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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Federal Bureau of Land Management Land Use Planning Process (1-FD-a)

Activities conducted on federal lands must conform to the land management agency's Land Use Plan (LUP), or the plan must be amended to allow for the planned activity. 43 CFR 1610.5-3. This flowchart describes the process used by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop or revise a land use plan. If a plan already exists in your activity area and an amendment is required, see Bureau of Land Management - Land Use Plan Amendment Process:

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:

  1. Allocate resources and determine appropriate multiple uses for the public lands;
  2. Develop a strategy to manage and protect resources; and
  3. Establish systems to monitor and evaluate status of resources and effectiveness of management practices over time.

See the BLM Land Use Planning Page.

Development or revision of a new RMP (including replacement of an MFP with an RMP) requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). See (43 CFR 1601.0-6). Conversely, 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.

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 proposed 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 CFR 1610 et seq.

Bureau of Land Management Land Use Planning Process 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 first step in the RMP revision or development process is the creation of a 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, page 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, page 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 CFR 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. In addition, the BLM must provide two types of notices; a notice of intent (NOI) must be published in the Federal Register and scoping notices must be distributed to interested parties. The scoping process begins once the NOI is published in the Federal Register.

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 CFR 1501.7. The NOI should identify preliminary issues and planning criteria.

1-FD-a.7 – Distribute Scoping Notices

BLM regulation 43 CFR 1610.3-1(d) requires the distribution of scoping notices to “…Federal agencies, state agencies, the heads of county boards, other local government unites, and Tribal chairmen or Alaska Native leaders and any other entities/individuals who have requested such notice or the Field Manager has reason to believe would be concerned with the planning effort.” See BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, page 18. Distribution of scoping notices should occur simultaneously with the publishing of the NOI in the Federal Register. The BLM should request the current status of government entities’ LUPs and related management policies in connection with the distribution of the scoping notices.

1-FD-a.8 - Conduct Scoping Analysis

Scoping is defined by 40 CFR 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 CFR 1501.7; 43 CFR 1610.4-1; 43 CFR 1610.2. As part of the scoping process, the BLM is required to:

  • Invite participation from interested parties;
  • Determine the scope of the EIS;
  • Determine the issues to be addressed by the EIS;
  • Eliminate issues that are not significant;
  • Allocate assignments for preparation of the EIS;
  • Identify other Environmental Assessments (EAs) and EIS’ that are related but not part of the scope of the EIS under consideration;
  • Identify review and consultation requirements; and
  • Indicate the timing relationship between the preparation of the environmental analysis and the RMP revision or development schedule.

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.” See BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, page 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.” See 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 CFR 1601-1610 and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations at 40 CFR 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 in accordance with 43 CFR 1610.4-2. 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.

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

Formulate Alternatives

43 CFR 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.” See 43 CFR 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, page 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. Rationale should be briefly described to document why certain alternatives were not studied in detail (43 CFR 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 CFR 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 (1) be consistent across alternatives, and/or (2) 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 (1) apply to the planning area as a whole, and/or (2) be specific to certain geographic areas, such as those listed below:
  1. Landscape-level systems (such as ecosystems and watersheds);
  2. Specific resources (such as threatened and endangered species and cultural sites);
  3. Areas (such as allotments and special management units); and
  4. 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

43 CFR 1610.4-6 requires the Field Manager to “estimate and display the physical, biological, economic, and social effects of implementing each alternative considered in detail.” The analysis should include information on direct, indirect and cumulative impacts as well as document the assumptions and timeframes used.

Select a preferred alternative

43 CFR 1610.4-7 requires the BLM to 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. See 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

See 1-FD-a.8.

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. See 40 CFR 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. See 40 CFR 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, page 23.

During the public comment period, interested parties may submit comments that must be assessed and considered by the BLM. The BLM is required by 40 CFR 1503.4 to 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. 40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1) requires 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.

1-FD-a.22 - Consult with Contractor, As Needed

See 1-FD-a.8.

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. 43 CFR 1610.5-2 requires the BLM to 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.

1-FD-a.25 to 1-FD-a.26 - Letter to Governor; Conduct Consistency Review

43 CFR 1610.3-2(e) requires the BLM State Director to 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." 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 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)-(4).

1-FD-a.28 - Record of Decision (Approved RMP)

40 CFR 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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