Bureau of Land Management - Land Use Planning (1-FD-a)
The BLM LUPs, also known as Resource Management Plans (RMPs) (or Management Framework Plans (MFPs)) where the LUP has not been revised since the enactment of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA)), are designed to provide guidance for future management actions and the development of subsequent, more detailed and limited-scope plans for resources and uses.
RMPs are used by the BLM to accomplish the following:
- Allocate resources and determine appropriate multiple uses for the public lands;
- Develop a strategy to manage and protect resources; and
- Establish systems to monitor and evaluate status of resources and effectiveness of management practices over time.
See the BLM Land Use Planning Page.
The environmental analysis of alternatives and the proposed plan should be completed as part of the RMP process and, wherever possible, the proposed plan and related environmental impact statement should be published in a single document. An amendment to an RMP may not require an EIS where a Categorical Exclusion (CE) applies or where an Environmental Assessment (EA) will suffice. An amendment is initiated when a proposed action requires a change in terms, conditions and decisions of the approved plan. The amendment process is tailored to the anticipated level of public interest and potential for significant impacts. (43 C.F.R. § 1601.0-6).
FLPMA authorizes the BLM to grant rights-of-way for the generation, transmission and distribution of electric energy. The BLM will not issue a right-of-way unless the project conforms to the current RMP. If the project does not conform to the RMP, either the project must be restructured or the RMP must be amended. Generally, new transmission or solar projects sited one BLM managed land require an amendment, not a revision.Regulations governing RMP development and revision can be found in 43 C.F.R. §1610
Bureau of Land Management - Land Use Planning Process
1-FD-a.1 - Compile Resource Inventories
A resource inventory should be compiled by the BLM as needed, but is most useful prior to the analysis of the management situation.
1-FD-a.2 - Preparation Plan
The preparation plan is designed to identify the issues to be addressed and the data and skills needed to address them. It should also include preliminary planning criteria and a preliminary budget used to secure funding. The preparation plan should be brief and concise and should provide “management direction, oversight, structure, cost estimate, and focus for the planning process.” See BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, p. 18.
1-FD-a.3 - Analyze Land Management Situation
The BLM is required to analyze the current RMP and related land management practices as soon as the revision or development project is approved. The BLM must analyze inventory data and other resources to “characterize the resource area profile, portray the existing management situation, and identify management opportunities to respond to identified issues.” See BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, p. 19. The analysis will become the basis for the formulation of reasonable alternatives.
1-FD-a.4 – Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS)
BLM field offices should produce a report called the Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS). The report (or a summary) should be made available to the public. The BLM field office should write the AMS so as to be capable of incorporation into the EIS. Work on the AMS can begin as soon as the revision or development project is approved.
1-FD-a.5 - Review Prep Plan and Prepare NOI for Federal Register
Both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FLPMA contain public participation requirements that apply to RMP development and revision. 43 C.F.R. §1610.2 requires the BLM to provide meaningful opportunities for public participation. Prior to preparing a draft RMP and EIS, the BLM should notify the public, Indian Tribes, other federal agencies, and state and local governments regarding the proposed plan development or revision. When the BLM starts to prepare, amend, or revise an RMP, they will begin the process by publishing a notice in the Federal Register and appropriate local media, including newspapers of general circulation in the state and field office area. The Field Manager may also decide if it is appropriate to publish a notice in media in adjoining States. This notice may also constitute the scoping notice required by regulation for NEPA (40 C.F.R. § 1501.7). This notice must include the following:
- Description of the proposed planning action;
- Identification of the geographic area for which the plan is to be prepared;
- The general types of issues anticipated;
- The disciplines to be represented and used to prepare the plan;
- The kind and extent of public participation opportunities to be provided;
- The times, dates and locations scheduled or anticipated for any public meetings, hearings, conferences or other gatherings, as known at the time;
- The name, title, address and telephone number of the Bureau of Land Management official who may be contacted for further information; and
- The location and availability of documents relevant to the planning process.
1-FD-a.6 - Notice of Intent to Prepare EIS
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations require the BLM to publish a notice of intent (NOI) in the Federal Register prior to scoping. The NOI announces the BLM’s decision to prepare an EIS and the associated planning document (in this case, the RMP). See 40 C.F.R. §1501.7. The NOI should identify preliminary issues and planning criteria.
