Western counties join in opposition to BLM’s land-use plan

One western Colorado county has sought help to halt the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0, an Obama-administration rule touted as a way of improving the management of federal lands.

County officials in western Colorado have regularly lambasted Planning 2.0 and this week, Garfield County joined in with five other counties in the western United States considering suing to halt the rule, which they have criticized as a central-planning measure.

The BLM this month announced that the rule was final and on Monday, Garfield County agreed to spend as much as $40,000 with the Texas-based property-rights organization, the American Stewards of Liberty, to halt it.

While Garfield County is taking an active role, Mesa County officials are looking to Congress and a Republican administration under President-elect Donald Trump to deal with the new rule.

“I’m hopeful the new administration will push back” on regulations that have been introduced in recent weeks and months, said Mesa County Commission Chairwoman Rose Pugliese.

“People don’t realize how much power is being taken away from local field offices” under the new planning rule, Pugliese said.

While no schedule has emerged, BLM’s Planning 2.0 process is likely to come under scrutiny as the new Congress gets under way, according to the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

American Stewards of Liberty has worked with Garfield County previously on its efforts to deal with the BLM’s land-management plans aimed at preventing the listing of the greater sage grouse as endangered.

The BLM sought to change its planning process in part because the agency’s planning regulations were more than 30 years old and caused the planning process to drag out for years. Resource management plans, which are intended to guide field offices for 20 years could take nearly half that time to be written, agency officials noted in announcing the new approach.

“Under the current system, it takes an average of eight years for the BLM to finish a land-use plan. Too often, by the time we’ve completed a plan, community priorities have evolved and conditions on the ground have changed as well,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said. “This update to our planning rule allows for a more streamlined process that also increases collaboration and transparency.”

American Stewards of Liberty is working with several counties around the West, including Garfield County, to help them deal with the BLM, said Executive Director Margaret Byfield.

The new rules, which have yet to be published in the Federal Register, appear to address how the BLM must deal with the public and state and tribal governments, but not local governments, such as counties, Byfield said.

“They have no process or procedures for local governments in theses new rules,” Byfield said.

Current rules require BLM managers to work with counties in a public setting as the BLM explains its management goals to local officials, usually county commissioners or the like, who are responsible for health, safety and welfare on the lands the BLM manages, Byfield said.

The BLM said the new rule will establish an “up-front process to gather data and hear concerns from all parties,” and provide public access to early draft plans.

It also calls for use of the best available science.


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