BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

BILLINGS – The Bureau of Land Management on Aug. 12 released two Rapid Ecoregional Assessments summarizing the conditions of the northwestern plains and middle Rockies ecoregions. REAs use existing scientific information to identify resource conditions and trends within an ecoregion, which transcends traditional administrative boundaries.

This large-scale approach can help land managers and stakeholders assess current resource conditions at an ecoregional scale. The REAs provide science-based information and tools for land managers and stakeholders to consider during resource planning and decision-making processes, such as Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statements.

The REAs themselves do not contain findings and recommendations, make management decisions or allocate resource uses. However, the information, maps, and tools provided by the REAs should inform and strengthen the BLM’s analyses of the projected and cumulative effects of various management alternatives to be developed in the future.

REAs are prepared in cooperation with other federal and state land management agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of the Interior’s lead science agency. They identify important habitats for fish, wildlife and other species of concern as well as areas that are less ecologically intact or readily restorable, and where development activities may be directed to minimize potential environmental impacts.

The assessments gauge the potential of these habitats to be affected by four environmental change agents: climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and urban and energy development. In contrast to more traditional BLM assessments, REAs do not assess the conditions of specific areas at a fine scale, such as grazing allotments, nor do they describe desired future conditions.

The northwestern plains ecoregion has an area of 236,249 square miles and is located in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. The middle Rockies ecoregion is 105,000 square miles and located in Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any federal agency.

The northwestern plains and middle Rockies REAs are available at blm.gov/5zld. For more information on these assessments, contact Mike Philbin at (406) 896-5041 or Wendy Velman at (406) 896-5032 in Montana.