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A promising new approach to managing a whopping 15% of California

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is charged with overseeing the stewardship of over 15 million acres (almost 15%) of the Golden State. Under federal law, the BLM is required to prepare “resource management plans” (RMP) to determine, with public input, how recreation, livestock grazing, mining, energy development, and a host of other activities will be balanced with the need to protect habitat, wilderness, water quality, scenery, and other key values and features across particular landscapes.

The BLM is proposing to change the rules that it uses to guide the development of RMPs. This new approach, “Planning 2.0,” will  provide many positive changes aimed at encouraging science-based planning decisions; allowing for innovative approaches to management; requiring that issues such as water quality be considered across landscapes, regardless of ownership; and enhancing opportunities for the involvement of other federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, and the public. We at CalWild are especially pleased to see that BLM proposes to involve the public earlier in the RMP development process than it currently does. This will provide conservationists and others with additional opportunities to tell the BLM why certain landscapes are important to them and to offer ideas as to how these lands should ultimately be managed.

In its feedback to the BLM on Planning 2.0, CalWild thanked the agency for the proposed positive changes to the existing RMP development rules, but also recommended improvements, such as keeping ultimate decision making authority for RMPs at BLM offices located at the state-level, as opposed to Washington, D.C.; not reducing the length of certain public comment periods; and clarifying the meaning of certain new terms that BLM proposes to use in Planning 2.0.

Thus far, Planning 2.0 is a very positive step in the right direction for the BLM. Unfortunately, opponents of land protection and holistic, science-based planning in Congress have been holding hearings meant to potentially derail the BLM’s adoption of Planning 2.0. CalWild and our allies will be fighting hard to defend the new approach, as we await the final version of the new rule that is expected to be released in late 2016.