Group Representing Thousands of Local Governments Joins Push to Repeal ‘Planning 2.0’
Western lawmakers in Congress this week are preparing to repeal the Obama administration’s controversial land-use planning policy for federal lands known as “Planning 2.0.” Going into the debate, they have a powerful ally – the National Association of Counties (NACo), which represents more than 3,000 local governments across the nation.
NACo is working with a coalition of local officials from Western states, public lands groups and the agriculture sector “to ensure BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule does not go into effect,” the group said in a Jan. 26 statement.
The stakes are high, because the Obama administration’s last-minute planning overhaul applies to “over 245 million acres of surface land and over 700 million acres of subsurface minerals currently under BLM management — mostly in the Western United States,” NACo said.
Planning 2.0 was finalized in December by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 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 the move has angered officials across the West.
“Planning 2.0 represents a federal power grab that ignores expert knowledge and undermines the ability of state and local governments to effectively manage resources and land use inside their own districts,” U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said last week after introducing a disapproval motion under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). “Planning 2.0 dilutes the authority of governors, state regulators, local governments and the public to engage in collaborative land use management planning across huge swaths of the American West,” Cheney said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told lawmakers on Feb. 3 to expect a vote on Cheney’s disapproval motion this week. The House has already voted in favor of two CRA motions targeting BLM’s so-called stream protection rule, which targeted coal mines, and new methane restrictions on oil and gas development on federal lands.
In a Jan. 26 letter, NACo and more than a dozen other groups urged House and Senate leaders to overturn Planning 2.0. Under the Obama administration, the BLM talked about working with states and local governments, but failed to follow through, they said. “[W]e remain unconvinced that Planning 2.0 in its final form does much to satisfy the objective of meaningful collaboration and consultation with non-federal governmental entities,” said the groups behind the letter, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Association of Conservation Districts and the Public Lands Council.
Before BLM issued its final rule, Planning 2.0 had come under heavy fire from elected officials in the West. The bipartisan Western Governors Association (WGA) 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 said in testimony to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee last year.
The Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office also sounded the alarm during the rulemaking process. Planning 2.0 replaces the current system of fixed planning areas with new and arbitrary zones that could include “three or four states” at a time, Kathleen Clarke, the director of the office, told the resources committee. The new regulation would “fundamentally undermine the role of state and county governments in BLM planning,” she 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.”
Last month, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) went a step further during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who has been nominated to serve as the nation’s next Interior Secretary. As reported in Western Wire, Gardner cited the furor over Planning 2.0 as a reason to relocate BLM’s headquarters from Washington, D.C. to a Western state.
“Perhaps we could cure some agencies like the BLM of Potomac Fever by moving them out of Washington,” Gardner said. “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.”