Kristyn Brady

March 7, 2017

Congress Rolls Back Your Say in BLM Land Management

Sportsmen now look to Secretary Zinke to restore the public’s voice in the BLM land-use planning process that affects habitat, access, and rural economies

Today, U.S. Senators voted to nullify the Bureau of Land Management’s revised land-use planning rule, commonly known as Planning 2.0, which gives the public more chances to weigh in on land management decisions for 245 million acres of BLM public lands. The House passed a similar resolution of disapproval using the Congressional Review Act on February 7.

President Trump’s signature on this action will revert BLM planning to a decades-old process and may prevent the agency from creating a new rule that has the same benefits for habitat and public involvement. Planning 2.0 was the product of more than two years of collaboration between the agency, state and local governments, and the public.

“Hunters and anglers are puzzled by the fact that Congress would choose to destroy a refined and more inclusive public lands management process,” says Joel Webster, director of Western lands with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Perhaps some additional fine-tuning could have further improved BLM planning, but this CRA action is the equivalent of burning down the house simply because some window trim needed replacing. It’s an overreaction with real-world consequences for fish, wildlife, and the American people.”

Wyoming’s North Platte River. Image courtesy of Brady Owen/BLM.

Nineteen sportsmen’s groups wrote Congress in support of Planning 2.0 revisions that created three additional opportunities for the public and key collaborators—like state and local governments—to be involved at the front-end of the land-use planning process. These additional steps were designed to increase agency transparency and public involvement, and these benefits are still sorely needed to boost overall satisfaction with the management of BLM public lands across the country.

“It is tragic to see so much hard work and public input go to waste, only to be replaced with uncertainty,” says Steven Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute. “Meanwhile, the agency will continue to struggle in using an outdated, ineffective planning process to deal with modern-day challenges on public lands.”

Consideration for big game migration corridors and other planning tools that account for the most recent scientific data are not written into the previous land-use planning rule, established in 1983. Hunters and anglers are looking to the newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior to find other ways of securing these benefits.

“Sportsmen and women are incredibly savvy about public lands management and how planning efforts affect the places we hunt and fish—these are our lands and we deserve a fair shake,” says Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen Conservation Project. “We stand ready and willing to work with Secretary Zinke to restore the public’s voice in BLM public land management and see to it that important fish and wildlife habitat isn’t overlooked.”




49 Responses to “Congress Rolls Back Your Say in BLM Land Management”

  1. Mari von Hoffmann

    Don’t rely on Zinke to do anything for conservation of habitat or wildlife. He’s really a Libertarian and wants no Government controls. He was my Representative for Montana and he didn’t represent me at all. Check his voting record.

  2. Phil Ehrlich

    President Trump …I voted for you because I thought you said you are listening to the public….I am a Republican Sportsman Hunter and retired Wildlife Professional….this is not how public input to managing public land should be changed. Veto this and as well…Lead shot…bullets…and fishing sinkers are proven to poison wildlife…kill threatened and endangered wildlife as well as common birds and animals. Call me…I’m a common sense person…middle of the road…own a ranch. Phil

  3. Preston & Shauna Henry

    As lifelong Oregonians, sportspersons, farmers and lovers/users/stewards of our public lands we are outraged by the continued attacks to wrest control from the American Public our inherent rights to input on the management of our public lands!!! It is obvious the current administration and the majority Republican controlled house and senate care not one wit for the Common Good and the long term integrity of our public lands, earth and the environment! As a former Republican of the Gov. Tom McCall style and philosophy I pray that the American public and their environmental ethos will be awakened by those who have voted to weaken, dismantle and destroy our public lands, national parks, environmental protections, etc. You must be reverse your course or I pray you will suffer a resounding defeat in coming elections and even go down as infamous pillagers and desecrators of all that made America what it was before Donald Trump came to power! If you don’t then you will all be recognized as the Bastards you are making yourselves our to be.

