Natural Resource Plan Steering Committee
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the BLM and Forest Service must coordinate with local governments when preparing federal land use plans—a requirement which includes addressing inconsistencies between the BLM and Forest Service plans and local government plans. NEPA requires that the federal agency “cooperate with State and local agencies to the fullest extent possible to reduce duplication between NEPA and State and local requirements.” Federal agencies must also discuss any inconsistencies between a proposed action and State and local plans and include in an EIS a description of the extent to which the agency would harmonize its proposed action with the local law or plan.
Because of this federal requirement, the Wyoming State Legislature along with the Governor of Wyoming passed House Bill 54 in early 2019 which provides funding for counties to develop or revise county natural resource management plans. County natural resource plans are, per House Bill 54, to serve as a basis for communicating and coordinating with the federal government and its agencies on land and natural resource management issues to ensure that local perspectives and priorities affecting local communities are considered and included in federal land use plans.
As a result of this effort, a steering committee is being formed to assist with the development of the Converse County Natural Resource Plan. The Converse County Land Use Plan (Plan) was adopted by the Converse County Board of County Commissioners on April 7, 2015 and a link has been provided for your convenience (https://www.conversecounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/112/Converse-County-Land-Use-Plan-PDF?bidId=).
The economic challenge for Converse County in the 21st century is finding the right balance between using, and conserving, natural resources in a way that supports all the industries in this County, while preserving the historical quality of life. All lands within Converse County are included in this Plan (or locally adopted Community Plans).
Converse County contains over 2.7 million acres and approximately 25% of the total land area in Converse County is government land of local, state or federal ownership. However, over 60% of the subsurface minerals are federally managed. Currently, the State of Wyoming manages approximately 256,174 surface acres (9%) with the US Forest Service manages 259,284 surface acres and the Bureau of Land Management manages 135,572 surface acres, for a total of approximately 14% federal surface acres of the County’s 2.7 million acres.
The current Converse County Natural Resource Plan must be updated to reflect historic and current resource uses, clear and concise objectives, and priorities for land use where competing resources exist, along with succinct policy statements to assist in guiding decisions and ensuring that federal plans are consistent to the maximum extent possible.
Issues to be considered in the Natural Resource Plan
- Energy Industry
- Power Plants
- Wind and Solar Industry
- Agriculture and Range Management
- Soil Conservation
- Noxious Weeds and Invasive Species
- Water Resources Management
- Hydrology, ditches, irrigation, water quality, water rights
- Wildlife, Fisheries and Wetlands
- Predator Control
- Cultural Resources
- Tourism, Recreation and Parks
- Forestry and Timber Resources
- Travel and Transportation Management
- Economic Development
- Local Government and Planning
- Law Enforcement and Fire Management
- Global Climate Change and Green House Gas Emissions
- Socio Economics
Expectations of Steering Committee Members
- Members must be residents of Converse County, or represent a business or entity doing business in Converse County with significant activity associated with the categories listed above.
- Members of this steering committee can expect a minimum of a two-year commitment with approximately six (6) meetings per year along with monthly conference calls/virtual calls.
- Members are expected to attend all Steering Committee meetings.
- Members are encouraged to seek additional individuals with professional expertise associated with their area of responsibility.
Members of this committee will serve through the completion of the document.
It is anticipated that the steering committee members would be appointed by the Converse County Board of Commissioners in June, and the first meeting would be held in mid-July of 2020. Converse County has retained a natural resource policy advisor along with a third- party consultant to assist the steering committee with this effort. The entire project is expected to be completed by June 30, 2022.