Concurrent resolutions in the Senate and House were introduced on Monday to disapprove sweeping changes in how BLM develops resource management plans, changes opponents say shifts planning away from states and other stakeholders to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
The resolutions, introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Liz Cheney ,R-Wyo., address BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule finalized in December.
Western governors, local governments and numerous agricultural groups oppose the rule, including the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association — which contend the rule represents a wholesale shift from BLM’s mandate to manage for multiple use and eliminates stakeholder and local input.
BLM’s stated purpose in the proposed rule, published in February 2016, was to streamline the planning process, allow for more public input and better respond to social and environmental change.
But PLC Executive Director Ethan Lane said the proposal failed miserably on public comment, reducing it to as little as 30 days and not even mentioning stakeholders — including the 22,000 ranchers who hold grazing permits on federal lands.
As for managing for social and environmental change, “that’s not their mandate. Their mandate is to manage for multiple use and sustained yield” he said.
State and local governments also raised strong concerns the proposed rule diminishes their roles and the input of BLM state directors and field office managers and eliminated requirements for economic analysis.
Lane said the rule was incredibly problematic, received a lot of backlash and was the target of congressional hearings. Nonetheless, a final rule was rolled out quickly with several other “midnight regulations” under a directive from the outgoing administration, Lane said.
The final rule illustrates that BLM “heard our input and ignored it,” he said.
While the final rule does at least mention stakeholders, it still fails to recognize the role of permittees — people who have contractual agreements with federal agencies and are directly impacted by land-management decisions, he said.
PLC and NCBA agree federal lands are everyone’s lands and everyone should have the opportunity to comment. But those directly affected need to have a seat at the table, not be lumped in with the public.
“There should be delineation between the interested public and stakeholders,” he said.