An internal BLM document (linked below) may be the first step in revising the agency’s planning regulations (Planning 3.0?). The proposal to remove NEPA requirements for land management plans is getting some attention.
The BLM may propose a land use planning rule that will “remove NEPA requirements from the planning regulations,” referring to the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the document on possible changes to such rules that was shared with states and former BLM officials.
The U.S. Forest Service similarly attempted to exempt national forest plans from NEPA during the George W. Bush administration, but a federal court struck down that effort in Citizens for Better Forestry v. USDA in 2007 because it violated NEPA and other federal laws.
“If the BLM proceed with this proposal, it will certainly be challenged, and I suspect that, like the FS [Forest Service], the BLM will lose,” Mark Squillace, a natural resources law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said.
But it looks good to try, I guess. Current BLM regulations require an EIS for its plans, and the Forest Service explicitly required an EIS for forest plan revisions in its 2012 Planning Rule after its earlier rules were struck down for trying to avoid NEPA compliance. This effort by BLM is in addition to the recent proposed changes in the CEQ NEPA regulations discussed here.
Here’s a little background on BLM planning requirements:
Dec. 12, 2016 BLM publishes its Planning 2.0 Rule, which updates land use planning procedures.
Feb. 7, 2017 The House of Representatives passes a resolution to repeal the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
March 7, 2017 The Senate passes a resolution to repeal the rule under the CRA.
March 28, 2017 President Trump signs the resolution disapproving the rule. Under the CRA, BLM may not promulgate a rule that is “substantially the same.”
(Maybe we’ll get to see lawsuits about what “substantially the same” means.)