Land Use Plans

Quick Facts

• The Federal Land Policy and Management Act directs BLM to manage its lands for multiple use and sustained yield of resources.
• BLM has traditionally developed resource management plans through individual field offices, updating them every fifteen to twenty years.
• BLM is currently updating its resource management planning process through an initiative known as Planning 2.0.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) conduct land use planning to develop long-term management policies for BLM public lands and national forests. Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960, BLM and USFS are tasked with managing public lands and forests for “multiple use and sustained yield” of resources, including fluid minerals, timber, watershed, and recreation, among other resources. Each agency periodically develops and updates Resource Management Plans (RMP) and Forest Plans that determine which lands are open for oil and natural gas leasing and other productive uses and which lands are set aside for conservation. Through the land use planning process, the agencies set specific restrictions for operating in certain wildlife habitats, special management areas, areas of critical environmental concern and other areas. These planning documents are updated about every 20 years, and incorporate input from other federal agencies, states, counties, industry, environmental groups and the general public.

The land use planning process is a sensible approach to the management of federal lands, but in practice BLM and USFS often impose unduly restrictive measures that violate their multiple use and sustained yield mandate. BLM and USFS often close or restrict unnecessarily large amounts of land to productive multiple uses, which can make it more difficult to develop in energy-rich basins across the West, decrease investment, and prevent job creation. Further, BLM often won’t make decisions for individual projects in areas where RMPs are being updated, which can take more than five years. FLPMA stipulates that land-use management decisions will be made according to current RMPs until such time as a new plan is finalized, so these delays are a violation of the law. Despite the existence of current plans with lands open for oil and natural gas, BLM continues to hold up leasing indefinitely while RMPs are being updated. Our comments on RMP updates, below, consistently stress the importance of the multiple use mandate and the need for ongoing leasing where current plans allow for it.

Planning 2.0

In 2014 BLM began an initiative known as “Planning 2.0” to update its resource management planning process. In introducing a draft regulation, BLM stated that Planning 2.0 is intended to increase opportunities for public involvement, to account for landscape-level management rather than the traditional, targeted approach on a field office level, and to respond to “environmental, economic, and social changes” on an ongoing basis.

The draft regulation does indeed provide for landscape-level management and ongoing evaluation of environmental, economic, and social changes; however, it appears that the new process would actually limit public involvement in some instances. The proposed rule would also shift responsibility for resource management planning to the national level, thus decreasing the responsibilities of state and field offices and raising serious federalism questions. Furthermore, the proposed changes would redefine the concept of multiple use in violation of FLPMA, prioritize conservation over sustained yield of natural resources, and cause even longer delays for permitting on BLM lands.

Given the number of troubling provisions in the proposed rule, BLM should reconsider the proposed Planning 2.0 process. 

Western Energy Alliance Comments

Planning 2.0

Colorado

Montana

New Mexico

North Dakota

Nevada

Utah

Wyoming