Exchange would expand recreation access, protect important mule deer winter range

POCATELLO — The Bureau of Land Management Pocatello Field Office has prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the J.R. Simplot Company’s request to exchange 719 acres of federal land adjacent to Simplot’s Don Plant, for 667 acres of non-federal land near the Chinese Peak–Blackrock Canyon area.

“The Chinese–Peak Blackrock Canyon area provides outstanding recreational opportunities, while protecting crucial habitat for mule deer and other native species. This exchange enhances its importance for both people and wildlife while ensuring that Simplot can continue to contribute to Idaho’s economy,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley.

If approved, the proposed land exchange would result in improved resource management in an area containing crucial mule deer winter range and would secure permanent public access within the popular Blackrock Canyon Recreation Management Zone. The Blackrock Canyon RMZ is associated with the Chinese Peak–Blackrock Trail System, providing non-motorized and motorized users over 40 miles of trails to utilize for off-highway vehicles, equestrian, mountain biking and hiking.

“This land exchange balances several interests,” said BLM Idaho Falls District Manager Mary D’Aversa. “The lands BLM would gain are tied into the Chinese Peak-Blackrock Trail System and will continue to be enjoyed by recreationists in Pocatello and the surrounding area. The exchange would grant Simplot additional space and enable the company to improve its environmental footprint while operating into the future. And the exchange was modified to protect a key cultural site by keeping it in federal ownership.”

The final EIS describes and evaluates four alternatives for the proposed land exchange. The BLM has selected Alternative B as the preferred alternative because it provides the greatest net benefit to the public, based on relevant factors that include economic and technical considerations, agency missions and considerations of national policy. Alternative B adjusts the boundary of the federal lands to minimize cultural resource impacts, allows for a net gain of public lands and makes additional lands available for tribal uses.

In support of secretary’s Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in BLM Public Land Disposals and Exchange issued in March 2019, the BLM has analyzed the impact of the proposed land exchange on the public’s ability to access federal lands for recreation.

The final EIS is available for 60 days on the BLM ePlanning project website at https://go.usa.gov/xEUuc. For more information, please contact Bryce Anderson, BLM Pocatello project manager, at 208-478-6353 or bdanderson@blm.