Proposed Amendments to BLM’s Planning 2.0 Initiative Could Significantly Impact the Management of Public Lands

by Christopher W. Payne

On February 25, 2016, the United States Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) published proposed amendments to its land use planning rules as a part of its “Planning 2.0” initiative that was launched in May 2015.  The purpose of the Planning 2.0 initiative is to modernize the BLM’s planning process and increase public involvement in the management of the approximately 245 million acres of public lands and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate the agency manages.  To date, the BLM has received over 6,000 comments concerning the Planning 2.0 initiative.

The stated goals of the BLM’s proposed rules include improving the BLM’s ability to respond to social and environmental change in a timely manner, providing meaningful opportunities for other Federal agencies, State and local governments, Indian tribes, and the public to be involved in the development of BLM resource management plans, and improving the BLM’s ability to address landscape-scale resource issues. The text of the proposed revisions to BLM planning regulations is available here.

Pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the BLM is tasked with management of public lands for purposes of multiple use and sustained yield. Resource management planning is a critical component of the BLM’s administration of public lands, and the proposed rules have the potential to significantly revise the way which BLM has managed public lands.  For example, the proposed rule relating to resource management planning could dramatically revise the practices by which the BLM manages public lands under long-recognized principles of multiple use and sustained yield by modifying the way the BLM has long applied the multiple use doctrine.  As a result, the access of many users to public lands, including recreationalists, livestock grazers, energy producers, miners, and tourists, could ultimately be significantly affected by the proposed rules.

The 60-day public comment period on the proposed rules ends on April 25, 2016.  Comments to the proposed rules can be submitted through the Regulations.gov website.  Several stakeholders—including the State of Utah, through the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, the Western Energy Alliance, and the American Petroleum Institute—have requested that the BLM extend the comment deadline to allow sufficient time to review the proposed rules due to significant revisions contained in the rules.  These requests for extension are currently pending.

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