BLM's Planning 2.0 Rule Crowds Out Local, State Voices in Favor of Special Interests
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held an oversight hearing to hear from state and local representatives on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft Planning 2.0 Rule. This draft rule would dramatically shift resource management planning away from local communities to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
Kathleen Clarke, Director of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, voiced her strong opposition to the draft policy. She raised concerns about the new “planning assessment” step, that disregards the unique role current law provides for states and counties impacted by BLM decisions.
“If unelected special interest groups have an equal seat at the table during the ‘planning assessment,’ the role of state and local governments as cooperators will inherently be diminished. Key decisions and direction will likely have already been set before cooperating agencies ever have a chance to meet […],” Clarke stated.
Full Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) asked the panel about the inherent conflict between Planning 2.0 as written and BLM’s obligation to coordinate with state and local governments under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
“When I read BLM Planning 2.0, it appears that BLM is moving away from the rights granted to the state and local governments in [FLPMA]. Under this new rule, how do you think BLM will honor their legal mandates to cooperate and coordinate with states, particularly the early public assessment phase?” Chairman Bishop asked.
“I believe during this early public assessment phase, state and local governments can participate should they choose, but their voice will be marginalized,” Clarke responded. “[State and local governments] have a right to sit as an elevated partner because they are sovereign. They should not be relegated to sharing a position among the crowds. I believe this is stepping aside from the law and this is not the first time this Administration takes such a step.”
James Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, discussed the irony of the situation: the backlash from state officials, land commissioners and local communities could have been avoided if BLM worked with them on the development of the rule in the first place.
“Much of the opposition to this proposal would have been mitigated had BLM engaged in ‘early, meaningful and substantial’ consultation with Governors in the formative stages of the rule’s development,”Ogsbury said.
The draft rule seeks to implement “landscape scale management,” which shifts resource management planning away from the local level, ignores the expertise from state and local stakeholders and the diversity of lands across the country, even within states.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) pressed Jim Lyons, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior, on whether BLM intends to make any changes to the draft rule in light of the states’ and counties’ well-documented objections, including that the draft rule violates FLPMA. Lyons would not commit to starting over on Planning 2.0, but reiterated that BLM will take comments into account as the agency moves forward with finalizing the rule.
“BLM’s draft rule, as it is currently written, is not a workable solution. At a minimum, BLM needs to reopen the comment period to allow for full and substantive input on this complex rule. Ideally, BLM should go back to the drawing board and partner closely with state and local governments to make sure the resource management planning process works for everyone—not just agency officials and special interests in Washington, D.C.,” Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said.