    Seriously!,
    Preston & Shauna Henry

  4. Mike bur

    I believe that an agreement between many layers of government to include the public in assisting with decisions regarding use and management of BLM lands !!!

  5. Randy and Cathy Selby

    We are disappointed that Congress chose to shut down BLM 2.0. The excuse that WY Congressmen used is that the states need more say in how Federal lands are managed. We agree with that statement but now with their method and means.

  6. Benny Oneal

    Help keep our conservation,parks rivers lakes wetlands hunting land going strong and for years to come. I love the outdoors let’s take care of it for the future

  7. It is sad to see that by the move of a pen the progress of caring for the land itself is send back to the dark ages. I had hoped that with the public input the dumping in the precious desert could be stopped or at least slowed. the families should enjoy the B.L.M. lands more and not be send away by practice shooters who have taken over the nicest places.

  8. Jesse coonfare

    We the people have the right to know & have a say in how OUR PUBLIC LANDS, NOT THE STATES LAND, are used and planned use of includes. To all, the POTUS, secretary Zink, and anyone who can reverse this, YOU NEED TO REVERSE THIS AND PASS IT, IT’S THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE, WHO YOU WORK FOR!

  9. James Howarth

    The public lands and the fish, birds and wildlife that inhabit them should be respected and protected to previous standards and not be allowed to be abused and disrespected. The public should be allowed to comment as previously.

  10. John Ridgeway

    Not 1 single mention of Executive Order 13132. BLM has mismanaged, committed Actual Fraud, Mail Fraud, and conspiracy to force ranchers off their water and grazining rights. BLM has grossly violated EO 13132. Violated public comments laws in Nevada. Research the Hage case in NV, Hammond case in Oregon.

  11. Mark Scofield

    I hope every commentor here did so only after contacting all of their US congressional reps via email and phone to oppose this rule change and all efforts to convert or sell federal lands. Commenting here may feel good, but it is just preaching to the choir. Contact your congresspersons every week!

    • Gregg Martin

      I did contact our Senators and was told that the planning was opposed due to the fact the the decision making authority was taken away from local offices and moved to Washington D.C. Therefore the Senator that responded said he could not support this. “…it will make it more difficult for constituents and local elected officials to communicate their concerns related their concerns related to land use policies at the BLM.” That is what I was told, no mention that the process allows for greater and quicker policy decisions generated by a greater number of individuals.

      Gregg

  12. Steve Nelson

    Once again our elected officials do not see the merit in conservation, good land planning, and management. Greed will take over and our public lands will be lost to mining, farming, etc.

  13. Tess Parsons

    We must recognize, much of America’s public lands are also America’s share of planet Earth, the very Earth that generates and releases all life lines mankind requires for life itself. Our living, life-flowing planet Earth is her first, natural and wild surfaces only, created, supported, sustained and maintained only by all wild, native species, scientifically, biological diversity and bio means life.

  14. Larry T. Holland

    Why have we not learned Congress can not rule for the people sake! Public Lands will help our Nation verses foreign countries where only a few have rights to use the land. As in most items where “SOME & I repeat Some” professional vote for themselves & their futures.

  15. Congressmen be aware…conservationists, sportsmen, and outdoor enthusiasts are paying attention to how you vote on these matters…and it will directly affect how we vote in the next elections. Represent ALL of your constituants.

  16. Maurine Moen

    Why does Government feel they have the right to steal the peoples’ land? Do they plan to cut down all of the trees like they did in Arkansas or build pipelines crisscrossing every state? Do they care if they pollute every lake, river & stream in the county? Do they feel we must have a Trump hotel & casino in every park? Do they even care about what the voters think? The Republicans & Trump seem to want to plunder & pillage the United States in every way they can now that they have been given the opportunity.

