Federal lawsuit targets BLM planning rule, Dec. 13, 2016

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Cattle graze along a section of the Missouri River that includes the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument near Fort Benton, Mont. U.S. government officials on Thursday finalized an overhaul of how they plan for oil and gas drilling, mining, grazing and other activities across public lands in the West. AP file photo.


As published by Deseret News

Salt Lake City — Kane County is among six rural counties in the West asking a federal court to rip up a new Bureau of Land Management planning rule they say diminishes their voice on crafting land use plans.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Utah, involves Kane County, Big Horn County, Wyo.; Chaves County, New Mexico; Custer County, Idaho; Garfield County, Colorado; Modoc County, California, and the Dona Ana Soil and Water Conservation District in New Mexico.

All are rural areas that are home to ranchers or farmers and dominated by significant federal land ownership.

Kane County, for example, contains more than 2.6 million areas of land, of which nearly 85 percent is owned by the federal government, mostly the BLM.

Because of the extensive federal land ownership, the counties say it is vital for them to be at the table when it comes to the creation of land use management plans that address multiple use, endangered species protection, wildfire mitigation, grazing and more.

The counties say the BLM’s adoption of new rules “significantly diminishes their rights” under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to coordinate with the federal agency.

“Because the 2016 Planning Rules significantly impair the informational and coordination rights of local governments, the BLM will be making program and project decisions without the consideration of the specific issues important to local governments in the West, including petitioners,” the lawsuit states.

“Failing to properly consult and coordinate with local governments may lead to, for example, the overgrowth of invasive plant and animal species to the detriment of native species; compromised quality and availability of water supply; and increased risk and frequency of wildfire, causing more destruction from hotter-burning wildfire, just to name a few.”

The counties argue that the BLM adopted the planning rule without following the requirements of environmental laws and doing proper analysis.

Specifically, they say more review is necessary on the agency’s intent to use new and untested “landscape scale” approaches to resource management and its new emphasis on climate change — which they say will dramatically alter the way the BLM does land use planning.

The counties are asking the federal court to set aside the planning rule as arbitrary and unlawful.