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Proposed BLM Planning 2.0 Rule Shifts Decisions to Washington D.C., Silences Local Voices

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2016 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on “Local and State Perspectives on BLM’s Draft Planning 2.0 Rule.”  

As proposed, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Planning 2.0 rule would significantly diminish local input and shift most public land use planning decisions to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

“Instead of keeping most planning activity at the field office level, this proposed rule would transfer that authority to BLM headquarters in Washington, D.C. Doing so opens the door to political gamesmanship and to special interests in Washington influencing decisions that affect Americans thousands of miles away, Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said.

Nevada witness Jim French, a member of the Board of Commissioners in Humboldt County, discussed his concerns regarding the lack of opportunities to provide comments during the planning process. These federal management decisions have huge impacts on local communities and Westerners’ everyday lives.

I know firsthand how important it is for federal land managers to work with local communities. When land management decisions are handed down from Washington D.C., they impact more than just federal lands. They impact our counties’ economics and way of life,” French stated.

The BLM manages 250 million acres of land nationally, most of which is located in Western states. In Commissioner French’s county, BLM owns about 70% of the land and other federal agencies own an additional 20%, meaning nearly 90% of the land is controlled by the federal government.

Further centralization of land management decisions in Washington D.C. eliminates the invaluable input provided by the people who are most knowledgeable about the land in their own backyards. Pete Obermueller, Executive Director of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, testified to the crucial local knowledge that cannot be found in the four walls of an office building thousands of miles across the country.

“[T]he agency runs the risk of setting itself up for failure by imposing a decision-maker on a community with which he has no established relationship and no working knowledge of the custom and culture of the area she now oversees,” Obermueller said.

The proposed changes significantly stray from the spirit and intent of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). FLPMA requires BLM to manage public lands for multiple use mandate and sustain yield, and mandates that the agency coordinate with local governments, two goals that are not reflected in the Planning 2.0 initiative.

Obermueller summarized the concerns of counties across the West and the distinct role FLPMA provides for local and state governments that must be preserved in BLM’s planning process.

[T]he law provides local governments with an added authoritative weight and that’s what we see diminished [with Planning 2.0],Obermueller said.

Caren Cowan, Executive Director of the New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association, talked to the importance of BLM’s lack of accountability and proposed regulations assault on coordination with counties.

I was raised with the idea that you had to be held accountable and I don’t find often that Congress is holding the agencies accountable to sticking to their missions. When you look at the resources, the financial and manpower resources, that went into this document – where did Congress authorize this kind of a process that sucks public participation and [local] government participation out,” Cowan stated.  

BLM received many requests to extend the public comment period. They only extended the comment period by 30 days while the requests sought, an average, a 108 day extension.

Click HERE to view full witness testimony. 

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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