  17. If the current state of the forests, waterways and other federal lands are the result of (mis)management since 1983, then, YES !! Rollback all of the onerous regulations that have brought about this current state of neglect. So many times needless and frivolous lawsuits have hamstrung federal agencies from executing the missions of their respective agencies. Treehugging bunnyhuggers have only themselves to blame . Unnecessary delays will no longer be tolerated. Didn’t anyone else hear President Trump say that ? Well, he did. No more excluding anyone from America’s public lands. Bird watchers, river rafters, outfitters, loggers, drillers, miners and of course, the American public are all entitled to utilize public lands. Everyone. Obstructionism, OUT. Cooperation, IN.

  18. Sorry sportsman, this is what we voted for! While many of us thought we were saving our rights to own a gun, we are loosing a place to hunt with it. The BLM lands are just the beginning of a long road of destruction for fish and wildlife. More mining, fracking, less water protection, etc…will not only destroy our fish and game but also our health and enjoyment of life. As it happens remind yourself this is what we voted for, and think about that the next time you are at the ballot box.

  19. Gregg Martin

    As a proud ex. Army Infantryman, and BLM smokejumper, I can say that working for the federal govt. has been a high point and privilege. Flying over our wild lands, public, state and private, all too often showed the contrast between the different entities. BLM and USFS lands that bordered private lands was light night and day, green, v. brown, lush v. overgrazed, pristine v. ORV tracks. This was in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Ca. during my years as a smokejumper. Sadly state lands looked like private lands. These lands that are currently managed by the BLM and USFS deserve to remain that way, which is not the agenda of the legislators of most in my state of Idaho. I’m worried, and hope that our message can and will be heard.

    Gregg

  20. Joanna gemmell

    OUR lands oUR voices OUR decisions. This vote was straight down party lines with ALL republicans voting to strip our voices . This present administration needs a very strong wake up call from all who love and use our public lands: vote them out.

  21. Yvon Chouinard

    Both Republicans and Democrats, hunt and fish, in about equal percentages. Thank you for schooling this new crop of “soft city boys” in WDC. They don’t appear to have have any “outdoor skills”?

  22. Matthew Van Camp

    The role of Sportsmen, on wildlife management is vital to maintain. Sportsmen are up close and personal with nature, spending collectively millions more hours than federal agents and policymakers do. To disinclude them from the management loop smacks of an attempt at concealing willful mismanagement attempts, cover-up of exploitation by non-sports minded individuals and industries, and purposefully excluding users from the data collection and observation of conditions encountered data loop, and perhaps management supervision and policing of those resources.
    Do not exclude or minimize the importance or reach of the most important part of the natural resource and public knowledge loop surrounding The People’s land management! BLM’s lands are Our properties, Not for Industry or Private Interests to assume control of. Do Not Alter It! Giving away or selling these lands to private interests is an obvious usurpation of control of the People by private interests and will certainly result in a massive shift in favorable opinion of the existing congress to one of doubt in the ability of lawmakers to keep their “fingers out of the pie!” That shift in opinion will result no doubt in loss of seats, dis-election, and legal action being taken!

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Kristyn Brady

February 28, 2017

Executive Order Could Halt Progress on Reversing Wetlands Loss

Trump’s most recent executive order puts fish and waterfowl habitat back at risk by directing agencies to scrap and rewrite the key rule created to help protect headwater streams and wetlands

Today President Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revise their 2015 Clean Water Rule, which was created to clarify protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The order directs the agencies to consider using former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s minority opinion, which said that seasonal streams and many wetlands do not merit protection, as a basis for revising the rule.

“Sportsmen will not settle for watered down protections or negligence for the habitat that supports the fish and wildlife we love to pursue,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which joined five other leading sportsmen’s groups in issuing a joint statement of support for the benefits of the Clean Water Rule.

Two years ago, sportsmen, conservation groups, and many other stakeholders generated one million public comments that helped to shape the final rule, which was broadly celebrated for restoring protections to 60 percent of America’s stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands previously at greater risk of being polluted or destroyed because of jurisdictional confusion. Since May 2015, there have been several legislative plays and lawsuits filed to block or roll back the rule.

