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Letter: Governors concerned by final BLM Planning 2.0 Rule

Published on .

 

February 10, 2017

Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
S-230 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Charles Schumer
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
419 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.  20510

Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-204 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: BLM Resource Management Planning (81 FR 89580, December 12, 2016)

Dear Senators McConnell and Schumer, and Representatives Ryan and Pelosi:

The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) represents the Governors of 19 western states and three U.S.-flag islands.  The Association is an instrument of the Governors for bipartisan policy development, information-sharing and collective action on issues of critical importance to the western United States.  Western Governors support early, meaningful and substantial state involvement in the development, prioritization and implementation of federal regulations affecting state authority and impacting their constituents.  Moreover, Western Governors are willing and prepared to partner with the federal government to manage natural resources within state borders.(1)

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule, Resource Management Planning (Planning 2.0), which revises the way BLM creates and amends resource management plans (RMPs), presents significant concerns for western states.  Western Governors are disappointed by BLM’s failure to adequately involve western states in the Rule’s development, and they oppose certain provisions of the December 12, 2016, final rule.   

Western states’ concerns are detailed in three WGA documents attached for your review and consideration. (2) These concerns regard:

  • Meaningful Consultation: Prior to issuance of the Planning 2.0 proposed rule and during the subsequent comment period, Western Governors – individually and through WGA – sought substantive engagement to raise and address concerns over several matters.  Primary among Western Governors’ concerns is that, despite BLM’s assertions to the contrary, the Planning 2.0 rule was developed without substantive and ongoing state-federal consultation.  Western Governors have articulated their view of meaningful consultation in section C(3) of WGA Policy Resolution 2017-01, Building a Stronger State-Federal Relationship.
  • Governors’ Consistency Reviews:  Western Governors are particularly concerned by BLM’s changes to provisions regarding Governors’ consistency reviews for new and revised RMPs.  Collectively, these changes severely limit the deference Governors were previously afforded with respect to RMP development.  For RMPs and related documents that have direct impacts on management of federal and state resources, retention of this deference is vital.  Among our specific concerns:
    • A new requirement that BLM shall be required to consider only inconsistencies raised by Governors at this stage, and not comments from Governors on other aspects of an RMP or related documents.
    • Changed language in section 1610.3-2(a) to remove “policies, programs, and processes” from the definition of officially approved and adopted state plans.  Removal of this language precludes BLM from considering Governors’ concerns about the lack of RMP consistency with some documents that are germane to resource and land management planning, but not officially approved and adopted by states.  Such documents may include State Wildlife Action Plans and other species management agreements.  Additionally, restricting review to officially approved and adopted state plans will preclude consideration by BLM of local governments’ policies and programs.
    • Revised language requiring that BLM only, “shall consider the Governor(s) comments and the consistency requirements” of the rule when rendering a final decision on whether to incorporate a Governor’s recommendations.(3) This replaces an existing requirement that BLM accept a Governor’s recommendation if doing so provides for an appropriate balance between state and federal interests.  This change significantly reduces the role of states and Governors in RMP development and amendment.
  • Landscape-Scale Planning: Governors are concerned that BLM’s emphasis on landscape-scale planning may lead to a resulting emphasis on national objectives over state and local objectives.  Further, BLM has not identified processes by which it will resolve competing priorities of neighboring Governors or ensure consistency with multiple states’ officially adopted and approved plans.
  • Deciding Official and Planning Area Boundary Designations: Section 1601.0-4 of the final Planning 2.0 Rule adopts a new directive authorizing the BLM Director to identify the relevant deciding official and planning area when an RMP crosses state boundaries.  Given BLM’s increased use of landscape-scale planning, Western Governors expect multiple RMPs to cross state boundaries.  Western states are concerned that this could shift key responsibilities away from BLM state directors and obscure state and local priorities in favor of national priorities.  

Given Western Governors’ significant concerns, we request that Congress direct BLM to reexamine the final Planning 2.0 rule.  Any revisions undertaken to the Planning 2.0 rule should be crafted collaboratively with western states.  Additionally, Western Governors understand that BLM plans to revise the agency’s Land Use Planning Handbook.  We request that the agency be directed to work with western states on revising this handbook to ensure changes are respectful of state land and resource management priorities and efforts.


Thank you for your consideration.


Sincerely,

Steve Bullock
Governor of Montana
Chair, WGA

Dennis Daugaard
Governor of South Dakota
Vice Chair, WGA

cc:
Honorable Donald J. Trump, President of the United States
Honorable Kevin “Jack” Haugrud, Acting Secretary of the Interior
Honorable Ryan Zinke, Nominee for Secretary of the Interior

 
(2) May 25, 2016, regulatory comments submitted in response to the February 25, 2016, Planning 2.0 proposal; June 21, 2016, testimony of James D. Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining; and July 7, 2016, testimony of James D. Ogsbury before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
(3) Section 1610.3-3(b)(4)(ii).