Public Lands Watch: HJR 44

Resolution would eliminate updates to planning process for BLM lands

Final Update:  The President signed the resolution.

Update #2:  It just passed the Senate 51-48.

Update:  This is currently being considered in the Senate as Senate Joint Resolution 15.

House Joint Resolution 44 – A proposal to overturn the BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule for preparing and amending resource management plans.

Today the House passed HJR 44, the latest in a flurry of joint resolutions introduced in the House to disapprove agency rules under the Congressional Review Act. The CRA (5 U.S.C. § 802) allows Congress to invalidate final agency actions adopted within the last 60 legislative days, leaving many Obama administration rules—including several related to environmental quality and public lands—on the chopping block. Read more about the resolution disapproving of the Obama administration’s methane flaring rule, which passed the House on February 4th and now awaits action in the Senate.

HJR 44 would roll back the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” rule, which took effect on January 11th, 2017. Planning 2.0 was designed to make the BLM’s resource management process more efficient and transparent by updating its procedures for preparing, revising, and amending resource management plans (RMPs) under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). RMPs are comprehensive plans prepared by the BLM to outline land and resource management goals for designated units of public land with similar resource characteristics. RMPs set broad goals and appropriate limits that inform day-to-day land management decisions, like issuing permits for grazing or oil and gas development. Planning 2.0 allows for public input earlier in the planning process, and promotes adaptive management by underscoring BLM’s flexibility in defining the scope of an RMP and updating and amending plans to reflect changing resource conditions. Read more from the BLM about the scope and purpose of the Planning 2.0 rule.

Like the proposal that passed the House last month to increase the administrative burden on agencies preparing federal land management plans, overturning Planning 2.0 would inhibit BLM’s ability to effectively manage public lands and respond to changing conditions. BLM manages 10% of the public land in the United States for multiple, often conflicting uses. Planning 2.0 is the culmination of years of agency effort to implement a more streamlined planning process in the face of increasing tension over conflicting land uses and special challenges—like wildfires and invasive species—that require prompt, responsive action. Rolling back this rule would return the agency to the status-quo while land management challenges continue, weakening the agency’s ability to actively manage federal lands and plan for the future.

Opponents of the Planning 2.0 rule, however, characterize its inclusion of public stakeholders earlier in the planning process as an attempt to give special interests more land use planning input at the expense of state and local governments. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) introduced HJR 44 to invalidate the rule on January 30th. The resolution passed the House today. It will next go to the Senate.  If you are interested in communicating with Senators about this resolution, you should read this post.

This post was authored by Emma Hamilton.

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Eric Biber is a specialist in conservation biology, land-use planning and public lands law. Biber brings technical and legal scholarship to the field of environmental law…

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