“If this administration wants to put its stamp on the rule, they should honor the years of solution-oriented consensus on the need to reverse wetlands loss, which has been fueled by legal and regulatory confusion. More clarity for headwater streams and wetlands protections should be the baseline standard from which to improve the rule, not the target of a tear-down,” says Fosburgh.

It remains to be seen if it is even legal to ignore the majority position on a Supreme Court case. Meanwhile, the health of fish and wildlife habitat is the infrastructure of an outdoor recreation industry that fuels $646 billion in annual spending and supports more than 6 million American jobs.

Click here to read the joint statement from TRCP, Trout Unlimited, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Izaak Walton League, and National Wildlife Federation.

Ariel Wiegard

February 23, 2017

Wetlands Were Drained Under USDA’s Watch

Proving that faster isn’t always better, nearly three-quarters of safeguarded wetlands lost their protection when the agency started using old data to move quickly through a backlog of requests

It wasn’t so long ago that we were feeling pretty good about conservation in rural America. Last month, sportsmen and women celebrated the extraordinary amount of federal money invested in improving habitat and water quality on private lands. But the latest news is not so welcome: An internal watchdog report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture details the agency’s thoroughly misguided policies around wetland protection in the Prairie Pothole Region, also known as America’s Duck Factory.

USDA’s Spotty Record with Pothole Wetland Protection

This is the third in a recent string of concerning reports from the watchdog agency, the Office of the Inspector General.

In the first report, OIG outlined that, due to a lack of coordination across the department, USDA wasn’t actually checking on the tracts of land that were subject to conservation compliance, possibly causing the federal government to pay farm subsidies to landowners who drained wetlands or plowed highly erodible land, contrary to federal law and the will of the American taxpayer. Next, OIG reported that where USDA was completing compliance checks, the checks were pretty well mismanaged—meaning inconsistent, incomplete, outdated, and possibly unethical.

Now, OIG reports that the USDA made significant procedural changes that actually allowed producers to drain more wetlands, , further contradicting the intent of conservation compliance. These changes effectively reversed 20 years of agency history and policy. Moreover, they were not officially communicated to field staff and never disclosed to the public.

America's duck factory prairie potholes region
America’s duck factory. Top and above images courtesy of USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr.
Good Intentions Gone Awry

Starting in about 2009 in the Prairie Pothole states (Iowa, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota), the USDA faced a massive backlog of requests for “certified wetland determinations” from landowners and farmers who needed to know whether the wetlands on their property were indeed subject to USDA’s conservation compliance requirements. This determination tells farmers whether draining those wetlands would make them ineligible for federal farm benefits.

In 2013, USDA amped up its work to respond to landowner demand for certifications and reduce the backlog, and began accepting wetland determinations made by the agency prior to 1996. In some cases, USDA staff used pre-1996 determinations to replace more up-to-date wetland data for the same tracts.

While the agency’s actions were well intended, this policy change as described by OIG is highly problematic. USDA’s longstanding policy had been that most wetland determinations made prior to 1996 were inaccurate, unacceptable, and not considered “certified;” up to 60 percent were wrong. As OIG notes, the agency “replaced its backlog of pending determinations with inaccurate determinations.”

As a result, the policy change reduced the acreage of wetlands eligible for protection by nearly 75 percent in the Prairie Pothole Region, the breeding grounds for more than 50 percent of North America’s waterfowl.

Here’s just one example of the result: In 2010, USDA determined there were 34 acres of wetlands on one farmer’s property, but pre-1996 maps showed only 2.5 wetland acres. The change in policy to certify old determinations allowed the farmer to drain 31.5 acres of wetlands, or 93 percent of what was shown on the more recent, more accurate map.

