.

“We lease BLM lands and property. We do not lease Indian-allotted or -owned property,” he said. “They do their own leasing, but we do the permitting for BLM property as well as Indian-allotted and -owned property, be it mineral, land or otherwise. Which makes this project (RMP and EIS) unique.”

He said it is unique because the BLM will be working in cooperation with Indian agencies to establish the guidelines.

According to the BLM press release, a Notice of Intent to prepare the plan and statement was published in the Federal Register on July 26, formally opening a 190-day public scoping period set to end Jan. 31. That leaves less than two months for the public to voice their opinions and concerns.

The BLM press release says comments will be reviewed and considered throughout the development of the RMP and EIS and may be submitted by e-mail to BLMNMOKYRMP@blm.gov.

Comments can also be made by printing and filling out a mail-in, or fax-in, comment form available from the project website at www.blm.gov/nm/oktrmp, according to the BLM.

The BLM says comment forms may also be delivered to the BLM at 7906 E. 33rd St., Ste. 101, Tulsa, OK 74145 addressed to the attention of Laurence Levesque, or faxed to 918-621-4230 with “Attn: Laurence Levesque.”

The BLM field office for Oklahoma can be reached by phone at 918-621-4100.

Contact MJ Brickey by e-mail at mjbrickey@journalist.com.

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