1-FD-a.7 – Distribute Scoping Notices
A notice of intent to prepare, amend, or revise a RMP must be submitted, consistent with State procedures for coordination of Federal activities, for circulation among State agencies. This notice must also be submitted to Federal agencies, the heads of county boards, other local government units and Tribal Chairmen or Alaska Native Leaders that have requested such notices or that the responsible line manager has reason to believe would be concerned with the plan or amendment. These notices must be issued simultaneously with the public notices required under 43 C.F.R. §1610.2(b) of this title.
1-FD-a.8 - Conduct Scoping Analysis
Scoping is defined by 40 C.F.R. § 1501.7 as “an early and open process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed and for identifying the significant issues related to a proposed action.” Scoping is required by both NEPA and the BLM planning regulations and allows the public and interested governmental organizations to help frame the issues addressed by the RMP revision or development process. See 40 C.F.R. § 1501.7; 43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-1; 43 C.F.R. § 1610.2.
At the outset of the planning process, the public, other Federal agencies, State and local governments and Indian tribes must be given an opportunity to suggest concerns, needs, resource use, development and protection opportunities for consideration in the preparation of the RMP. The Field Manager, in collaboration with any cooperating agencies, will analyze those suggestions and other available data, such as records of resource conditions, trends, needs, and problems, and select topics and determine the issues to be addressed during the planning process. Issues may be modified during the planning process to incorporate new information. The identification of issues must also comply with the scoping process required by regulations implementing NEPA (40 C.F.R. § 1501.7). 43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-1.
The BLM may conduct meetings as well as set page limits and time schedules if it chooses. The planning issues addressed by the BLM scoping process include “disputes or controversies about existing and potential land and resource allocations, levels of resource use, production, and related management practices.” BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, p. 19.
1-FD-a.9 - Consult with Contractor, As Needed
Consultation and coordination is an ongoing process during LUP development or revision when a contractor prepares any of the documents.
1-FD-a.10 - Conduct Meetings/Hearings/Advisement As Needed
Public involvement entails “The opportunity for participation by affected citizens in rule making, decision making, and planning with respect to the public lands, including public meetings or hearings . . . or advisory mechanisms, or other such procedures as may be necessary to provide public comment in a particular instance.” 43 U.S.C. § 1702(d). Several laws and Executive orders set forth public involvement requirements, including maintaining public participation records. The BLM planning regulations at 43 C.F.R. § 1601-1610 and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations at 40 C.F.R. § 1500-1508 provide for specific points of public involvement in the environmental analysis, land use planning, and implementation decision-making processes to address local, regional, and national interests. The NEPA requirements associated with planning have been incorporated into the planning regulations.
1-FD-a.11 to 1-FD-a.12 – Make Planning Criteria Available to the Public; Comment on Planning Criteria
During the scoping period, preliminary planning criteria are made available for public comment. The planning criteria are prepared by the Field Manager “to guide development of the resource management plan or revision…” Id. The comment period must last at least 30 days and the Field Manager may not approve the criteria for use in the planning process until the comment period has expired. 43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-2.
1-FD-a.13 - Scoping Report
After scoping is concluded, the BLM must document the results. A scoping report may be produced by the local field office or the results may be included in the AMS. The report should summarize the comments received and describe the issues discussed during the scoping process.
1-FD-a.14 - Formulate Alternatives, Analyze Effects of Alternatives, Select Preferred Alternative
43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-5 instructs the BLM to consider “all reasonable resource management alternatives and develop several complete alternatives for detailed study.” Formulation of alternatives should draw on both the AMS and the scoping report. Alternatives should “reflect the variety of issues and guidance applicable to the resource uses.” 43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-5. In addition, alternatives should include desired outcomes and allowable uses and action anticipated to achieve those outcomes. See BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, p. 20. The BLM Land Use Planning Handbook outlines a number of important concepts that should be considered when formulating alternatives:
- The BLM must consider all reasonable alternatives, including the no action alternative (the continuation of present levels or systems of resource use). Some alternatives, including the no action alternative, may be developed for detailed study, while others are considered but not analyzed in detail. Both types of alternatives are described in the RMP/EIS. The plan should note any alternatives identified and eliminated from detailed study while briefly discussing the reasons for their elimination. (43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-5). An example may be that one alternative is a reasonable variation of an existing alternative analyzed in detail.
