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Cheney bill hits at heart of Western land battle

Update: The U.S. House passed H.J. Res. 44 on a 234-186 vote Feb. 7.

A resolution sponsored by U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney lays bare the struggle over Western public lands and what voice local communities should have when compared to the rest of the American public.

Cheney (R-Wyo) would kill a federal land management rule promulgated under former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the Obama administration. Jewell supporters said her rule increased nimbleness and responsiveness in managing more than 245 million Bureau of Land Management acres nationwide. The changes were necessary to keep pace with an evolving society and shifting environment, the former secretary said.

The “Planning 2.0” effort, Obama administration managers said, would allow them to take a landscape view of the federal estate. “These lands belong to all of us,” Jewell said in a video announcing the rule. “It’s important that everyone’s voice is heard.

But critics claim the 367-page regulation would undercut local influence, in addition to other flaws. Even though the Planning 2.0 debate was conducted in the tedious jargon of land management plans, laws, and rules, it attracted close attention from both sides of the public lands debate — conservationists and consumptive users alike.

We have a real concern,” the Wyoming State Grazing Board wrote when Planning 2.0 was being adopted, “that many of the items in the proposed rule will increase the influence of those who do not support multiple use and sustained yield as the overriding mandate from Congress to the BLM.” Many other BLM users agreed, including the Public Lands Council that supports cattle and sheep producers.

“…[T]hose directly affected need to have a seat at the table, not be lumped in with the public,” Executive Director Ethan Lane wrote. “There should be delineation between the interested public and stakeholders.”

In a cover letter to a slew of comments from Wyoming agencies, Gov. Matt Mead also opposed former Secretary Jewell’s initiative. “This Proposed Rule would ignore local ‘policies, programs, and processes’ in favor of ‘social change,’” Mead wrote. “BLM’s decisions must be made based [on] the local communities most affected by these decisions and not remote and unconnected public opinion.”

Floor vote could happen today

Cheney introduced H.J. Res. 44 Jan. 30 under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act. Her resolution would declare that Planning 2.0 “shall have no force or effect.” She has 15 co-sponsors.

The rule “undermines local land management, dilutes the authority of our county commissioners, and opens up the possibility that foreign non-governmental organizations would have input in Wyoming’s land use management planning process,” Cheney said in a statement.

She and her supporters called the rule a midnight regulation and an 11th-hour gambit. Public involvement began in February 2016. The BLM received 3,354 comments and responded in a 977-page document. The Nature Conservancy, which supported the new rule, said it was the result of a multi-year effort by the BLM, and updated practices “for the first time in more than three decades.”

Former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Gov. Matt Mead agreed on several initiatives in Wyoming, but not Planning 2.0. During this meeting near Pinedale they celebrated sage grouse conservation. (U.S. Department of the Interior)

Former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Gov. Matt Mead agreed on several initiatives in Wyoming, but not Planning 2.0. During this meeting near Pinedale they celebrated sage grouse conservation. (U.S. Department of the Interior)

Cheney’s resolution will go to the House floor for a vote today, said Shaleas Harrison, wild lands community organizer for the Wyoming Wilderness Association. If Cheney’s resolution is successful, the rule may not be reissued in “substantially the same form” without an act of Congress, Harrison said. “This would strip incoming Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and his new BLM director of the authority to reformulate Planning 2.0, or even go back to the drawing board to devise a new planning rule,” Harrison said in a statement.

Others supporting Jewell’s initiative described it in terms opposite those employed by Cheney and her camp.

“The new rule gives all land users more opportunities to make their voices heard, whether they are recreationists, ranchers, scientists, local governments, or the energy industry,” the conservation-advocacy group BLM Wild said. Cheney’s resolution would “set land use planning back 34 years — [to] a time when the public was kept in the dark until very late in the process,” the group said in a statement.

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In supporting the plan, The Wilderness Society quoted Jewell’s description of the necessity of landscape-scale coordination. The average randomly selected site in the West is 3 1/2 miles from some form of human development, Jewell said. “It’s a great statistic if you’re a lost hiker looking to be rescued, but it has highly alarming implications for the mule deer or grizzly bear who need connected corridors to survive.”

Defenders of Wildlife said Jewell’s rule did not go far enough in considering endangered species, among other things.

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About the Author

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Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at [email protected] or (307) 690-5586. Follow Angus on Twitter at @AngusThuermer

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9 Responses to Cheney bill hits at heart of Western land battle

  1. RJ Luce February 12, 2017 at 8:39 am #

    Nobody has said it better, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government” – Edward Abbey. Perhaps he should have said defend it from politicians who profess to serve the people but serve only their corporate constituency.

    Lander, Wyoming

  2. Bryon Lee February 10, 2017 at 10:07 pm #

    I am appalled that Liz Cheney, who’s never stepped foot in Wyoming’s Red Desert and has rarely used the bathroom in her Wilson home, is believed to be serving the needs of the locals here in Wyoming or citizens of the West. Thank you Wyofile for the reporting.

