The Johnson County Board of Commissioners signed a contract with Jackson Hole’s Y2 Consultants, the contractor that will complete the county’s Natural Resource Management Plan, on Jan. 21.

According to the contract, Y2 will be paid no more than $50,000 for the development of the plan. The project should be completed in late summer or early fall, Commissioner Bill Novotny said.

The bulk of the project will involve reviewing existing information and statutes regarding a variety of local resources, according to Y2. The plan will include objectives and priorities for the use, development and protection of natural resources.

Other subjects addressed by the plan will include land use and access, geology and soils, mining and mineral resources, air quality, water resources, wildlife, endangered species, invasive species, noxious weeds, predator control, forest management, fire management, wild horses, energy resources and pipelines, wilderness areas, economic development, recreation and tourism, law enforcement, fisheries and livestock and grazing.

The company will start the plan development process with a kick-off meeting that will take place within 30 days of the contract’s signing. Throughout the process, the company will work with a 12-member community board appointed by the commissioners.

In its proposal to the county, Y2 said it would help the county develop a plan that “clearly focuses on scientific, technical and historic understanding of Johnson County's surface and subsurface resources and their management.”

According to Novotny, the work done by Y2 and the community board will serve as the foundation for all the county's natural-resource-related policy decisions in coming years.

“The push for counties to create a natural resource management plan is a concerted effort by counties to have a larger say in our land use decisions,” Novotny told the Bulletin in September. “It allows us to control our destiny in our county. It is easier for us to do our jobs and make these decisions if we have an adopted document that we can consult when making them. We don't have to make conjectures about what might be best for our county because we will have a year's worth of research by county residents to back up our decisions.”

Novotny said that the county is still in the process of finding a 13th member of the working group – someone who represents the energy industry.

Stephen Dow covers a variety of beats for the Buffalo Bulletin including the Johnson County Commissioners and JCSD #1. Stephen is a Billings native who joined the Bulletin in 2016.

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