- Reasonable alternatives analyzed in detail meet the purpose and need of the project and can be feasibly carried out based on estimated cost, logistics, technology, and social and environmental factors. An alternative may be considered reasonable even if it is outside the legal jurisdiction of the BLM because it may serve as the basis for modifying congressional approval in light of the analysis (40 C.F.R. § 1502.14(c)); Forty Questions No. 2(b)).
- Each fully-developed alternative represents a different land use plan that addresses and/or resolves the identified planning issues in different ways.
- Each alternative will include a different suite of potential planning decisions to address the issues. Some potential planning decisions may be common to multiple or all alternatives.
- Goals typically pertain to all alternatives (will not vary by alternative). Objectives, allowable uses, and management actions may:
- Be consistent across alternatives, and/or
- Vary by alternative. A plan could include some objectives that vary by alternative, and other objectives that are consistent across alternatives.
- Goals typically apply to the entire planning area. Objectives, allowable uses, and management actions may:
- Apply to the planning area as a whole, and/or;
- Be specific to certain geographic areas, such as those listed below:
- Landscape-level systems (such as ecosystems and watersheds);
- Specific resources (such as threatened and endangered species and cultural sites);
- Areas (such as allotments and special management units); and
- Areas needing restoration or maintenance in order to meet land health standards.
- Note: All components of an individual alternative must be complementary. Desired outcomes, allowable uses, and management actions can (and probably will) conflict from one alternative to the next. However, they must not conflict within any one alternative. For example, an alternative should not allow all lands open to oil and gas leasing while having all lands designated as Visual Resource Management Class I or II.
- When identifying allowable uses in alternatives, consider resource development potential, levels of use, and restrictions to best achieve the identified goals and objectives (see Analysis of the Management Situation above). These uses and restrictions are based on resource protection needs and social and economic factors, and represent the most appropriate mix of uses and protections for the resources in the planning area. Different protection and restoration measures and the availability of areas for certain uses, levels of uses, and restrictions are presented in alternatives.
- In developing alternatives, the BLM must consider the relative scarcity of the values involved and the availability of alternative means and sites for realizing those values FLPMA Sec. 202 (43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(6)).
- Alternatives should be developed in an open, collaborative manner, to the extent possible.
Analyze the Effects of Alternatives
The Field Manager must “estimate and display the physical, biological, economic, and social effects of implementing each alternative considered in detail.” The estimation of effects must be guided by the planning criteria and procedures implementing NEPA. The estimate may be stated in terms of probable ranges where effects cannot be precisely determined. 43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-6.
Select a Preferred Alternative
The BLM must evaluate alternatives and to select the alternative that best meets FLPMA’s multiple use and sustained yield mandates, as well as the goals and policies of the BLM. 43 C.F.R. § 1610.4-7; 43 U.S.C. § 1702(c). The selected alternative becomes the preferred alternative for purposes of the draft EIS. Criteria for selection of the preferred alternative should be developed by the BLM in conjunction with resource advisory councils (RACs), cooperating agencies and interested members of the public to the extent possible. However, the final decision remains the exclusive responsibility of the BLM.
1-FD-a.15 - Consult with Contractor, As Needed
1-FD-a.16 to 1-FD-a.18 - Draft Resource Management Plan / Draft Environmental Impact Statement; Consult with Other Agencies, and Tribes, as Needed
The purpose of an EIS is to force federal agencies to analyze the effects of their actions on the environment in accordance with NEPA. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.1. An EIS should contain a discussion of the environmental impacts of the proposed federal action, alternatives to the proposed action and mitigation measures. An EIS is required when there is a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.3. The scope of the EIS is determined by the scoping process, addressed in section 1-FD-a.7. In addition, the EIS will describe the purpose and need for a new or revised RMP and will contain a draft of the preferred RMP.
Actions taken to coordinate and consult with other agencies, Tribes, interest groups and the public will also be described in this document.