To say this is frustrating would be an understatement. Combine it with the fact that USDA made this change outside of the normal regulatory process—it was not publicized and there was no opportunity for the public to comment on the new directive to use old materials—and it becomes incredibly worrisome. Then consider the previous two OIG reports, and you get a pretty depressing picture of USDA’s oversight of privately-owned wetlands in the U.S. (Fun fact: Private land is home to three-quarters of this country’s remaining wetlands.)

Moving Forward

We’re gearing up for the next Farm Bill—the massive legislative package that directs farm conservation programs, including conservation compliance—and contemplating what agriculture policy might look like under President Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress. When many conservationists consider what might be coming down the pike, it might be tempting to view every new challenge as a five-alarm fire and to get nostalgic for the past. But these watchdog reports from the Obama Administration present a stark reminder that good intentions only get you so far, and that there is always room for improvement in conservation policy, whatever your politics.

You can bet the farm that the TRCP and our partners will continue birddogging USDA’s wetlands policy, regardless of who’s sitting in the Oval Office (or more appropriately, in the secretary’s office at USDA). And as always, we’ll continue our work more broadly to make sure that Congress passes laws to improve fish and wildlife habitat, and that the Trump administration faithfully carries out those laws, so you always have a place to hunt and fish.

Learn more about conservation in the Farm Bill. 

February 20, 2017

The Land We Love: A Photo Essay

If Congress is successful in rolling back our say in public land management, these are some of the places that could suffer

Threats to public lands take many forms. The latest attack involves a resolution that would strip away your ability to speak up for how you want your local BLM public lands managed. Furthermore, it would revert the BLM’s planning procedures to those put in place in 1983 and could prevent them from ever being updated with the same solutions for improving agency transparency and public input.

The House has already voted to block the updated planning rule and soon it could come to a Senate vote. This is an affront to sportsmen and women, many of whom depend on these lands for hunting and fishing. The time to act is now.

If this all seems a little abstract, scroll through these images to see what we’re fighting for. These are the BLM lands we love.

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Heads Up
Charlie Bulla (the photographer behind these stunning images) snapped this spike bull elk on public land overseen by the BLM’s Lewistown Field Office. Someday, a public-lands hunter might shoot him with something other than a camera—thanks to the multiple-use mission of the BLM. Giving the public more opportunities to weigh in on land-use planning could ensure that habitat, critters, and sportsmen get a piece of that multi-use pie.

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River Rendezvous
Marty Sheppard, an excellent fishing guide who just happens to be married to our Oregon field representative Mia, captured this mind-bending panorama of the Deschutes River in the BLM Prineville District. This is just one of the publicly accessible rivers where Mia, Marty, and daughter Tegan wet their lines.

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Monster Bulls
Randy Newberg (center) is a passionate and articulate advocate for public lands, and it’s clear why. This photo (and his bull) were taken on BLM land near Casper, Wyoming.

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Freedom Flies
Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO, found his calling as a sportsman growing up in the Adirondacks, but he doesn’t forgo many opportunities to head out West. Here, he trades his fly rod for a camera to capture this scene on the Yellowstone River, accessible via BLM land in Montana.

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Bachelor Party
Our Idaho field rep Rob Thornberry will be on the lookout for these Rocky Mountain bull elk again this fall, when he’s hunting on public lands managed by the BLM Idaho Falls District and Upper Snake Field Office. If there had been a mule deer among them that day, Rob’s hunting partner and photographer, Mike Clement, wouldn’t have wasted any time taking pictures.

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Firsts with Family
Ed Arnett (left), TRCP’s senior scientist, helped his cousin Larry bag his first pronghorn on BLM public land in southern Wyoming. Without public lands, we’d venture to guess that there would be far fewer first hunts like this.

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Habitat Improvement
The BLM’s Safford Field Office oversees one of nine regions in Arizona and manages 1.4 million acres of land across six counties. By locking the BLM into decades-old planning procedures, Congress would prevent these land managers from adapting more advanced, scientific management across that landscape. Image courtesy of John Hamill, TRCP’s Arizona field representative.

