2014 was a landmark year for our public lands, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness

Act and reflected on the rich history of wilderness preservation in the United States and what the future
might hold for our remaining unprotected wildlands. It was also a year fraught with attacks on our
western public lands and the civil servants that steward them for all Americans. We’d like to start our
annual year-end celebratory awards to first recognize and appreciate all BLM employees who are
committed to managing our vast shared real estate for the benefit of us all.
The Comparative Analysis of Particular Excellence (CAPE) rating system, inspired by the superhero-like
character of the BLM Action Center team (able to leap tall stacks of RMPs in a single bound!), ranges
from one CAPE on the low end (worth a pat on the back) to five CAPEs on the high end (HUGE

1. Settlement Reached on Roan Plateau (4 CAPEs)
Recipient: Colorado River Valley Field Office

In a major win for Colorado’s public lands, the Roan Plateau will be largely protected from oil and gas
development under a settlement reached by BLM, conservation groups and industry. The Roan Plateau
is one of Colorado’s most hotly contested proposed wilderness areas, as it is replete with wildlife and
scenic vistas as well as significant natural gas resources. In 2008, the BLM finalized a management plan
for the plateau that could have allowed for thousands of wells to be drilled – a decision that was
overturned by a federal judge in 2012, but not before BLM issued multiple leases covering vast swaths
of the plateau. After years of efforts, a settlement was reached in November of this year that sets the
stage for a balanced plan to move forward, conserving the Roan’s spectacular wilderness and wildlife
while allowing for gas drilling to proceed in the right places at the right pace.
Under the settlement, Bill Barrett Corporation will relinquish 17 lease parcels on the top of the plateau
and be able to proceed with drilling on 2 remaining parcels; additional safeguards will apply to
development of those 2 leases as well as to leases at the base of the plateau. This will protect most of
the Roan Plateau’s exceptional lands, ranging from sagebrush meadows and spruce forests to deep
canyons and waterfalls. This unique landscape provides habitat for mule deer, black bear and native

Colorado River cut-throat
trout, among other thriving
wildlife populations. These
wildlands and wildlife would
have been severely
impacted by large scale
energy development atop
the plateau. Instead, the
settlement agreement
strikes a balance that
garnered broad, bi-partisan
support from the State of
Colorado, wilderness
advocates, sportsmen
Southeast Cliffs of Roan Plateau, by Scott Braden groups, local counties and
Senators Udall and Bennet and Representative Tipton. The BLM will evaluate the negotiated approach in
its ongoing planning process and if the settlement alternative is selected, then the legal claims will be
We are delighted to end the year on a high note. As Interior Secretary Sally Jewell remarked at the press
conference announcing the settlement, “It’s important for all of us in the federal government to get oil
and gas leases right the first time.” We couldn’t agree more. Now, it’s time for BLM to craft a new
management plan for the Roan Plateau that balances conservation with development and ensures new
leasing is done right. An important component of that plan must be identifying lands with wilderness
characteristics and closing them to oil and gas leasing, which will benefit wildlands, recreation, wildlife
and many other public lands resources. The Colorado River Valley Field Office did an outstanding job
inventorying lands with wilderness characteristics in Bull Gulch this fall, and we believe they’re up to the
task for Roan Plateau.

2. Interior Department Commits to Future Wilderness (3 CAPEs)
Recipient: BLM Director Neil Kornze

The Wilderness Act turned 50 this year, giving us reason for both reflection and celebration. The
Wilderness Society, our conservation partners and the public seized this momentous occasion to
appreciate the significant accomplishments made possible by this fundamental piece of legislation.
Across the country, events ranging from films and workshops to beer tastings and nature walks
employed a largely similar approach: taking a step back to commemorate the process of wilderness
protection and its numerous and cascading benefits.


