Keep the public involved in public lands management

Tell the Senate to keep the public in public land management: Support Planning 2.0

Please take a few minutes to contact your Senators and urge them to oppose efforts to do away with Planning 2.0 and ensure that the public has a voice in public land management.

By Corey Fisher

alt=”” title=”” />Last May, I traveled from my home in Montana to Washington D.C. to testify at a Congressional hearing about something call Planning 2.0. At that time, it was an obscure rulemaking that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had been working on for more than two years to update its planning regulations.

I spoke in favor of the rule because it provides for collaboration and three additional opportunities for public involvement at the start of the planning process. These extra steps will help the BLM to gather public opinions and the best available information at the start of the planning process and create more efficiency at the back end by reducing conflict. In short, sound public land management starts with planning, and Planning 2.0 provided those of us who intimately know these lands with a more meaningful voice in this process.

It also included lots of acronyms like FLPMA, NEPA, ACEC, WSA, NOI, EIS, CEQ and RMP – as a fellow witness said, it’s a boring policy topic.

Now another acronym – CRA – has brought Planning 2.0 to the forefront of Congress and the implications could be very bad for public lands, public land users and the ability for hunters and anglers to get a fair shake in the process for determining how our public BLM lands are managed.

CRA stands for the Congressional Review Act, a seldom used tool that Congress can use to check administrative actions by the Executive Branch. The way that it works is that the House and the Senate each pass a “resolution of disapproval” regarding an administrative action that, once signed by the President, repeals the action in question.

The CRA has only been used successfully once, but this year Congress is wielding the CRA like never before and Planning 2.0 is on the short list. It’s no longer boring. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Planning 2.0 rule, one of only a handful of times it has taken such action.

Next week, the Senate is slated to take up its own resolution.

How did a wonky, obscure rulemaking find itself squarely in the crosshairs of Congress? It’s a good question, and I’m not quite sure that I know the answer, at least not on a substantive level.

What I do know is that Planning 2.0 is a good rule for sportsmen and women, but it has gotten a bad rap.

Planning 2.0 is the first comprehensive revision to the BLM’s planning regulations since 1983. The BLM issued the rule after an extensive, two-and-a half-year public process. This was no “midnight rule” as some have claimed. The rule improves agency transparency and opportunities for public involvement. It will help the BLM better address on-the-ground issues and make for a more nimble agency that is responsive to change.

Importantly, Planning 2.0 maintains the critical role of state and local governments as cooperating agencies as required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLMPA for those prone to acronyms), stating that the “final rule also clarifies and affirms existing provisions regarding the special partnership with cooperating agencies”

At the hearing I spoke at, everyone – whether for or against the Planning 2.0 – agreed that the current planning process is broken and that the BLM must update the way it develops land management plans to address 21st century challenges. Because everyone agrees that the BLM’s planning regulations need to be updated is exactly the reason why repealing Planning 2.0 using the CRA is such a bad idea.

Once repealed, the CRA prevents new rules from being developed that are “substantially the same.” In other words, we’ll be stuck with an ineffective, outdated process for making public land planning decisions. This would be a heavy-handed and unnecessary action that will undermine the ability for the BLM to be good stewards of America’s public lands.

I understand that some people didn’t like the process that the BLM used in developing Planning 2.0, and I know that process is important. I also know that there are some who have lingering concerns about how Planning 2.0 will be implemented; those are real concerns that must be addressed.

But the CRA doesn’t just throw the baby out with the bathwater – it ensures that the baby never gets a bath again.

The current Administration has a great deal of latitude to implement, or if necessary revise, the rule to ensure that it works for all public land stakeholders. Using the CRA does not help to solve public land management challenges; it will only make it more difficult for the BLM to be good land stewards. The House of Representatives erred when it passed its resolution disapproving of the Planning 2.0, but the Senate doesn’t have to make the same mistake.

But we need your help. We need you to contact your Senators and tell them that repealing Planning 2.0 using the Congressional Review Act will create more problems than it solves. These are our lands and we deserve sound land management, not interference by Congress that will set public land management back three decades.

Please take a few minutes to contact your Senators and urge them to oppose efforts to do away with Planning 2.0 and ensure that the public has a voice in public land management.

By Shauna Stephenson.