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Sunrise Scoping
TRCP’s Western field associate, Kevin Farron, snapped this photo of our Western lands director, Joel Webster, as he was glassing for mule deer at first light on BLM lands within the Dillon Field Office district in Montana.

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Happy Harvest
Newberg with yet another public-lands success story, this time in the BLM Rawlins District in Wyoming.

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Cows Can Come, Too
During a mule deer hunt, Farron snapped this classic Western scene—a cattle gate on public land in the Dillon Field Office BLM district. Hunting, fishing, cattle grazing, and other extractive activities are permitted on BLM lands. Public comment periods are necessary to keep the agency accountable to an appropriate balance—and one Senate vote could leave hunting and fishing priorities in the dust.

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Rising to the Ridgeline
Vistas like these can make even an unpunched tag worth the trip. Horse Camp Trail in the BLM Lewistown Field Office area puts on a pretty nice show. Image courtesy of Charlie Bulla.

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Making Memories
Joel Webster and his father at the end of a successful hunt on BLM lands in Utah’s Henry Mountains.

Here’s what you can do.

We’re not going down without a fight, and we’ve created a couple of tools so you can let your lawmakers know that you aren’t either.

Head over to our action alert page to send a letter to your Senator in support of BLM’s planning updates. We also created this Twitter tool to make it easy for you to reach key targets in the Senate directly.

As always, when you sign our Sportsmen’s Access petition, we’ll send letters to your local, state, and national lawmakers saying that you support keeping these lands public.

Enjoyed what you saw? Check out another BLM landscape worthy of conservation from photographer Charlie Bulla.

Kristyn Brady

February 7, 2017

House Votes to Eviscerate Rule Giving Sportsmen More Say on Public Land Use

Representatives would revert BLM land-use planning back to an ineffective and outdated rule and prevent positive changes from being included in future revisions

Using an obscure legislative process, a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block the BLM’s new land-use planning rule, known as Planning 2.0, and roll back the additional opportunities the rule affords the public to voice concerns about land management decisions on 245 million acres. The Senate is expected to vote on a similar resolution next week.

Nineteen sportsmen’s groups, conservation organizations, outdoor recreation trade associations, and businesses that rely on public lands sent a letter to congressional leadership this week opposing the move to roll back Planning 2.0 through the Congressional Review Act, a little-known law that enables Congress to roll back regulations within 60 legislative days of their enactment. Once repealed through this process, a substantially similar rule cannot be rewritten.

The letter urges lawmakers to allow the incoming Secretary of the Interior a chance to address concerns with the new rule, rather than scrap it altogether.

Image courtesy of TRCP staff.

“A Congressional Review Act repeal of the BLM planning rule would eliminate Planning 2.0, revert BLM planning to a problematic decades-old planning process, and likely eliminate the BLM’s authority to revise its planning regulations ever again in the future,” says Joel Webster, director of Western lands with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We urge Congress to take a different course and address remaining concerns by working collaboratively with the new Secretary of the Interior.”

Many groups are frustrated by the potential lost momentum for improvements that would benefit wildlife habitat along migration corridors and in seasonal ranges. New technology has revealed critical data on these important areas, which are not considered under the old planning rule largely developed in 1983.

As Congress dials back our say in #publiclands, sportsmen won't stay quiet Click To Tweet

“Under the spirit of Planning 2.0, improvements are already being made to the way we conserve once-overlooked habitat that elk, mule deer, and other big game animals rely on, even if it’s just for a portion of their journey,” says Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Increased coordination under the rule will only mean that the best possible science is used to our advantage, not ignored.”

Outdoor recreation businesses deserve better, but sportsmen and women will not stay quiet on this issue, says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “If recent public outcry against bad public land policy proves anything, it’s that we’ll be heard either way—we’d just rather be part of the democratic process.”

Click here to take action now. Don’t let Congress roll back this rule and take away your voice in how our public lands are managed.

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