Friday, May 18, 2012

Conversation with the BLM

Dugout Dick at his hand-made dugout home in 2009.
Update: I just got off the phone with Joe Kraayenbrink, the Idaho Falls field office manager of the BLM, to whom the Salmon field office reports. Here's what I was told:

  • The BLM went through a scoping and public comment process on the Dugout Dick site, including a review of the applicable federal laws on historic sites. Input from the public was "mixed" -- some wanted the site preserved, some wanted the dugouts removed.
  • The final decision was made by the Salmon field office manager at the time, whose name I don't have (but will eventually learn). This is the man to whom I spoke after Dick's death who assured me that at least some of the dugouts would be preserved.
  • Many of the dugouts were in bad shape and were dangers to the public. (I have no doubt that this is true.)
  • The BLM spent $280,000 to have a haz mat company come in and remove dangerous materials from the site, including a lot of human waste. (I don't doubt this, either.)
  • It was then decided that, given a lack of consensus among the public and the potential danger to visitors at the site, that all dugouts would be destroyed. (Here's where I part company with the BLM. Any historic site has challenges, and the federal government has never been known to operate like a democracy when it comes to public input. Had the BLM's local managers wanted to preserve this site, it could have been done.)
  • There are plans for an interpretive site to include photographs, diagrams and biographical information. (I have asked for a copy of the complete plan.)

Joe asked me if I had been aware of, or involved in, the public comment process. I said no, explaining that I had already been assured of the BLM's plans to preserve the site by the field office manager and was not aware of the comment period.

Joe is going to provide for me a chronology of the decision-making process.

I said that, given the bad decision made by the BLM, the interpretive site needs to include a replica of one of Dick's dugouts. He said he would set up a a meeting between me, the new field office managers, the person responsible for the interpretive site plan, and the now-retired BLM officer who knew Dick well and can speak more specifically about the decision.

In other words, I heard about exactly what I expected. I have volunteered to work with the BLM to find the necessary funds and expertise to add a replica to the interpretive site, and Joe was open to this but said it would be left to the Salmon office management to decide how to proceed.

Let me know if you want to join me in meeting at the Salmon field office with these folks. It'll be in a couple of weeks, as the new manager is in the process of moving from St. George to Salmon.

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