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Nevada Groups Defend Public-Lands Policy Under Fire

A set a guidelines that allow for more public input on the future of federal lands is coming under fire in Congress. (BLM Nevada)
A set a guidelines that allow for more public input on the future of federal lands is coming under fire in Congress. (BLM Nevada)
February 23, 2017

RENO, Nev. – As early as next week, the U.S. Senate could repeal some Bureau of Land Management guidelines known as "Planning 2.0." They 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.

Shannon Scott, a Nevada board member with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says she supports "Planning 2.0" because it gives stakeholders more input.

"And we have input early in the planning process, not waiting 'til plans have been made or at the very end, which would cost more time," she said. "It also allows opportunities for federal, state and local governments, Indian tribes, everybody, to come to the table and collaborate."

The U.S. House repealed the guidelines two weeks ago.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 under current law, local governments and tribes already have special access during the process, and the rule would not change that.

"Planning 2.0" also requires the feds to get public comment on a range of options before settling on a preferred solution. With more public land than any state other than Alaska, Scott says Nevada residents appreciate the importance of places like Red Rock Canyon and the Basin and Range National Monument.

"Public land is why people come here," she added. "To enjoy the state, to have wide open space, recreate, use off-road vehicles, hike, hunt, fish, get away from it all. Our public land brings in an awful lot of revenue from hunting-tag sales and tourists."

If the planning rules are repealed under the Congressional Review Act, it could tie the hands of the next Interior Secretary. The CRA repeal would prohibit the agency from issuing any rules that are "substantially the same" as previous rules without approval from Congress.

Scott thinks it makes more sense to address any concerns about the rules with the new Interior Secretary.

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

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NV