FORT HALL – The J.R. Simplot Company is asking the federal government to approve the exchange of 719 acres of public land adjacent to its Don Phosphorus Plant west of Pocatello for 667 acres of private land near the Chinese Peak-Blackrock Canyon area.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Pocatello Field Office will be taking public comment at a hearing tonight for the Environmental Impact Statement it’s required to prepare for the request.

The hearing will take place at 7 p.m. at the BLM office located at 4350 Cliffs Drive.

Members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are being urged by their tribal government to attend the hearing and get their comments about the request on record.

According to a news release from Randy’L Teton, public affairs manager for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the announcement of the public hearings by the BLM opens up a 45-day scoping period during which the federal agency will gather comments on the proposal and identify issues to be analyzed by the EIS.

The news release quotes Melissa Warren, manager of the Pocatello Field Office, saying “Public scoping is vital to getting this process started off on the right foot. It provides the perfect opportunity for people familiar with the area, or those who have concerns, to bring items to our attention so we can fully analyze them in the EIS.”

The proposed exchange area is identified in the Pocatello BLM’s Approved Resource Management Plan as a “Zone 3 land tenure adjustment zone, “which places a priority emphasis on consolidating ownership to maximize public values, provide public access, and improve efficiencies in public land administration.

Teton said the Tribes encourage members, environmentalists, and community members to share in this opportunity to participate in the land exchange.

“The Tribes have fought against the Congressional Bills HR 4448 and S.2140 proposed by Simplot to circumvent the NEPA process by advocating for congressional approval of the land exchange. Now, the Simplot company is seeking to utilize the shorter environmental review process to conduct a full-blown EIS in only one year,” Teton said.

The said the Tribes’ concerns include:

- The exchange of 719 acres of public land for 667 acres of private land will result in the loss of 52 acres of land for public use.

-Will enable expansion of the Eastern Michaud Flats Superfund Site to construct cooling ponds and increase its storage capacity of the phosphogypsum waste by putting it on the 719 acres received in the exchange.

- Both land parcels are located within the original boundaries of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

-Contamination will continue to flow onto the Reservation and throughout the local communities.

Teton said the Tribes are also concerned that with new efforts focused on expediting the environmental review process, a full analysis documenting the environmental impacts cannot be completed in just one year.

“Don’t be misled by a recent news release in which the Pocatello BLM claims the agency could acquire 667 acres of crucial mule deer winter range and secure permanent access to popular winter recreation area.

“The Trump adminstration’s expedited environmental review process clearly skews the review process to favor industry,” Teton wrote. “This proposal could have substantial impacts to the local environment and human health by continuing impacts that have already been documented, since the Don Plant is part of the Eastern Michaud Flat Suerfund Site.”

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