    Laramie, Wyoming

  3. Bern Hinckley February 8, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Some land is owned by individuals; some by partnerships; some by corporations or other aggregations of individuals; and some by a very large citizens association called the United States of America.

    The lands for whose administration We the People have hired management agencies like BLM and USFS should be managed as the owners direct. What is difficult about that basic property rights concept? By what stretch of logic does one acquire property rights simply by virtue of living adjacent to, or renting the use of, property that belongs to someone else?

    As a teenager listening to the machinations of the Cody Chamber of Commerce, I found myself feeling fortunate that the Shoshone National Forest was owned by the people of Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Wyoming, etc. God bless property rights!

    Laramie, Wyoming

    • Mike sullivan February 11, 2017 at 9:43 am #

      I totally agree with you. Too many people have rented our spaces for their own income for so long they believe they actually own them. Take the Bundys for instance, who squatted on OUR land without paying the rent. Ranchers and farmers who rent the land and abide by the contract are not the problem, the Cheney are the carpetbaggers.

      Mesquite , Nevada

  4. Leroy Stephenson February 8, 2017 at 7:55 am #

    Mrs Perry is making good on a campaign promise to hobble the Federal management of public lands in Wyoming and the West. She joins the ranks of other legislators that have never lived in the West but do not hesitate to tell us how we should live. There was a time when Wyoming did not bend to influence of forces from outside the state. It appears that we not only welcome that outside influence now but actually seek it out.

    Riverside, Wyoming

  5. Elaine Cummings February 7, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    We as citizens need to continue the multi-level fight agains the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Despite rumors to the contrary, THEY are not in charge but rather are employees of the citizens of this country. We pay them. We TELL them. — Amusing, in a sad sense, that in a grand collusion of a couple of years ago, Wyoming Cattlemens’ Assn. (or, whatever title it is they use) and BLM conspired to round up and ‘dispose’ of federally protected wild horses living, by federal law, on Wyoming’s rangelands. This ‘Dynamic Duo’ announced ahead of time that neither would prepare the pre-paperwork (required of both). Instead, they collectively thumbed their noses at accepted procedures. A law suit resulted, after the deed had been done, and … I am not certain … that it yet has been resolved. It sure sealed the fate of more wild horses; yet BLM is the agency within Interior that was assigned by 1971 LAW to “Protect and Manage the Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros of this Country.” Sally Jewell was/is a faux-scientist with resume in Big Oil and Banking, with no knowledge of wild horses, let alone land management, no respect for ‘paid-for-by-taxpayers’ scientific studies done by equine scientists to educate her ‘drug store cowboys’ at BLM; yet, because of her position, was required to review BLM. Neil Kornze, BLM head, was ‘groomed and placed’ (into his ‘presidentially appointed’ position) by his ex-boss, Sen. Harry Reid (NV). Reid’s verbalized intent always has been to ‘zero out’ every wild horse herd in the country. With that in mind, it was Reid who ‘inspired’ the illegally drafted BURNS Amendment, as a ‘favor’ to former Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar. The BURNS was hidden in a big budget bill, passed before discovery, sustained once discovered. Under those types of ‘direction,’ BLM has maintained a purposeful mis-management into extinction of wild horses. — Why is it that anyone wonders, then, about anything, re: BLM or Wyoming, let alone as a tag team? Wyoming touts eco-tours to see wild horses, has wild horses on its commemorative coin, and a famous bucking horse on its license plate. Wyoming is living the lie on horses … more of anything else should NOT a surprise. BLM by virtue of their assignment by the LAW of 1971 is in dereliction of duty under that law. Where is the U.S. Justice Dept. or the office of the Attorney General to enforce this law? — I have been involved in THIS subject since the late 1960s. How is it, then, that I am now 85 and we still see NO permanent good coming of that 1971 LAW … gained by the dogged efforts of thousands upon thousands of citizens banded together to produce the bill in Congress that became that law to gain freedom for the wild horses of our country? Our PUBLIC lands are being destroyed by BLM under the same guise of knowledge. They have none, so they employ falsehood.

    Tucson, AZ, Arizona

  6. Clint Rhodd February 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    BLM is A management corporation Registered on Puerto Rico
    All public land should be turned over to the state.
    Bureaucrat’s will say it would coat to much money and put lots of people out of work.

    1/2 of the people with BLM need to be fires anyway.

    The State and Ranchers can run public land .
    BLM sold $3 billion where did the money go it went to the Elite people in England.

    Clint Rhodd Cheyenne Wyoming

    Cheyenne, Wyoming

    • Ken Keierleber February 20, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

      You’ve been into the Koolaid again!

      Rock Springs, Wyoming

  7. Raven Wilder February 7, 2017 at 6:39 am #

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. – Ansel Adams

    Casper, Wyoming

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