INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN ECOSYSTEM
Rex Holloway 509-522-4046
Sue Tholen 208-334-1770 X139
For immediate release:
Federal officials today announced a 120-day extension of the formal public comment period for the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEISs). The Project's Regional Executives have decided to extend the comment period from October 6, 1997 to February 6, 1998. The two DEISs have been available public review since the first week of June.
"We want to provide a reasonable opportunity and quality time for the public to read, comprehend, and comment on one or both of the two DEISs," said Martha Hahn, Idaho State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. Hahn chairs a panel of Federal executives in the Pacific Northwest who oversee the effort known as the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. "We feel these documents are a culmination of a significant effort on the part of the Federal agencies involved in this project. We have tried to give people as long as possible to comment, and still keep project costs down."
"Now it is the public's turn to review and provide us comments on how to manage these important public lands," said Bob Williams, Regional Forester of the Pacfic Northwest Region of the Forest Service. "We sincerely want to hear how we can improve the management strategy between the draft and final EISs."
During the first two months of the comment period, the Project has received several requests for extension of the original 120-day comment period. Many of these requests have cited the length and complexity of the two DEISs. It has also been noted that many of the people most interested in public land management are very busy this time of year either recreating or working on the very lands these DEISs will affect. This extension will carry the comment period beyond the critical work and recreation months and provide additional time for people to read and comment on the DEISs. Extension of the formal public comment period will be officially announced with a notice in the Federal Register.
The two DEISs address the management of more than 72 million acres of Forest Service- and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered land in the interior Columbia River Basin and portions of the Klamath and Great Basins. One DEIS covers these public lands in eastern Oregon and Washington, and the other DEIS covers much of Idaho, western Montana, northern Nevada, and parts of Utah and Wyoming.
Federal officials were quick to point out that public comments are essential to mold the final strategy, due to be completed in 1998. "We need to remember that these are draft documents," said Forest Service Intermountain Regional Forester Dale Bosworth. "We want the final direction to reflect the public's comments. This extension of the public comment period will provide more opportunities to ask questions about the documents and give comments over the next few months."
The Project was launched in 1993 by the Forest Service and BLM to address environmental and economic issues, such as salmon recovery, declining forest and rangeland health, and changing economies and social conditions of local communities, that affect larger areas than traditional administrative boundaries. Comprehensive science reports were issued in December 1996. For further information please contact the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project at 509-522-4030 or 208-334-1770.