Wyoming-based property rights attorney Karen Budd-Falen recently vowed that if she is confirmed to lead the Bureau of Land Management, she will “advocate for local government involvement,” criticizing an inside-the-Beltway mindset that she said currently pervades land-use planning.
Budd-Falen, who confirmed to E&E News last month that she is under consideration to become BLM’s next director, also endorsed the Trump administration’s push to reduce national monuments and questioned whether two Utah monuments were “lawful to designate” (Greenwire, Oct. 6).
The self-proclaimed “cowboy lawyer” made the remarks during a forum Saturday Nov. 18 in Hamilton, Mont., that was organized by Montana state Rep. Theresa Manzella (R).
The event, which focused on land-use planning in Ravalli County, also featured state Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R), who heads the American Lands Council, which promotes the transfer of federal lands to state ownership.
According to transcripts and audiotape of the event provided to E&E News by the Western Values Project, Budd-Falen addressed a variety of topics over several hours and answered audience questions.
“If I am confirmed, I am going to advocate for local government involvement like I’ve been talking about here,” Budd-Falen said in response to a question about how she would lead BLM if nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
A longtime critic of BLM who has challenged the agency over grazing regulations and endangered species protections, Budd-Falen added that she would not tell local governments to “violate the federal law” to achieve their goals.
“But I think we need to consider the local needs as we’re doing federal land policy and management decisions. I think that we need to make decisions that are closer to the ground,” Budd-Falen said.
In another response, when asked about the future of national monument creation, Budd-Falen similarly called for more involvement by city or county officials in federal planning.
“I think that local governments need to take these opportunities to be more involved. I think that too many decisions are coming out of Washington that aren’t considering people in Ravalli County or Sublette County or Laramie County [in Wyoming], or wherever it is you’re from,” she said. “I think there ought to be significantly more involvement.”
During her remarks, Budd-Falen also criticized what she sees as bureaucratic delays within BLM and said she would work to speed decisions on grazing and other issues at the agency.
“It’s my opinion that the wait is what’s the problem. The final decision, you make a final decision on property, and if I don’t like the final decision I can appeal it. … But just make the decision, and then we can go on from there,” said Budd-Falen, who spent three years at Interior during the Reagan administration.
National monuments legal?
Budd-Falen also endorsed legislation authored by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) that aims to overhaul the Antiquities Act of 1906, the law under which presidents can establish national monuments.
Bishop’s proposed bill, which could see a vote on the House floor early next year, would significantly curb existing presidential authority under the law by enacting limits on the size of new monuments, as well as requiring local and state approval for some sites (Greenwire, Nov. 2).
Budd-Falen said she agrees that the current law “was significantly abused,” echoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s criticism that many of the existing monuments, including Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, are too large.
“If you read the Antiquities Act, it says you are to designate the smallest area possible to protect the artifact you are trying to protect. I looked at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, surely that’s not the smallest area possible to protect these things,” Budd-Falen said. “So, I’m not convinced that those were even lawful to designate.”
During her remarks, Budd-Falen also criticized the Obama administration for what she called a push toward “single-use preferential management.”
“Personally, I am a huge supporter of multiple-use, and I think there is enough land and enough resources that you can have everything you need to have: I think you do oil and gas, I think you can do grazing, I think you can cut timber,” Budd-Falen said. “I think there is absolutely enough room if you, if in your heart what you want is multiple use of the public lands. And I think that’s the direction we need to go.”
Western Values Project Director Chris Saeger criticized Budd-Falen’s view of federal lands, including her description of national parks and wilderness areas as “single-use” properties.
“The fact that Ms. Budd-Falen apparently believes land is public only if a handful of people can profit from it tells you all you need to know about how radical her approach to leading the BLM would be,” Saeger said.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2017. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.