US overhauls public land use planning; senator vows reversal

Associated Press

By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. government officials on Thursday finalized an overhaul of how they plan for oil and gas drilling, mining, grazing and other activities across public lands in the West.

The move by the Bureau of Land Management aims to address longstanding criticism of an often-cumbersome process that dictates development across almost 250 million acres of federal lands, primarily in 12 Western states and the Dakotas.

Administration officials said the changes would improve public involvement and government transparency by adding additional steps to land-use planning.

Members of Congress, industry groups and local officials have raised concerns about the overhaul’s practical effects. They’ve said it will elevate wildlife and environmental preservation above other uses such as energy development and shift decision-making from agency field offices to Washington, D.C.

It updates regulations adopted in 1979. The Associated Press obtained details prior to Thursday’s public announcement.

The timing of the new rule in the Obama administration’s last days drew a rebuke from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, who predicted it would take authority away from local land managers. The Wyoming Republican pledged to work to reverse the action once President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

About 28 percent of Wyoming’s land and 65 percent of the minerals beneath the surface is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

“We need better coordination among state, local and federal land management agencies. Massive landscape-scale plans directed from Washington, D.C. are not the answer,” said Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining.

Among the changes, alternatives for development would be offered at the front-end of planning instead of well into the process.

Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Linda Lance said the intent is to frontload the process so that thorny issues are revealed early. That will reduce the likelihood of lawsuits or the need for substantial revisions down the road, she said.

The federal agency has 160 management plans for the lands and mineral reserves that it oversees. Crafting those plans currently takes eight years on average.

“The hope is we are going to shave years off the process, not days,” Lance said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lunches available despite ‘terrible’ senior center closure

Homage Senior Services continues to provide weekday meals at Carl Gipson Senior Center and other sites.

Texan comes to defend Snohomish outlaw barber cutting hair

Bob Martin is defying orders to close. The man he calls his attorney didn’t go to law school.

Everett man identified as victim of deadly gunfire at party

William Thomas Harper III, 28, was shot to death Sunday. His alleged assailant is jailed.

2 more sentenced in killing of Everett homeless man

Three people were involved in a robbery during which Michael Boone was tied to a tree and left to freeze.

Divers looking for wedding ring find car at bottom of lake

A Snohomish County technical water rescue team helped locate the Ford Taurus so it could be retrieved.

Police: Man likely stole from 20 people in Edmonds, Woodway

Edmonds police reportedly retrieved a dozen bags of stolen goods after arresting a Lynnwood man, 24.

Registration open for drive-thru virus testing in Snohomish

Tests will be administered Thursday at the Sno-Isle Libraries branch on Maple Avenue.

Inslee wants nursing home residents, staff tested by June 12

Governor says state will pay for test kits and personal protective equipment.

Parade is a city-wide celebration for Marysville grads

A group of parents has planned a parade Friday night. It will pass each of the district’s high schools.

Most Read