1-FD-a.19 to 1-FD-a.20 - Notice of Availability of Draft EIS; Comment on Draft RMP / Draft EIS
The EPA publishes a notice of availability (NOA) when the draft EIS is issued and available for public review in the Federal Register. Once the EPA has published the NOA, a 90-day public comment period begins. Though not required by NEPA, the BLM also publishes a NOA in the Federal Register. The BLM NOA will contain additional information regarding the project, comment period, contact information, and other supplemental information. The BLM may also use additional methods to inform interested parties of the commencement of the comment period, including press releases, planning bulletins, newsletters, mail or e-mail, and internet postings. See BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, p. 23.
During the public comment period, interested parties may submit comments that must be assessed and considered by the BLM. The BLM must respond to the comments in one of the following ways:
- Modifying alternatives, including the proposed plan;
- Developing and evaluating alternatives not previously given serious consideration;
- Supplementing, improving, or modifying analysis;
- Making factual corrections; and
- Explaining why comments do not warrant further response, citing the sources, authorities, or reasons that support the agency’s position, and, if appropriate, indicate those circumstances that would trigger reappraisal or further response.
Substantive comments must be addressed in the proposed RMP and final EIS. According to the BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, "nonsubstantive comments are those that include opinions, assertions, and unsubstantiated claims. Substantive comments are those that reveal new information, missing information, or flawed analysis that would substantially change conclusions."
1-FD-a.21 - Proposed RMP/Final EIS
The proposed RMP and the final EIS should describe and address comments received during the public comment period. The BLM must either incorporate substantive comments or explain why further response is not warranted. All substantive comments should be attached to the final EIS. The proposed RMP/final EIS should correct errors in the draft EIS identified through the public comment process. The BLM to prepare a supplement to the final EIS if substantial changes are made to the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns or if there is significant new information or change in circumstances that are relevant to environmental concerns. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c)(1).
1-FD-a.22 - Consult with Contractor, As Needed
1-FD-a.23 to 1-FD-a.24 - Notice of Availability of Proposed Final EIS; Publish a NOA, Provide Protest Period, Resolve Protests
As with the draft RMP/EIS, the EPA must publish a NOA in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the proposed RMP / final EIS. The BLM must provide parties who participated in the planning process, and who have an interest that may be affected by the amendment, a protest period. The interested parties have 30 days from the publication of the EPA's NOA to file a protest with the BLM Director. The Director is then required to render a decision on the protest. The reasons for the decision should be contained within the response. The BLM must resolve all protests before a record of decision (ROD) is issued. 43 C.F.R. § 1610.5-2.
1-FD-a.25 to 1-FD-a.26 - Letter to Governor; Conduct Consistency Review
The BLM State Director must submit the proposed RMP, along with a letter identifying inconsistencies with state or local LUPs, programs, or policies, to the state Governor for a consistency review. The state Governor is given 60 days to provide the BLM with recommendations. Recommendations that were not raised during the planning process must be submitted to the public for comment. If the State Director does not agree with the recommendations of the Governor, the Governor has 30 days to file an appeal with the Director of the BLM. The Director is required to accept the recommendations of the Governor if they "provide for a reasonable balance between the national interest and the State's interest." 43 C.F.R. § 1610.3-2(e). The BLM Land Use Planning Handbook recommends that the consistency review and the protest period occur simultaneously. No ROD may be issued until the Governor's recommendations are addressed.
1-FD-a.27 - Determine Need for Notice of Significant Change
If protest letters or recommendations from the Governor require the proposed RMP/ final EIS to be substantially modified, the BLM must announce the intended changes to the public and provide a 30-day comment period. The BLM must respond to the comments, and in some cases will be required to issue a supplemental proposed RMP / final EIS. See 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c)(1)-(4).
1-FD-a.28 - Record of Decision (Approved RMP)
40 C.F.R. § 1505.2 requires the BLM to issue a concise Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD should be published in the same document as the approved RMP. The ROD should identify the alternatives considered, explain the rationale behind choosing the preferred alternative and discuss mitigation measures. The ROD is officially approved when the State Director signs the ROD adopting the RMP. According to the BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, the ROD "... describes the goals, objectives, and management actions for fulfilling the management direction developed within the land use planning process."
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