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Joe Ashor, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Missoula office, discusses the update for the decades-old land management plan for about 156,000 acres in the area. “The biggest challenge is going through such rapid changes climatically,” Ashor says.

Bureau of Land Management stakeholders can review the agency’s draft management plan at three upcoming meetings in the Missoula area.

“It’s an opportunity where the public can talk to our resource specialists,” Missoula BLM Field Manager Joe Ashor said. “It’s for anyone interested in our multiple-use and sustained-yield mission. Issues range from forestry and wildlife to mining, range management and recreation.”

The update affects a 31-year-old resource management plan covering 162,000 acres of public surface land and 200,000 acres of federal underground mineral interests in nine counties across western Montana.

Nearly all the surface property lies in Missoula, Granite and Powell counties, while underground mineral interests extend into Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Ravalli and Sanders counties.

That includes popular places like Johnsrud Park and the Trail of the Buffalo along the Blackfoot River Corridor, much of the Garnet Mountain Range and Garnet Ghost Town, and the John Long Range around Philipsburg.

“We are encouraged by the direction of this draft plan, which incorporates measures that would benefit fish and wildlife habitat as well as recreational opportunities for Montana sportsmen,” Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership field representative Scott Laird said in an email about the planning process. “It’s a step in the right direction that reflects the values of local sportsmen and women, so it’s crucial that we remain at the table as this planning process advances.”

The plan affects recreation areas, off-highway vehicles, timber harvest, livestock grazing, rights-of-way and land tenure categories. It also directs BLM on wildfire management, resource conservation, wild-and-scenic river designation suitability, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, management approaches for places with wilderness characteristics, and how to manage wilderness study areas if released from consideration by Congress.

A draft environmental impact statement reviewing the plan should be ready for public review in late 2018. Documents and other information about the planning process are available on the internet.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.