The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may have missed around 100,000 public comments submitted to the agency on its plan to amend an Obama-era sage grouse conservation plan.
The BLM released a report Friday on the responses it has received since announcing it was revisiting the 2015 conservation plan, the Casper Star Tribune, a Wyoming paper, reported.
The BLM received about 170,000 comments from individuals, but a coalition of about 20 environmental groups said around 267,000 individuals submitted comments at their request, according to The Washington Post.
“The Bureau of Land Management recently learned not all submissions to its land-use plan amendment scoping effort were received and posted on the website containing the final report,” the BLM said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Most of the missing comments were sent by form letters and petitions circulated over the internet.
“It is unknown how many submissions weren’t received, but the BLM is working with the affected organizations to identify what happened,” The BLM added.
In a notice released October, the BLM announced it would revisit the sage grouse conservation plan designed under former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on the grounds it violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The conservation plan was made up of land use plans worked out between federal and state governments and local interests. The October BLM announcement was generally praised states and industries while condemned by environmentalists.
The BLM, while not certain of the cause of the missing comments, maintain the agency never received them and believe that a “technical error” led to the discrepancy.
The environmental groups are split on accepting the word of the agency. Wilderness Society conservation director Phil Hanceford said the missing comments are “a glaring reminder that BLM has some pretty serious transparency issues,” according to WaPo.
“Some people chalk this up to political chicanery,” National Wildlife Federation Associate Vice President Tracy Stone-Manning told WaPo. “I take the agency at its word when they say it’s a technical error. But it’s still a problem, because tens of thousands of American voices would have gone unheard had we not drawn the agency’s attention to this.”
The agency has promised to rectify the situation and make sure all public comments are considered and added to the report, possibly as an addendum.
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