Regulatory Reform - BLM 2.0 has hit a snag.... Posted March 3, 2017
The Bureau of Land Management’s 2.0 planning rule ran into the Congressional buzz saw when the House of Representatives rejected that proposed rule under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act. The House vote was 234-186 on a resolution of disapproval offered by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has offered a similar resolution in the Senate. With 16 co-sponsors on the Murkowski resolution, we believe the Senate will eventually take up the issue. The 2.0 planning rule may well end up as a zero, meaning that the new management at BLM will face the daunting task of drafting a new planning rule. Speaking of new management at BLM, still no word as to who the President will select to be agency’s new Director.
President Trump issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new one issued. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has incorporated that idea into legislation he has introduced, S. 56. The bill would restrict federal agencies from issuing a new rule that would place a financial or administrative burden on businesses or individuals unless they repeal or amend two or more existing regulations of equal value. It’s hard to know whether this legislation will gain any traction given the fact that the executive order is in effect, but its existence along with the executive order sets a pattern for rethinking the whole concept of governing by regulation. We think there is merit to this approach.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes to amend existing regulations that establish the procedures used to prepare, revise, or amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The proposed rule would enable the BLM to more readily address landscape-scale resource issues, such as wildfire, habitat connectivity, or the demand for renewable and non-renewable energy sources and to respond more effectively to environmental and social changes. The proposed rule would further emphasize the role of science in the planning process and the importance of evaluating the resource, environmental, ecological, social, and economic conditions at the onset of planning. The proposed rule would affirm the important role of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, Indian tribes, and the public during the planning process, and would enhance opportunities for public involvement and transparency during the preparation of resource management plans. Finally, the proposed rule would make revisions to clarify existing text and use plain language to improve the readability of the planning regulations.!
The BLM initiated this rulemaking as part of a broader effort known as “Planning 2.0” to improve the land use planning procedures required by FLPMA. The BLM follows these procedures to prepare and amend resource management plans that guide future BLM decisions on the public lands. Planning 2.0 responds to a 2011 BLM strategic review that identified challenges and opportunities for the BLM and to recent Executive and Secretarial direction that encourages science-based decision-making; landscape-scale management approaches; adaptive management techniques to manage for uncertainty; and active coordination and collaboration with partners and stakeholders. In this proposed rule, the BLM proposes targeted changes to the existing planning regulations in 43 CFR subparts 1601 and 1610 and explains the rationale.
In 2011, the BLM released a strategic plan titled “Winning the Challenges of the Future: A Roadmap for Success in 2016” (the Roadmap). This plan identified several challenges for the BLM in managing the public lands consistent with its statutory direction “that management be on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise specified by law” (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)). Management of the public lands in the 21st century is made more complex by increasing population growth and urbanization in the West, diversifying use activities on the public lands, demand for renewable and non-renewable energy sources, increasing conflicts between resource uses and conservation objectives, and landscape-scale resource issues such as climate change or wildfire. The Roadmap also identified new opportunities for the BLM due to the broad availability of Internet access and rapid acceleration in technologies as well as heightened expectations for services on the part of those who use and enjoy the public lands. Given these challenges and opportunities, the Roadmap called for a more “nimble” approach to planning that is responsive to a rapidly changing environment and conditions.
In addition, recent Presidential and Secretarial policies and strategic direction emphasize the value in applying landscape-scale management approaches to address climate change, wildfire, energy development, habitat conservation, restoration, and mitigation of impacts on Federal lands. The BLM has developed strategies and tools to support this approach by advancing the role of science in public lands management, standardizing data gathering, developing landscape assessments, requiring monitoring and evaluation to guide adaptive management strategies, and advancing the use of geospatial data and technology.
Through Planning 2.0, the BLM aims to improve the land use planning process in order to apply this policy and strategic direction and to complement related efforts within the BLM. Further, the Planning 2.0 initiative aims to incorporate lessons-learned and best practices developed over the last ten to fifteen years of resource management planning and respond to public sentiment that the planning process is, at times, cumbersome and slow to complete. Specifically, Planning 2.0 seeks to achieve three goals: (1) Improve the BLM's ability to respond to social and environmental change in a timely manner; (2) provide 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 (3) improve the BLM's ability to address landscape-scale resource issues and to apply landscape-scale management approaches. The Planning 2.0 initiative includes this proposed rule and a forthcoming revision of the BLM Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1).
Planning 2.0 is informed, in part, by public input. In May 2014, the BLM announced Planning 2.0, created a Web site (www.blm.gov/plan2), issued a press release, and requested public input on ways to improve the land use planning process. The BLM held two facilitated public listening sessions that were available through a live broadcast of the event over the Internet (livestream) in the fall of 2014. The BLM also conducted external outreach to partners and internal outreach to staff. The Planning 2.0 Public Input Summary Report (2015) summarizes written comments received by the BLM from over 6,000 groups and individuals.