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Outdoor Advocates Press Congress to Preserve Public-Lands Policy

Advocates are pushing to save 'Planning 2.0,' a set of guidelines meant to foster more public input on the future of such federal lands as the Kaibab National Forest. (Michelle Vacchiano/iStockphoto)
Advocates are pushing to save 'Planning 2.0,' a set of guidelines meant to foster more public input on the future of such federal lands as the Kaibab National Forest. (Michelle Vacchiano/iStockphoto)
February 22, 2017

FLAGSTAFF, Aziz. – As early as next week, the U.S. Senate could repeal some Bureau of Land Management guidelines known as "Planning 2.0.," that spell out the rules for including the public in planning the future of public lands. Advocates say these guidelines are needed, but since they took effect during the Obama administration, they're under fire in Congress.

John Hamill, the Arizona field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, says he supports "Planning 2.0" because it gives stakeholders more input, early in the planning process. And it requires the feds to get public comment on a range of options before settling on a preferred solution.

"That gives us several new opportunities to provide input into the process, and we like that," he said. "We think it's more transparent, and it gives us access to the information that they're using to base their plan on."

But the U.S. House repealed the guidelines two weeks ago. Opponents of "Planning 2.0" argue that increasing public participation creates red tape and takes power away from local and state governments in favor of conservation groups. But the rules give local governments and tribes "cooperating agency" status, which gives them special access during the process.

Hamill says he hopes Congress will leave the plan in place and let the new Secretary of the Interior make any necessary tweaks.

"It's been three years, thousands of public comments received on this new rule," he added. "And to kind of throw it away and start all over again seems like a lot of overkill."

Hamill notes that if stakeholders and advocacy groups can collaborate with the BLM early on in a planning process, there would be fewer confrontations and lawsuits down the line.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