Land Bureau May Exempt Plans From Environmental Review

Credit: George Frey/Getty Images.
Bureau of Land Management land in Mesquite, Nevada.

The Bureau of Land Management may stop studying how its long-term blueprints for millions of acres of public lands would affect the environment, according to a document shared with Bloomberg Environment.

Land use plans are updated every 2 decades or more and govern the management of more than 245 million acres of public land under BLM control. They determine, for example, which lands are developed for fossil fuels and mining, grazed by livestock, or protected from development entirely.

The BLM may propose a land use planning rule that will “remove NEPA requirements from the planning regulations,” referring to the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the document on possible changes to such rules that was shared with states and former BLM officials.

“We don’t currently have a timeline to start the rulemaking process for this proposal,” BLM spokesman Jeff Krauss said. “If we move forward with a proposed rule, we will notify the public, as required by law.” The BLM didn’t respond to specific questions about the proposal.

The Trump administration is considering the BLM changes alongside a broader proposal to exempt some federal projects from NEPA requirements, speed up the permitting process, and overhaul other public lands-related rules, including grazing regulations.

Current federal regulations require that all proposed BLM plans for land use undergo environmental studies. An environmental impact statement for each plan must be published, and the public must be allowed to comment.

If the BLM’s idea became a new rule, it would eliminate the need for reports on the environmental effects of land use plans. For example, if a plan proposes opening large areas to oil and gas development, the government wouldn’t be required to study the environmental impact of such a plan.

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