The BLM reflected not only on the importance of wilderness protection to public lands management,
but also on the future of wilderness. The conclusion was clear: wilderness protection has and will
continue to have an important place in the management of BLM lands. The “2020 Vision for the
Wilderness Preservation System” released by the agencies in the Department of Interior reaffirms their
commitment to protecting wilderness. The document sets goals for improving protective management,
enhancing agency leadership, and working to connect the American public to a growing wilderness
system. From committing to update wilderness inventories across the West to solidifying the link
between wilderness and scientific research, we applaud the BLM and its fellow agencies for their
renewed commitment to wilderness protection.
The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act has made for a big year at The Wilderness Society. We have
very much enjoyed and been extremely honored to celebrate this defining legislation alongside BLM
staff. Whether at the National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque or the rendezvous in Black Rock,
Nevada, we were very pleased to see the BLM effectively engaging in discussion and action that supports
the protection of Wilderness. We look forward to working with the BLM in realizing its 2020 goals, and
ensuring our Wilderness system will thrive for another 50 years to come.

Donkey Hills in the Challis Field Office, by Soren Jespersen

3. BLM Advances Restoration of the Blanca Wetlands (3 CAPEs)
Recipient: San Luis Valley Field Office

This year BLM finalized a substantial expansion of the Blanca Wetlands Area of Critical Environmental
Concern, an ecologically significant wetlands complex in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. BLM has engaged
with scientific teams over the years to better understand the wetlands; and those teams recommended
that BLM adopt larger-scale management efforts and acquire habitat to improve connectivity.
BLM enlarged the ACEC from 9,714 acres to 122,762 acres, making it possible for the agency to acquire


lands within the wetlands from willing sellers through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Acquiring
private lands in the Blanca Wetlands complex would allow BLM to better manage the ecosystem
holistically and undertake restoration projects. Funding for the Blanca Wetlands ACEC is included in the
President’s budget proposal this year, but unfortunately is not included in the Omnibus Appropriations
bill for 2015 because Congress is neglecting to fully fund LWCF.
We applaud the San Luis Valley Field Office for its efforts to protect and restore the Blanca Wetlands,
through acquiring important inholdings and putting special management in place for the ACEC to
maintain and improve wetlands habitat. Management of the ACEC also places recreation emphasis on
warm water fisheries and wildlife watching opportunities. We hope Congress will commit to fully funding
the LWCF in the future and BLM will eventually be able to acquire lands in the Blanca Wetlands for
lasting protection and support for restoration projects.

4. Implementation Underway for BLM’s Solar Energy Program (3 CAPEs)
Recipients: BLM California, Colorado and Arizona State Offices; BLM Southern Nevada
District Office

BLM moved forward with some key components of the agency’s Solar Energy Program this year,
including making progress on regional mitigation strategies and addressing proposed solar projects on
variance lands. The Dry Lake Regional Mitigation Strategy was finalized and BLM held a successful
auction in which 6 parcels were sold in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone. This marks the agency’s first
successful auction of solar energy development on public lands. BLM is now working on an
environmental assessment to move projects forward on those parcels. Regional mitigation strategies are
also being developed for the Colorado and Arizona solar energy zones, and we are optimistic about the
landscape-level analysis and mitigation under consideration as part of those strategies.
Outside of solar energy zones, we’ve seen CAPE-worthy implementation on variance lands as well. The
Las Vegas-Pahrump Draft RMP took a fine-tooth comb to variance lands in the Southern Nevada District,
further reducing lands that will be available to variance applications. The range of alternatives excludes
more than 2 million acres of sensitive lands from solar energy development, using the land use planning
process to guide solar energy to the right places on a more detailed level than the Solar PEIS. BLM also
denied a variance application in California’s Silurian Valley, an area where abundant scenic, recreation,
wildlife, cultural and other important resources would be greatly impacted by a large solar project. BLM
made the right decision here, and also demonstrated the importance of refining variance lands on a
local level as the Southern Nevada District is doing in the Las Vegas RMP.


The Wilderness Society is happy to see BLM continue to fulfill its commitment to the Solar Energy
Program, moving forward with solar projects that have the least impacts and considering mitigation for
those impacts while continuing to evaluate where solar development is appropriate on our public lands.
The Solar Energy Program continues to be a model for how energy development should be balanced with
conservation in our western landscapes.

