Congress Overreaches to Roll Back Americans’ Say in Public Land Management

Lawmakers pursue obscure legislative process for blocking a new rule created to give the public more say in management plans for 245 million acres of BLM public lands

RooseveltWASHINGTON, D.C. – Sportsmen, landowners, and former Bureau of Land Management employees strongly criticized a move by senators and representatives to overturn the BLM’s revised land-use planning rule, known as Planning 2.0. Using the obscure and rarely used Congressional Review Act, federal decision makers took a first step toward repealing the new rule and rolling back opportunities for the public to have more say in land management decisions.

In a statement, Senate co-sponsors of a Congressional Review Act resolution cite bad information about the final rule, namely that it fails to prioritize feedback from all stakeholders, including local governments. However, if lawmakers are successful, the BLM would be forced to continue using outdated guidelines for land-use planning established in 1983, which keep the public in the dark until very late in the planning process.

“It has been publicly recognized by county commissioners and conservation districts that the BLM took meaningful steps between the draft and final planning rules to accommodate requests from local governments and the public to improve the process,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Now, Congress is working to reduce agency transparency and limit the public’s ability to have a say in how their public lands are managed. While a few concerns might remain, Congress is going about this the wrong way.”

 

The Congressional Review Act is a little-known law that enables Congress to roll back regulations within 60 legislative days of their enactment. The BLM planning rule, while under development since 2014, was finalized in December 2016, so it falls within the window of eligibility for repeal by the CRA. The process has only been successful once.

 

“The Western Landowners Alliance supports the BLM’s efforts in updating planning to meet today’s needs in the West,” says Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance. “There are opportunities for improvement, but not to the detriment of eliminating all the good progress that has been made to date. We believe working  through the Secretary of Interior is the best way to achieve our goals and constructively address any remaining concerns with the rule.”

Most disturbingly, once a rule is overturned through the CRA, no new rule that is “substantially the same” can be developed.

“A Congressional Review Act repeal would eliminate Planning 2.0 and likely eliminate the BLM’s authority to revise their planning regulations ever again in the future,” says Jesse Juen, president of the Public Lands Foundation and a longtime BLM employee. “Instead of stripping the incoming Secretary of the Interior of his authority before he takes office, lawmakers should work with the new administration to make refinements to a planning process that many stakeholders championed.”

Hunters and anglers in Western states can click here to write their lawmakers and urge them to let Planning 2.0 stand.


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