This West Is OUR West

Congress buries Obama's public lands rule

 
By David Freddoso
March 7, 2017

The rule was a very big deal out West, where most federal land is located. Its critics included Western state and local governments and local stakeholders affected by BLM decisions. (Bureau of Land Management via AP, file)

The Senate today passed a Congressional Review Act resolution to strike down what's known as "BLM 2.0" — a last-minute Obama administration rule on how the Bureau of Land Management gathers input and makes planning decisions about public land use.

Of all the CRA actions in Congress so far, this seems like the least discussed and the worst explained — well, maybe not as badly explained as the rule they repealed taking away gun rights from disabled people, but almost.

This rule was a very big deal out West, where most federal land is located. Its critics included Western state and local governments and local stakeholders affected by BLM decisions. The effect of the rule was not so much to increase public input into BLM decisions, as some have framed it, as to place input from people in D.C., New York or Miami on par with that of local authorities and of the people who live near or use the land and actually have to live with the decisions that are made.

Another sticking point: The rule's prioritization of "social and environmental change" in land use decisions. This is a novelty. BLM's statutory mandate is a lot simpler: "sustained yield," and "multiple use," described by the agency itself on its website as follows:

The BLM's multiple-use mission, set forth in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, mandates that we manage public land resources for a variety of uses, such as energy development, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting, while protecting a wide array of natural, cultural, and historical resources...

This is one of many late Obama-era rules and regulations that Congress and President Trump have been working to undo using the Congressional Review Act.

One particularly amusing reaction to this CRA action in Congress helps illustrate the importance and the underestimated power of the CRA. It was given to Reuters by an environmental activist, and it echoes many Democratic lawmakers' comments during the recent flurry of CRA activity:

Some conservation groups said using the CRA to revoke the measure was a "knee-jerk" and unnecessary measure, and that the land planning rule could have been revised by the BLM.

"I struggle to understand why they would waste their time trying to strike down this rule and why not let the administration fix the rule," said Phil Hanceford of the Wilderness Society.

I can tell you why they used the CRA. When Congress invokes the CRA, it means that no future administration can issue this rule or any like it, until and unless Congress passes a new law. The Congressional Review Act kills bad rules dead.

No need to struggle with that one.