Both of Nebraska's U.S. senators -- Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer -- have called for more local input on proposed management plans for the Niobrara River and Ponca Bluffs areas.
The two Republicans sent a letter Friday to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that echoed the concerns of Northeast Nebraskans about the proposed land management plans being considered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The plans -- stemming from a draft environmental impact statement released in March 2013 -- could result in government management or acquisition of more than 1.4 million acres in Nebraska and South Dakota, the majority of which would be in Nebraska.
In the letter, the senators called for an extended comment period so more area residents and landowners can share their opinions on the proposals. Currently, the comment period is scheduled to close as of June 14. It opened April 2.
In their letter, the senators wrote, "Given the size and scope of the projects and the complex issues addressed . . . we believe a comment period of just over 60 days is insufficient to permit our constituents to review the plan and its impact on our state, counties, local communities and economy."
Public meetings on the proposals already have generated substantial concerns, they said.
"Those concerns have deepened and become more numerous as review of the document has continued. Quite simply, without a substantial extension to the comment period, our constituents will not have sufficient time to fully assess the project," the senators wrote.The Norfolk (NE) Daily News