SUN VALLEY, Idaho — There’s no denying that the Trump administration is shaking things up at the federal level, and that movement can be seen in what’s transpired at the Department of Interior.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has crafted a plan for the department to be a more productive partner with public-lands users, Kathy Benedetto, senior adviser to BLM, told ranchers at the Idaho Cattle Association annual convention.
Over the past nine months, Zinke has been defining his priorities, including restoring a regulatory balance, expanding access to public lands, restoring trust and being a good neighbor, she said.
A number of secretarial orders to facilitate executive orders have already resulted in suspending or repealing dozens of regulations and revoking mitigation policies that can be a burden to some businesses, she said.
In sync with Zinke’s priorities, BLM is promoting shared conservation stewardship, supporting working landscapes that aid job creation and providing for traditional uses of public lands, she said.
“We are embracing our multiple-use mission with renewed enthusiasm, which means there will be opportunities for commercial uses, including grazing, as well as conservation and recreation,” she said.
There is a new focus at BLM on shared conservation stewardship, including efforts to try outcome-based grazing, revisit sage grouse conservation plans and reconsider the land-use planning process.
In early September, BLM began soliciting demonstration projects for outcome-based grazing, which allows livestock operators more flexibility to make adjustments in response to changing conditions, such as drought or wildfires, she said.
The agency will also work with ranchers to address fuels buildup with targeted grazing and fuel breaks and expand on its partnerships with rangeland fire protection associations, she said
Ranchers can also expect to see progress in the greater sage grouse arena, with Zinke committed to effective management and conservation of the species, she said.
In June, he issued an order designed to give states more say in managing the bird and its habitat, ensuring state and federal plans are complementary and remain flexible to emphasize local economic growth and job creation, she said.
That led to a notice of intent to amend land-use plans and a serious of scoping meetings to get public input, which closes Nov. 30.
“BLM recognizes that the states have produced good plans for sage grouse populations. Our next step is to work collaboratively to bring our plans into alignment with theirs,” she said.
And it’s not going to be “a one size fits all” for all states because conditions on the ground are different, she said.
Following up on Trump’s nullification of BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule, Zinke tasked BLM with identifying inefficiencies and redundancies in the land-use planning process, and the goal is to work with states and local communities to streamline planning and the NEPA process, she said.
BLM is dedicated to putting more time and resources into managing public land for multiple uses and values now and into the future. It is a priority for Zinke, and bureaus out West are going to see an effort to get more people on the ground to accomplish that, she said.
“We really are embracing the multiple use and sustainable yield mission that maybe wasn’t by the last administration,” she said.