5. Sun Valley Mine Closure Minimizes Impacts to Wilderness (3 CAPEs)
Recipient: Arizona Strip Field Office

This past January, BLM signed the EA/FONSI for an action that would place a bat grate over the Sun
Valley Mine in order to make the site safe for the
public and allow bats continued access to the mine
itself. The mine is located in the Paria CanyonVermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area and the Vermilion
Cliffs National Monument. The original notice of
intent for the project stated that an ATV or other
motorized vehicle would be required to haul the
grate into the wilderness area on an abandoned
road. After consultation with the public and
consideration of comments, BLM applied the
minimum tool analysis and decided to instead use
pack mules and human power to transport the
grate in four sections to the mine where the grate
will be welded together on site. The mules will also
carry out the existing wire and posts.

Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, by Bob Wick

We applaud BLM’s use of the least impactful tools
to minimize the impacts to the Wilderness, national
monuments and other conservation areas as well as
its responsiveness to public input on this project.
We look forward to working with the agency
elsewhere on such issues.


6. Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Proposes 3.5 Million Acres
of Public Lands for Protection (2 CAPEs)
Recipient: California State Office

After years of discussion and planning, the State of California and the federal government recently
reached an important milestone with the release of the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation
Plan (DRECP). Covering over 22 million acres of private and public land in southern California, this plan is
a landscape-level initiative to guide industrial-scale renewable energy development in California to help
the state meet its ambitious renewable energy goals while offsetting impacts from this development by
preserving desert lands for their natural, cultural, scenic and recreational values. The DRECP is also
BLM’s platform for amending decisions on the 10 million acres of land it manages in the California
Desert Conservation Area (CDCA).
The draft DRECP was released for public comment in September. As proposed, BLM’s plan would
designate 3.5 million acres of new National Conservation Lands across the southern California desert to
enhance conservation of the CDCA and ensure ecologically and culturally significant lands are preserved
from large-scale renewable energy development. In addition, it promotes better managed recreation
areas, and ensures smarter renewable energy development on public lands. These efforts will not only
strengthen the DRECP as a whole, but also ensure that the BLM continues to meet its mandate to
conserve, protect, and restore nationally significant public landscapes.
This action marks a positive step forward in BLM land management planning, but in order to set the right
precedent for future landscape level planning initiatives like the DRECP, the agency must address current
gaps and shortcomings in the Plan. For instance, the new National Conservation Lands must be managed
to provide meaningful conservation, inventories of desert lands with wilderness characteristics must be
completed, agreements ensuring the plan is durable must be reached, and local input, as well as
coordination with County renewable energy plans, must be addressed. The DRECP needs these
improvements to achieve its admirable goals. TWS supports the BLM in this effort and is eager to help
the agency move forward in a stronger and more effective direction under the DRECP.

7. BLM Engages the Public on New Planning Initiative (2 CAPEs)
Recipient: DC Planning Division

BLM initiated a bold vision for land use planning this year called “Planning 2.0.” The goals of Planning 2.0
are to make the planning process more dynamic and efficient, improve collaborative planning and plan


across landscapes. If done right, BLM will create a model that will help the agency manage adaptively
and for uncertainty in the face of climate change. We are pleased to present this CAPE award for the
initiation of Planning 2.0 as well as for the innovative ideas that are already starting to take shape, such
as the use of public participation at earlier stages of the planning process and the release of preliminary
management alternatives. These changes will take advantage of citizen-gathered data and ensure the
BLM has multiple opportunities to get input.
Planning 2.0 has started off in a positive direction. We are hopeful that this will remain a BLM priority as
we recognize the amount of effort that will be involved in completing this process within the ambitious
timeline BLM has set for itself.

