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Congress Targets Updated BLM Land-Use Planning Rules

Groups in the West are concerned that repealing a new BLM planning process could tie the hands of the U.S. Interior Department on future planning rules. (Bob Wick/BLM)
Groups in the West are concerned that repealing a new BLM planning process could tie the hands of the U.S. Interior Department on future planning rules. (Bob Wick/BLM)
February 21, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – A coalition of groups across the West is concerned Congress could overturn the Bureau of Land Management's new land-use planning policies before Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana is confirmed as U.S. Interior Secretary.

Last week, the U.S. House voted to repeal the Obama-era rule known as "Planning 2.0," under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That leaves the fate of the rule in the hands of the Senate.

Rob Thornberry, Idaho field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, says the new rules have a streamlined approach, bringing all concerned parties together to plan at the beginning of the process.

"If we throw out Planning 2.0, we get stuck with the 1983 rules that nobody liked, the ranchers don't like, the miners don't like, BLM doesn't like," he said. "It was an ineffective tool. It's led us to a litigious culture in Idaho, certainly across the West, and we can do better than that."

If the planning rules are repealed under the CRA, it could tie the hands of the next Interior Secretary. The CRA repeal prohibits the agency from issuing any rules that are "substantially the same" as previous rules without approval from Congress.

The goal of Planning 2.0 is to give the public and stakeholders a greater role in the BLM planning process, and at an earlier point. Rather than repealing the new rules now, Thornberry thinks it makes more sense to address any concerns about them with the new Interior Secretary.

"They're throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he added. "People want a two-for-one exchange on regulations, which I can understand, but this isn't that. This is about how they plan, and how they give people a voice in the process."

Earlier this month, the Western Governors' Association, which includes Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, sent a letter to Congress expressing concern over Planning 2.0, and asking the agency to revise it in collaboration with states. However, the rules and any potential revisions would be banished for good if Planning 2.0 is taken away under the CRA.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID