- Category: Carlsbad
- Published: Wednesday, 06 April 2016 12:52
Help Protect Southeast New Mexico's Wild BLM Lands from Development
Incorporating Lands with Wilderness Characteristics into Carlsbad BLM Planning
The Bureau of Land Management’s Carlsbad Field Office (CFO) is in the midst of their Resource Management Plan revision process. This revised plan will guide the management of all resources on public BLM lands in Eddy, Lea, and southwest Chaves counties for the next 15 to 20 years. Over 130,000 acres of Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWCs) have been documented on lands managed by the CFO during separate inventories conducted by the BLM and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Although these lands have been determined to meet BLM’s wilderness characteristics criteria, this alone does not guarantee their wilderness character will be preserved. The BLM can formally recognize these areas as having wilderness characteristics in the RMP revision, and can also decide to manage them for preservation of those characteristics for the life of the plan. Without this recognition, these lands become fair game for oil and gas leasing or other extractive uses that could alter their ecological integrity and future wilderness potential.
Designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern during the Planning Process
Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) are certain units of BLM land that require special management due to their unique environmental conditions or characteristics. In certain situations, this type of designation can provide additional protection for lands that do not qualify as Lands with Wilderness Characteristics but nonetheless are important for their wildlife, cultural, or other resource values. At present, five ACECs totaling 12,020 acres have been designated on CFO managed lands. Since the 1988 RMP, additional lands have been identified that could benefit from ACEC designation. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has nominated four new ACECs for designation, totaling 550,900 acres, to protect important grassland habitat for birds of prey, riparian ecosystem components and the unique habitat found within their vicinity, nest colonies for Great Blue Heron, and culturally significant salt playas from fast-track oil and gas development.
Public Involvement is Key!
Federal law requires the BLM to involve the public throughout the planning process. Public scoping for the RMP revision occurred from June through August in 2010; the Final Public Scoping Report was released in May of 2011. The Assessment of the Management Situation, which lays the groundwork for the Draft RMP, was completed in September of 2014. At this point in time, the Draft RMP is slated for release in March of 2017. Its release will trigger a 90-day public comment period. This is when your action is most needed! Add your name HERE to stay updated on Action Alerts.
What Makes These Areas Special?
Water and Riparian Areas
Riparian areas amidst desert expanses provide integral habitat for a wide variety of species and are some of the most biologically rich places found in temperate regions.
The Capitan Aquifer, which supplies the city of Carlsbad with domestic water, relies upon the cave and karst resources of the Guadalupe Mountains for recharge.
Wildlife and Habitat
Habitat extremes ranging from gypsum dunes to coniferous forest supply habitat for at least 60 species of mammals, 289 species of birds, and 55 species of reptiles. Threatened and Endangered Species such as the Aplomado falcon and sand dunes lizard rely on these areas for recovery.
The Delaware River alone houses more than twenty BLM sensitive species and was designated an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society in 2008 due to the presence of several priority bird species.
Unique Geological and Paleontological Resources
Units in the Guadalupe Mountains provide a premier example of Permian fossil reef beds; fossils that are millions of years old can be found across the range. Over 500 known limestone caves exist in the Guadalupe Mountains. The health of extremely sensitive cave ecosystems hinges on a delicate balance between subterranean and surface conditions.
Over 10,000 years of human history, including prehistoric carvings and artifacts, historic battle grounds, and historic travel routes are evidenced on these lands. Today, significant sites for several local Native American tribes exist within the planning area.
Preserving these lands enhances recreational opportunities for local communities and area visitors. Activities such as hunting, fishing, caving, horseback riding, hiking, camping, photography, and bird watching could all be enhanced by protection.
Tentative Planning Timeline:
June 2017: Release of draft RMP and draft EIS
June 2017 - September 2017: 90-day comment period and public meetings for RMP and EIS drafts
Fall 2017 - Spring 2018: Revise RMP and EIS
Spring 2018: Submit RMP and Final EIS
Spring 2018: Finalize RMP with Record of Decision