Utah counties make plans for federal lands

Sagebrush Rebellion light?

The state required counties to make these plans, which by itself should be a good thing (especially where there has historically been anti-planning sentiment). “This helps us to work with our federal partners to ensure Summit County’s interests are part of the conversation on how federal lands are managed,” said Sean Lewis, a Summit County planner and project manager for the drafting of the plan.  “This provides a template for us to work together with our Forest Service managers,” (Summit County Council member) Carson said. “We want to be partners with them. We don’t want to take stuff over from them and I am confident we will have a lot in common.”  This makes sense.

However, Summit County is a recreational drive from Utah’s urban centers, and we should expect other more isolated counties, with encouragement from anti-federalists, to want to use these plans to impose local control when federal land planning occurs there.  The article refers to the BLM requirement for a “consistency review” of local plans, but the 10th Circuit (New Mexico ex rel. Richardson v. BLM) held that, “A meaningful opportunity to comment is all the regulation requires.”  Nevada was similarly unsuccessful in using this provision to challenge federal planning for sage grouse (Western Exploration v. USDI).

The Forest Service Planning Rule also has requirements to “coordinate” national forest planning with local planning, which some would like to view as a consistency requirement.  But the Planning Rule also says, “The Forest Service retains decisionmaking authority and responsibility for all decisions throughout the process.”  The bottom line is that states have no authority over federal land management.

2 Comments

  1. For as much as the States want the federal land within their borders, they are not prepared to manage that increase in acreage. Especially with declining State budgets occurring more frequently.

    As you point out, Jon, the opportunity is there to coordinate management plans with the feds. I just don’t see States rising to that opportunity. So, the conflict will endure for many Western states. I wonder, given Summit County, if Utah will cease to be one of the embattled states.

  2. As I recall during the brief, but delightful time when we had a joint BLM/FS plan, due to the BLM regs we had to go visit the State (I think Harris Sherman was the DNR Director) and run it by them. It was a good opportunity to have a discussion.. so if States are capable of doing it for the BLM, they can probably do it for the FS as well.

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