Nebraskans will have a longer period of time to comment on the federal government’s proposal for a Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation area.
The deadline for public comment had been today.
Instead, the Department of Interior has extended the comment period until September 30th.
The National Park Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have proposed either the government manage or purchase 1.4 million acres in Nebraska and South Dakota. The largest portion of the land is located in Nebraska. Both Sen. Mike Johanns and Sen. Deb Fischer had requested the Department of Interior extend the deadline for public comment to give more time for landowners in the area to voice their opinions.
“Decisions of this magnitude must not be rushed. I’m pleased the Department of Interior listened to this request for an extended comment period. Nebraska landowners – particularly farmers and ranchers – are responsible stewards of our natural resources and are rightly concerned about the impact this land acquisition could have on their livelihoods,” Johanns said in a written statement released by his office.
“The extension of this public comment period will ensure local residents affected by the Department of Interior’s proposal have sufficient time to acquire more information about the project and assess its potential impacts. The hundreds of Nebraskans who have contacted my office on this matter have reasonable cause to be concerned about the federal government seizing or controlling this vast quantity of private land. I am pleased this effort to allow them additional time to voice their legitimate concerns was successful,” according to Fischer in a written statement released by her office.
The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft Environmental Impact Statement and Land Protection Plan in March. The two agencies propose a joint “conservation effort” along portions of the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers in Nebraska and South Dakota. The public comment period opened in April. The senators sent a joint letter to the Secretary of the Interior complaining that a 60-day comment period was insufficient for such a complex proposal. The senators say a review of the documents submitted has raised questions about the project.
Sens. Johanns and Fischer also sent a letter raising questions about the proposal.