Gardner: BLM’s Planning 2.0 Shows Why Agency Should Be Moved West
The backlash against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its “Planning 2.0” rule is proof that the agency should be moved out of the nation’s capital and relocated to a Western state, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said yesterday.
“Perhaps we could cure some agencies like the BLM of Potomac Fever by moving them out of Washington,” Gardner said during a confirmation hearing for U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who has been nominated for the post of Interior Secretary.
“BLM Planning 2.0 is a great example of how little Washington understands about the West and how bureaucrats get in the way of how things work in the West,” Gardner said. “A one-size-fits-all approach has failed.”
In response, Zinke – a former Navy SEAL – said he would work with Gardner to explore the idea further.
“The bottom line is that decisions oftentimes are better at the front line if you empower your people to do them,” Zinke said. “There’s a saying in the military: Centralized direction, decentralized execution. … I’m committed to look at our organization across the board.”
Planning 2.0 – an initiative of the outgoing Obama administration – was finalized late last year over the objections of many local and state officials in the West. The rule imposes a “landscape-level” planning process for federal lands that moves decisions about natural resource development away from BLM field offices. The changes were needed to create a “more streamlined process,” the agency said, but criticism of Planning 2.0 was widespread.
The bipartisan Western Governors Association (WGA), for example, said during the rulemaking that Planning 2.0 “presents serious challenges and contains significant shortcomings.” It creates “confusion rather than clarity [and] less transparency rather than more,” the WGA warned.
“The proposal … will significantly reduce the opportunity for Governors, state regulators, local governments and the public to engage in what needs to be a collaborative land management planning process for huge swaths of the American West,” the WGA concluded in July testimony to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.
Kathleen Clarke, director of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, told the same House hearing that the current system of fixed planning areas will be replaced with arbitrary zones that could include “three or four states” at a time. This would “fundamentally undermine the role of state and county governments in BLM planning,” Clarke said.
“State agencies bring data, expertise, and a history with the land that the BLM doesn’t have,” she said. “County commissioners are able to articulate the interests of the people they have been elected to represent.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed a bill – the Midnight Rules Relief Act – that would pave the way for regulations from President Obama’s final year in office to be rolled back by Congress. If the bill becomes a law, Planning 2.0 would be one of the “midnight” regulations that could be targeted for repeal, according to the National Association of Counties.