Sorry folks, trying to squeeze these Proposed Rule posts in before July 5…I plan to have a draft comment posted here if you want to use it as an outline for your own comments and submit them on the 5th.
A great news story would have been “Strange Bedfellows: Under the Sheets of the BLM Proposed Rule- Unusual Alignments”.
In this post I’d like to talk about an obvious question that would also make a good news story. Given that we have two federal land management agencies with multiple use missions, with adjoining and interspersed ownerships, does this Proposed Rule move toward or away from an integrated approach between agencies and external partners? From the standpoint of government coordination, efficiency and cost (would that there were a Common Sense Government political party!) what direction does this Proposed Rule take us?
First of all there’s the OIRA thing, pointed out by the solar folks. Seems to me also that the Admin is speaking with a forked tongue on this.. it’s a really big change but.. we didn’t need to have OIRA review of the Proposed Rule (and we can use a CE).. pick a lane, people! OIRA review is based on a 1993 Executive Order by President Clinton:
The objectives of the Executive Order are to enhance planning and coordination with respect to both new and existing regulations; to reaffirm the primacy of Federal agencies in the regulatory decision-making process; to restore the integrity and legitimacy of regulatory review and oversight; and to make the process more accessible and open to the public. For all significant regulatory actions, the Executive Order requires OIRA review before the actions take effect. Under EO 12866, OIRA has up to 90 days (which can be extended) to review a rule. This review helps to promote adequate interagency review of draft proposed and final regulatory actions, so that such actions are coordinated with other agencies to avoid inconsistent, incompatible, or duplicative policies. (my bold)
We’ve already talked about introducing a new concept to partners.. “intactness,” which isn’t exactly like any other word used by anyone else in the federal lands space. And redefining “conservation” to mean something different from USDA, which has an agency with conservation in its name.
Here’s how the Proposed Rule presents the problem:
Public lands are increasingly degraded and fragmented. Increased disturbances such as invasive species, drought, and wildfire, and increased habitat fragmentation are all impacting the health and resilience of public lands and making it more challenging to support multiple use and the sustained yield of renewable resources. Climate change is creating new risks and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.
To address these threats, it is imperative for the BLM to steward public lands to maintain functioning and productive ecosystems and work to ensure their resilience, that is, to ensure that ecosystems and their components can absorb, or recover from, the effects of disturbances and environmental change. This proposed rule would pursue that goal through protection, restoration, or improvement of essential ecological structures and functions. The resilience of public lands will determine the BLM’s ability to effectively manage for multiple use and sustained yield over the long term. The proposed rule, in acknowledging this reality, identifies and requires practices to ensure that the BLM manages the public lands to allow multiple uses while retaining and building resilience to achieve sustained yield of renewable resources. This proposed rule is designed to ensure that the nation’s public lands continue to provide minerals, energy, forage, timber, and recreational opportunities, as well as habitat, protected water supplies, and landscapes that resist and recover from drought, wildfire, and other disturbances. As intact landscapes play a central role in maintaining the resilience of an ecosystem, the proposed rule emphasizes protecting those public lands with remaining intact, native landscapes and restoring others. (my bold).
I bolded the statement that seems identical to what we all understand about the Forest Service and how it plans to meet its multiple use mission. And yet the way the PR (proposed reg) talks about “intactness” is different than the FS. It’s about another set of drawing lines on maps; with criteria that the FS does not have.
Now it seems like having lines on a map for intactness (however later defined) would take acres off the table for renewables, strategic minerals, and fuel treatments, as naturally pointed out by the solar folks. So conservation would effectively trump climate mitigation in terms of renewable energy and strategic minerals. Which would be indeed a major policy call, and perhaps should be discussed formally with DOE.
Anyway, if BLM can’t see a way clear to manage for resilience without these extra, confusing, and employee and partner time and money-sucking exercises, and the Forest Service can, and has a plan to do so which seems pretty excellent to me..
Maybe, just maybe, they should have a chat? Preferably ASAP.