Land Use Plans for Public Lands Are Approved by Who? 

Developing land use plans for public lands is a crucial step in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) mission to care for America’s public lands. These land use plans identify allowable uses and management actions on public lands. The BLM is responsible for managing about one-eighth of the land in the United States, including deserts, arctic tundra, mountains, and extensive grasslands. BLM works with partners such as local and tribal governments, State governments, and other Federal agencies to develop resource management plans. 

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BLM’s role is to implement land use plans in a way that serves the public and stakeholders. As a result, BLM faces a number of practical and legal challenges. These include unexpected delays and higher expenses. The BLM is also dealing with the proliferation of landscape-scale environmental change agents. These issues cross traditional administrative boundaries, resulting in a greater need for an interdisciplinary approach. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has adopted an updated land use planning process to better address these challenges. The new steps will improve the effectiveness and timeliness of land use plans and will reduce the need for additional data gathering. 

Land use plans are generally prepared by an interdisciplinary team under the direction of a BLM field manager. A land use plan is an advisory document that helps land managers make informed decisions about how to manage public lands. It typically contains goals and objectives for land management that can be used to guide management through the planning process. Other plan components include designations and monitoring and evaluation standards. They also highlight priority resource uses and values. 

Generally, land use plans are prepared based on the boundaries of the BLM field office. They identify areas that are open to energy development, grazing, and mineral development, as well as areas that may be closed to fluid mineral development or wildlife values. During the planning process, the BLM may also consider alternative management scenarios. These scenarios may involve management practices such as conservation uses or renewable energy development. 

Land use plans include conditions that are legally binding. In addition, they can identify a series of implementing actions for the plan. These actions can be either proponent-led or BLM projects. Depending on the plan, some of these actions may focus on conservation uses, while others may be more commodity-based. 

BLM’s planning process includes a number of public involvement opportunities. Public input is important. Land managers must understand the tradeoffs associated with competing uses. In addition, BLM must develop a comprehensive view of the competing uses and understand the tradeoffs associated with the land’s potential for future use. The BLM is encouraged to involve local and tribal governments and the public in the planning process. This public involvement will allow BLM to better respond to resource issues. The Bureau has made efforts to enhance opportunities for public involvement through regulations. 

BLM’s updated land use planning process will make it easier for BLM to engage local governments and tribal governments in the planning process. It will also enhance BLM’s ability to work with other Federal agencies. These steps will reduce the amount of time and resources required to prepare land use plans and will improve BLM’s ability to work with other agencies.