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For the week of July 17 - 23, 2002


BLM sets meetings on land classification

Public input sought

The Bureau of Land Managementís Shoshone Field Office will host an open house meeting at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey on July 24 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on its Environmental Assessment related to Area of Critical Environmental Concern designations and land tenure adjustment.

Another meeting will be held July 23 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Shoshone Field Office Fire Conference Room in Shoshone.

The 60-day comment period commenced June 28 and will conclude August 28. Environmental documents are available on the Internet at www.id.blm.gov/planning/shoshone_lupa/index.htm.

Questions should be directed to Field Manager Bill Baker at 208-732-7286.

Express Staff Writer

As part of an effort to reclassify federal land holdings in the region, the Bureau of Land Management has proposed to label its Wood River Valley holdings with a unique classification.

The classification is part of what the BLMís Shoshone Field Office calls land tenure adjustment. For the past two years, the BLM has collected public comments and worked to compile a document that gives a broad overview of land-use planning issues in the 1.44-million-acre Shoshone Field Office district and a small part of the contiguous Four Rivers Field Office district to the west.

The document very generally specifies areas where the BLM should consolidate its ownership and areas where dispersed holdings should be traded or sold. It also proposes nearly a dozen Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, where "special management attention is required" to protect historic, cultural, scenic, fish, wildlife and other natural values.

One of the proposed ACECs was requested by the city of Ketchum and is located near the confluence of Warm Springs Creek and the Big Wood River. The BLM does not recommend the Big Wood-Warm Springs ACEC in its preferred alternative, but the area will be kept in federal ownership.

"This is a planning document, a broad brush document designed to cover the entire Shoshone Field Office," said Shoshone Office Recreation Specialist Rick VanderVoet. "The Wood River Valley is being set out as its own zone. Itís got a lot of unique issues."

Three alternatives to existing management are provided in the Shoshone Land Use Plans Draft Amendments and Environmental Assessment. A preferred alternative proposes designating local BLM lands as an "Area of Influence of the Wood River Valley," otherwise called Zone 5, and includes lands that are within the "viewshed" of Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley.

"This zone was created based on public comments and concerns communicated during the scoping period," according to the document.

The other zones, numbered one through four, are labeled on a decreasing scale of the importance of land retention. Zone 1 lands are ACECs, Wilderness Study Areas, National Monuments or other areas that must stay in federal ownership. Zone 2 lands are well consolidated and contain potentially high resource values. Zones 1 and 2 are considered "retention areas."

Zone 3 lands are small to medium sized blocks of land that are interspersed with private or state holdings. Zone 4 lands are isolated, difficult to manage parcels. Zones 3, 4 and 5 are "adjustment areas."

The land ownership characteristics of the Wood River Valley are very similar to Zone 3, according to the draft document.

"Zone 5 is a small land area, with only 121,000 acres of public lands. More acres within the zone are in private ownership than public ownership. State lands account for 20,000 acres or 7 percent of the zone."

According to a description of the Wood River Valley, the emphasis will be to consolidate ownership, using a no-net-loss trading policy within the zone. Management will also "maximize public values, provide public access and improve efficiencies in public lands management."

"The BLMís goal for this zone is to maintain the public land acreage by exchanging public land in other zones for private land in Zone 5," according to the document.

Additionally, the BLM would prefer to dispose of lands when necessary via patent to local or state government entities. VanderVoet said there are a myriad of reasons local governments might be interested in acquiring some of the BLMís holdings, including affordable housing, open space and infrastructure needs, to name a few.


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