TU's Fisher testifies on new BLM planning rule

By Erin Tracy
 
On May 12, the House Natural Resources’ Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee heard testimony from local and state perspectives on the Bureau of Land Management's draft rule for the BLM’s Planning 2.0 initiative  
 
While topics like a BLM planning rule revision are typically considered “boring policy topics,” (as one witness, Peter Obermueller, aptly noted), in this instance the BLM’s draft rule has been attracting a lot of interest—not only from state and local governments, but from stakeholders, sportsmen and women, and local conservation and recreation groups. The BLM manages nearly 250 million acres of America’s public lands treasured for the hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities afforded to all citizens. In light of this immense responsibility, the BLM proposes to update its natural resource management process to make planning more “efficient, effective and responsive” to management challenges.  
 
Critics of the draft are worried that the new approach will diminish the role of local and state governments in the planning process. However, Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, described that changes proposed by 2.0 “will provide a continuum of engagement that will result in more durable plans meeting the needs of fish and wildlife managers, sportsmen, local governments and other stakeholders.”  Fisher further explained that the draft rule’s focus on “early and often” stakeholder involvement as well as a transparent planning process and increased responsiveness to issues on the ground will lead to more effective management of these public lands.
 
An additional topic discussed at the hearing related to the scope of landscape management, with some raising concerns that the new approach could shift management decisions away from the local,field-office level. Caren Cowan of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association described the approach as “a heavy-handed attempt to take local control and bring it to D.C.”  However, TU's Fisher offered another perspective, clarifying that the landscape approach envisioned in 2.0, “doesn’t mean that planning should encompass vast landscapes without cause," and it can be scaled-up or -down to address the specific management issues at play in a particular area. This flexibility is key to managing public lands—fish and wildlife do not recognize state and local boundaries on a map. Therefore effective landscape management must look at the big picture and address on-the-ground issues holistically.
 
One thing all participants agreed on is that the BLM’s effort to update its current planning process is long overdue. As Fisher noted, with all the challenges facing our hunting and fishing traditions we cannot continue rely on a  “cumbersome, outdated and ineffective planning process.”  
 
Trout Unlimited, along with many of our partners in the sportsmen community, applaud the BLM for its leadership to modernize the agency's planning regulations and for its transparency and engagement of stakeholders during the process.  TU looks forward to working with its partners and hopes to see final rule that will improve the management of America’s public lands and account for the needs of hunters and anglers, local governments, and other stakeholders.
 
Find more info on the hearing or to watch a replay, here.
Read Corey Fisher’s Testimony, here.
 
The BLM is currently accepting comment on the draft rule. Comments are due to the agency by May 25.  
 
Erin Tracy is an intern in TU's Arlington,Va.-based home office. 

Comments

 
said on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Landscape management refers to managing everything in the landscape (holistic) as opposed to managing for just one or two comodities and letting every other value be subbordinate or ignored or lost. Landscape management is still a local management tool and concept.

Kirk Nichols

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