BLM issues updated rule aimed at improving planning process

The US Bureau of Land Management has issued an updated land-use planning rule aimed at making the process more accessible to the public, more responsive to the changing conditions on the public lands, and more efficient.

The rule updates regulations that are more than 30 years old, provides additional and more robust opportunities for input into the agency’s planning process, and ensures that science is a cornerstone of BLM’s planning work, BLM said. It launched the effort after stakeholders complained that the existing planning process was too slow and cumbersome.

“Under the current system, it takes an average of 8 years for the BLM to finish a land-use plan. Too often, by the time we’ve completed a plan, community priorities have evolved and conditions on the ground have changed as well,” BLM Director Neil Kornze explained.

BLM said the new rule creates a new, up-front process to gather data and hear concerns from all parties, and gives the public access to early draft plans. The agency anticipates that this early engagement will help make planning efforts significantly more efficient.

The rule also continues to support the use of high-quality information, including the best available science. This information will be critical as the agency works to address the major challenges facing our nation’s public lands, including increasingly severe droughts and wildfires, the planning and development of clean energy sources, and changing conditions for the greater sage grouse and other key wildlife species, BLM said.

US Sen. John A. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) immediately criticized the move as another 11th-hour regulation from the outgoing Obama administration. “This BLM rule will take authority away from local land managers who have the most knowledge and experience overseeing resources in their own districts,” he said.

“We need better coordination among state, local, and federal land management agencies. Massive landscape-scale plans directed from Washington, DC, are not the answer,” said Barrasso, who is a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member. “The new Congress will work with President-Elect [Donald J.] Trump to reverse harmful regulations like this as soon as he takes office.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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