U.S. House votes to kill BLM rule that Garfield commissioners are fighting | PostIndependent.com

U.S. House votes to kill BLM rule that Garfield commissioners are fighting

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to kill a recent Bureau of Land Management public lands planning rule that Garfield County commissioners have derided as undercutting their influence.

Garfield County banded together with six other counties in December to file a lawsuit against the BLM over Planning 2.0.

BLM promoted the initiative as a vehicle to broaden citizens' input on public lands planning, while Garfield commissioners balked at what they said were subtle but momentous shifts built into Planning 2.0. Commissioners were primarily concerned that these changes eroded the influence of local governments in land use planning.

Planning 2.0 "aims to increase public involvement and incorporate the most current data and technology into our land use planning," according to the BLMs webpage on the initiative. "By implementing these improvements, the BLM endeavors to enhance the way that it involves the public in its planning efforts, including measures to provide earlier, easier, and more meaningful participation.

"The proposed changes support the BLM's shift to science-based, landscape-scale approaches to resource management while increasing opportunities for early engagement by state and local government, Tribes, partner agencies, stakeholders, and the public."

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who approved of the House's move, is confident the U.S. Senate will go the same direction and render the counties' lawsuit unnecessary.

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To roll back Planning 2.0, the House used the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislative branch to rescind executive actions within 60 days of the president's signing.

Though he has little doubt the Senate will also vote to rescind Planning 2.0, Jankovsky said he hopes the vote doesn't go strictly down party lines but attracts the support of Western Democratic senators.

Either way, if the proposal passes in the Senate, it will be a cheaper route than the lawsuit, he said.

Jankovsky has said the rule changes moved the BLM away from the multiuse, sustainable yield mandate toward conservationism. "And I strongly believe in multiple-use on public lands, which includes conservation."

Planning 2.0 would supersede the 1976 Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, which was passed by Congress, he said.

He and the other Garfield County commissioners were also incredulous that these changes were allowed to come down through administrative decision rather than coming through Congress.

"It didn't even go through the (National Environmental Protection Act) process, but through webinars," said Jankovsky.

"This is the first step to a totalitarian government, having bureaucrat planners making legislation through administrative process."

Planning 2.0 also turns the federal government's "coordination" requirement on its head, he said.

The federal government has been required to keep its land use rules consistent with local government rules. But this role reversal leaves the counties chasing the BLM's changing rules.