8. First Master Leasing Plan Finalized in Lander RMP (1 CAPE)
Recipient: Lander Field Office

As part of the Lander RMP Record of Decision, BLM finalized the Beaver Rim Master Leasing Plan (MLP)
– the first MLP to be finalized by the BLM. The Beaver Rim MLP manages more than 150,000 acres
through a variety of measures to protect big game, cultural resources and other values through
stipulations, phased leasing and caps on surface disturbance until interim reclamation goals are met.
This proactive, finer scale approach to balancing energy development and other values in the region
provides a good example for other BLM offices preparing MLPs to build upon as they implement the
agency’s guidance on ensuring MLPs have an overall vision, objectives to manage key resources and
tailored resource protection measures.
We would have liked to see more proactive conservation of greater sage-grouse habitat and lands with
wilderness characteristics in the Lander RMP, but wanted to acknowledge the Lander Field Office’s
contribution to developing this MLP and setting out a path other BLM field offices can follow to prepare
MLPs. This year, we’ve also seen BLM commit to preparation of the South Park MLP in Colorado and
issue preliminary management alternatives for the Moab MLP in Utah.
We are very pleased with these examples of effecting BLM’s MLP initiative and hope to see more
progress in the coming year, including implementation of the Beaver Rim MLP and initiation and
completions of new and ongoing MLPs.


9. BLM Receives International Night Sky Designation (1 CAPE)
Recipient: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument

For the first time ever, BLM-managed lands
received official recognition for the especially
dark night skies over the Grand CanyonParashant National Monument. In March, the
International Dark Sky Association designated
the Parashant International Night Sky
Province, which will help protect the area
from light pollution and preserve the starry
nights that we all enjoy on our public lands.
The designation will also help promote
scientific research and tourism.

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, by Bob Wick

BLM is receiving a CAPE award for its role in
gathering support for the Night Sky Province
and its recognition that dark night skies are a
resource that needs to be managed. There
are many places on BLM-managed lands that
deserve this recognition and we are hopeful
that BLM will support the protection and management of night skies as a bureau-wide initiative.

These projects are headed in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done! We hope to see
these “honorable mentions” earn some CAPEs in 2015.

BLM Moving Towards Smart Competitive Leasing Program for Solar and Wind Energy
This October, BLM released a draft rule that would help guide the future of wind and solar energy
development on public lands. Under the Competitive Leasing Rule for Solar and Wind Development, the
agency sets forth a new approach to renewable energy projects on public lands: Utilizing current land
use plans and amendment processes, the BLM would create preferred areas, or “designated leasing
areas,” for solar and wind energy development. These areas are intended to be places of low
conservation value, where renewable energy can take center stage on parcels of land without displacing
wildlife or degrading wilderness. To promote development in these designated leasing areas, BLM is


proposing a variety of cost and procedural mechanisms that increase efficiency and cost-savings for
developers, such as efficient environmental review, project offsets, and lower rental rates.
A major component of the Competitive Leasing Rule, as evident in its name, is the use of market
competition for potential developers to gain leases for public lands. BLM’s stated goal is that incentives
will create competition among potential developers and in turn, better achieve a fair market value for
the use of the public lands. We support market considerations to ensure fair market prices, but have
concerns about the costs associated with the incentives and the criteria used to identify these favorableleasing areas. With future revisions to the draft, we hope that the BLM can incentivize development in
appropriate places without discounting the true value of our public lands.
Greater Mooses Tooth Development Project Proposes Significant Mitigation Measures
New potential mitigation measures for the Greater Mooses Tooth One (GMT-1) oil drilling and
development project in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPR-A) incorporate a landscape level
approach to mitigation. The Final Supplemental EIS is evaluating both a legacy well mitigation fund and a
requirement for the permittee to “contribute funds to BLM for the development and implementation of
a landscape-level conservation plan and regional mitigation strategy.” These measures embody the
direction from Secretarial Order 3330 and BLM’s Regional Mitigation Manual for BLM to address impacts
on a landscape scale, including through compensatory mitigation. Creating a conservation plan and a
mitigation strategy at the landscape level will allow BLM to best incorporate meaningful protections for
the many other values of the NPR-A , such as the Special Areas designated in the management plan. By
incorporating both the conservation plan/regional mitigation strategy and legacy well mitigation fund
into the record of decision for GMT-1, BLM can set a strong precedent for evaluating environmentally
protective mitigation measures and addressing mitigation at the landscape level.