Congress should approve BLM’s ‘Planning 2.0’ initiative
© Wikimedia Commons

The Planning 2.0 rule developed by by the Bureau of Land Management is a 21st century solution to better engage the public in natural resource and land use planning. Unfortunately, there is a rush in Congress to dismantle the initiative. The House passed a resolution to undo it under the Congressional Review Act, and the Senate could follow suit as early as next week.

The BLM wants and desperately needs Congress to approve the Planning 2.0 rule. What it means is the agency can be more effective at its primary job, creating long-term land use plans that will have long-term consequences for wildlife and recreation. With Planning 2.0, the public and nonprofit groups like the Wyoming Wildlife Federation can fully engage with planning efforts from the start. These land management plans are really important to Western states such as Wyoming, where half the land is federally managed. BLM plays a vital role in how our public lands out West are used, whether for recreation, habitat protection or oil and gas development.

ADVERTISEMENT
To offer some context, the nation’s natural resource agencies have long moved away from species-by-species management and turned toward ecosystem-based approaches. The BLM has progressed along a similar path with the aim of better refining its important land use planning role. The agency has done this by creating plans that consider the broader landscape when it comes to multiple use and sustainable yield, as opposed to a parcel-by-parcel or program-by-program basis.

 

This is an important point because it has some critics uneasy, thinking landscape-scale means landscape-scale protections. This is a misconception because what landscape considerations by the BLM really means is the agency can better consider tradeoffs in land use planning. For example, the land in one area may be deemed economically viable for oil and gas drilling, but not in another part because it includes critical winter range for elk or vital habitat for native cutthroat trout. These are the tradeoffs BLM can consider across a landscape or in a watershed. But with Planning 2.0, it goes even a step further by allowing the public, including groups such as the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, to attend meetings on these plans and participate from the start. Currently, only cooperating agencies can participate in the early BLM planning meetings, with public comment way down the road, sometimes years out and when alternatives have already been crafted.

The public has a right to know and to get involved in decisions involving public lands, which belong to all Americans. Planning 2.0 allows the public to directly engage versus having to rely on these cooperating agencies that might not always represent all members of the public or, in our case, hunters and anglers. This rule will certainly help the BLM with accountability.

Planning 2.0 came about because the agency recognized its inefficiency in public engagement and made this effort to do something about it. Planning 2.0 offers the BLM a way to bring the agency into the 21st century of transparency in government, and provides an opportunity for the public to have a voice in decision making processes that impact the vary lands they value and utilize for their outdoor recreation.

Planning 2.0 is about transparency in the process and all concerned can get involved, from local citizens to tribal communities, nonresidents to national interest groups. This is not an “overreach” as has been described by some members in Congress who want to get rid of the rule. In fact, Planning 2.0 provides the public with a more effective means of having a stake in the resources that belong to all of us.  And it isn’t a “midnight rule” passed on the fly. It was approved after years of work and public meetings and comments.

Planning 2.0 is a rule Congress needs to get behind, because it gives power to the people.

Chamois Andersen is the executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.