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BLM Seeks Input on Land Use Planning and Environmental Reviews

The Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking ideas and input on how it can make its land use planning procedures and environmental reviews timelier and less costly, and to ensure its responsiveness to local needs.

"The decisions made in land use plans and environmental reviews are fundamental to how public lands and resources are used for the benefit of all Americans," said DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke. "The Trump administration and the Department of the Interior are committed to working with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders as true partners to determine the best ways to accomplish this, now and into the future."

The announcement comes more than three months after President Trump signed a bill that nullified BLM's Planning Rule 2.0, which the oil and gas industry and its allies, including the Western Energy Alliance (WGA), opposed on the grounds that it would make planning more difficult and the process more time-consuming.

Under Planning 2.0, BLM proposed establishing new opportunities for early public involvement in the planning process, and giving the public opportunities to submit data and review preliminary versions of key documents used in the bureau's planning process. It has also proposed requiring a planning assessment before developing a land use plan. Specifically, the rule would have amended the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

Last year, BLM conceded that while Planning 2.0 would not directly affect the decisions it makes, the rule could still impact the oil and gas industry. An economist with BLM estimated that the annual cost to industry would be less than $100 million and not adversely affect "the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or state, local or tribal governments or communities."

BLM is already working with state and local elected officials and groups, including WGA and the National Association of Counties, to engage and gather input, according to Acting BLM Director Michael Nedd.

"We are doing this because Secretary Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that public engagement, especially at the local level, is a critical component of federal land management," Nedd said. "We need and want input from our state and local partners as well as from the general public in this effort."

BLM said it will accept public input through July 24.

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