1Bureau of Land Management Ely District Manager Mike Herder attended the Lincoln County Commission meeting Aug. 3. to give an update, in part, about the new Basin and Range National Monument.

Covering 704,000 acres, the monument is a bit smaller in size than the state of Rhode Island (776, 000 acres).

Herder said his office has been receiving a lot of questions from the public and elected officials about the monument.

He said most of the questions have to do with what is and what is not allowed in the monument boundaries.

The BLM also wants to begin the dialogue of, “how we can move forward and have local officials and those affected, more involved in the mechanics of the resource management planning process.”

Herder said those who have valid existing rights on oil and gas leases on the 140,000 acres that were previously identified, will be allowed to continue current operations or permitted potential developments. “None of those acres,” he said, “are within the boundaries of the monument anyway. But the acres within the monument are now withdrawn from fluid mineral leasing.”

The BLM road maintenance agreement with Lincoln County will remain the same, covering the existing roads and trails that were there before the signing of the monument proclamation last month, and maintenance follows the same existing schedule. Herder said, “Nothing in the proclamation changes the way we do business there in terms of access or maintenance of existing roads.” And BLM is looking at what their options are in the way of rights of ways for access to types of gravel to use, as that might be a source of conflict.

Commission chair Kevin Phillips asked about grazing concerns in the monument. Herder said BLM is at work preparing some grazing alternative ideas based on information gathered from various cattle and sheep ranchers. “They are quite different from one another and we’re in the process of developing an alternative that will work for both sides,” he said. Herder thinks a draft document for public review will be ready by the end of September.

PILT funding is expected to continue as is, Herder said. “Nothing will change in the way PILT calculations are done and no change in those payments are expected.”

Herder said watershed planning in the monument is another key element. “It is a process that not many other BLM offices use, certainly no others in Nevada have used that process.”

County Planning Director Cory Lytle said he thought the way the plans for Cave and Lake Valley have been written are quite good, “somewhat detailed, yet broad enough to be able to get something done.”

Herder said the monument designation will not change that. “The evaluation processes and environmental assessment will remain the same, with the exception that we will now need to consider what potential impacts there might be to the monument objects described in the proclamation.”

He said most of what is described is already part of what is looked at during traditional BLM environmental assessments. “I don’t anticipate anything changing there, nor in our ability to conduct those projects once the planning process is complete.”

When asked what the economic value of the Basin and Range Monument expected to be to Lincoln County, Herder said, most of the draw would be the cultural values, such as the rock art, particularly the Shooting Gallery and White River Narrows, plus viewing the wildlife and what he called the Inland Art Sculpture, which includes Mike Heizer’s massive City sculpture.

Former county commissioner Ronda Hornbeck said it was her understanding Heizer wants to bring people in on busses to view his work, not private cars driving through, and to have an overnight stay in Ely. This is a great concern to her she said, “because it cuts out Lincoln County, maybe just a short break in Alamo for refreshments and that’s all.”

Herder said Alamo is expected to be the hub from people coming from the south to visit the monument. And a small staff of people including a monument manger, a range specialist, an outdoor recreation planner and a cultural resource specialist are expected to be hired, all of whom would work out of the BLM Ely office. There is no monument office per se, being planned.

Commissioner Paul Donohue asked how can Lincoln County be sure that in the future, some stroke of the pen won’t change the existing policies as they are now?

Herder said the best way is to demand to have a seat at the table in the planning process of the BLM Resource Management Plan.

He said, “Current language in the proclamation does call for including everyone who has an interest in the planning process, and that the specific local interests will continue.”

Commissioner Varlin Higbee said “including everyone” needs to mean listening more to the concerns of the local people, even though there are not as as many, as opposed to the larger numbers of people from out of state who have no stake in what is going on with the locals.

Phillips said he is not interested in “anybody who has an interest,” he says what the local people have to say ought to be of first importance. “The weighted impact ought to be viewed by the people who have to deal with it.”

Commissioner Paul Mathews said, “The rights of the grazers who are already there ought to have the most priority, rather than those out of state who have no investment there, yet want to try to start affecting people’s lives and livelihood.”

Higbee said, “Our main source of revenue to the rural counties comes from natural resource based industries, and Lincoln County in particular, needs to be allowed to continue to heavily leverage those resource, yet our county is being made smaller and smaller for those resources.”