Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Craters of the Moon plan is imminent

BLM proposal calls for closure of about 50 miles of roads

Express Staff Writer

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is in the last stages of deliberation on a travel management plan for Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve near Carey.

As drafted, the plan would close about 50 miles of road in the 737,700-acre monument, which was expanded in 2000 to include the entire Great Rift, a sweeping expanse of molten lava rock and high-elevation desert on the Snake River Plain.

Craters of the Moon is cooperatively managed by the U.S. Park Service and the BLM.

The proposed road closures would amount to a 7 percent reduction from the total of 750 miles of roads on the expanse of jagged black rock.

"We would be closing unused or redundant roads," said Dave Freiberg, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM's Shoshone Field Office. "Some of these are so hard to find that most people won't even know they're closed."

As well, just over 20 miles of roads will be improved to provide better access for fire suppression vehicles, hunters and recreation purposes.

If implemented, the plan would also include construction of gravel parking areas to decrease the chance of wildfires caused by cars parked on grass, seasonal closure of routes to protect sage grouse, and protection of archeological and geological sites.

Freiberg said the plan received about 100 comments from the public during the official 30-day comment period, which ended Friday. While he noted that not every comment has yet been read, Freiberg said many are from ranchers wary of additional restrictions and looking to protect their access in the monument.

Freiberg said other comments ranged from support of the plan as drafted to others encouraging the BLM to close all roads.

Freiberg said he expects the final plan to be completed in two to three weeks, but said he doesn't know if the comments will alter the draft significantly.

Jon Duval:

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