The Lewistown Resource Management Plan has been in the works for over three years and is almost complete. The final resource management plan (RMP) and environmental impact statement were released on February 14th, 2020 and are now in a 30-day public protest period. This means if you submitted a comment on the RMP you have 30 days to submit a protest. Once this protest period is over the Record of Decision will be released and the plan will be finalized.
The proposed plan alternative has few modifications from its draft stage. It designates two new backcountry conservation areas (BCAs) adds back only two areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs), fails to protect over 200,000 acres with wilderness characteristics, and still leaves 95% of the planning area open to oil and gas development. The Interior Department’s chosen alternative removes the goal of preserving streams as wild and scenic rivers, fails to analyze the full impact of climate change, and opens the door for noncompetitive leasing of public lands for oil and gas.
Throughout the creation of this plan, the Department of the Interior ignored Montana voices, local Montanan communities, and even the BLM’s own experts on the ground. Local citizens – hunters, ranchers, school teachers, hikers, and wildlife watchers – advocated for spaces within this plan to be protected. Their voices were ignored in order to advance the Interior Department’s top-down “Energy Dominance” agenda. This destruction of the public process and blatant disregard for public opinion has become commonplace throughout the West.
The Lewistown planning area has a low potential for profitable oil and gas development. Having these areas open for oil and gas leasing means these parcels will not be bid on in a competitive manner. These parcels are not highly desirable and will end up being sold as non-competitive lease sales. This means that oil and gas developers will be paying a few dollars per acre to lease public lands. Given the habitat value of this region, the big game it supports, and the recreation-based economic benefits for local communities, leasing these spaces for a few dollars an acre is an insult to all Montanans and the values we have been taught for generations.
At the head of this issue is William Perry Pendley who continues to operate as BLM Director without Senate confirmation. The Lewistown plan illustrates exactly what happens when a political activist-lawyer like Mr. Pendley is installed into an important job without public transparency. Pendley has attacked the BLM and advocated for the sale of public lands throughout his career. Now as the head of the agency, he has followed through on his agenda of prioritizing oil and gas over public access and wildlife habitat on over one million acres of public land in Central Montana.
If you are interested in submitting a protest or writing to your local newspaper and have questions please contact our Eastern Field Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.