[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 238 (Monday, December 12, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 89580-89671]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-28724]



[[Page 89579]]

Vol. 81

Monday,

No. 238

December 12, 2016

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Bureau of Land Management





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43 CFR Part 1600





Resource Management Planning; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 81 , No. 238 / Monday, December 12, 2016 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

43 CFR Part 1600

[Docket ID: BLM-2016-0002; LLWO210000.17X.L16100000.PN0000]
RIN 1004-AE39


Resource Management Planning

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is amending its 
regulations that establish the procedures used to prepare, revise, or 
amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act (FLPMA). The final rule affirms the important role of other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, Indian tribes, and the public 
during the planning process and enhances opportunities for public 
involvement and transparency during the preparation of resource 
management plans. The final rule will enable the BLM to more readily 
address resource issues at a variety of scales, such as wildfire, 
wildlife habitat, appropriate development, or the demand for renewable 
and non-renewable energy sources, and to respond more effectively to 
change. The final rule emphasizes the role of using high quality 
information, including the best available scientific information, in 
the planning process; and the importance of evaluating the resource, 
environmental, ecological, social, and economic conditions at the onset 
of planning. Finally, the final rule makes revisions to clarify 
existing text and to improve the readability of the planning 
regulations.

DATES:  This final rule is effective on January 11, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Leah Baker, Division Chief for 
Decision Support, Planning and NEPA, at 202-912-7282, for information 
relating to the BLM's national planning program or the substance of 
this proposed rule. For information on procedural matters or the 
rulemaking process, you may contact Charles Yudson, Management Analyst 
for the Office of Regulatory Affairs, at 202-912-7437. Persons who use 
a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339, to contact these individuals. You will 
receive a reply during normal business hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Land use planning forms the basis of, and is essential to, 
everything that the Bureau of Land Management does in caring for 
America's public lands. Congress has directed that these lands be 
managed for multiple use and sustained yield, and has required the BLM 
to do that through land use planning with public involvement. It has 
been over thirty years since the BLM last issued regulations to 
implement this important mission.
    Concerns have been raised for some time by State and local 
governments, resource users, and others, that the planning process has 
become too slow and too unresponsive to the public. This final rule is 
the result of a multi-year effort to address those concerns and to 
implement best practices developed over time. It ensures that the 
process going forward will maximize transparency and public 
involvement, honor the partnership with other governmental entities, be 
more efficient, based on best available information, and adaptable to 
changing conditions.

Background

    The BLM manages ten percent of the land in the United States and 30 
percent of the nation's minerals. Under the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1712, the BLM is required to develop 
land use plans in partnership with State, local, and tribal 
governments, as well as the public, to manage these diverse public 
lands and resources in accordance with the BLM's multiple-use and 
sustained yield mission. BLM land use plans, called ``resource 
management plans,'' establish goals and objectives to guide future land 
and resource management actions implemented by the BLM.
    Pressures are increasing on BLM-administered lands and land 
managers to better balance often competing and increasingly conflicting 
uses of the public lands. The BLM and its stakeholders, including State 
and local governments, are experiencing an increased number of 
practical challenges, including unexpected delays, higher expenses, and 
expanded legal challenges in managing these lands. Resource issues, 
such as invasive species, wildfire, energy production and transmission, 
and wildlife conservation, cross traditional administrative and 
jurisdictional boundaries, making current planning less efficient and 
more costly to implement.
    State, local, and tribal government officials and representatives 
of diverse stakeholder groups have expressed concern about the current 
process, stating that they often feel disconnected from the BLM's 
resource management planning process. The process has been described as 
one characterized by long waiting periods punctuated by short periods 
in which stakeholders have to digest and respond to large volumes of 
information. This can be exacerbated by the need to supplement draft 
plans that have been in progress for years when new issues are 
identified or additional information is required late in the planning 
process. Delays in BLM planning efforts increasingly consume BLM staff 
capacity and resources that could otherwise be spent addressing 
critical resource management priorities. They also cause frustration 
among stakeholders and partners who depend on the BLM's ability to 
develop and implement resource management plans and management 
decisions in a timely manner.
    The BLM began work towards this rule in May 2014 through a range of 
outreach efforts seeking public input into how the land use planning 
process could be improved. At that time, the BLM developed a Web site 
for the initiative (www.blm.gov/plan2) and issued a national press 
release with information on how to provide input to the agency. The BLM 
held two facilitated public listening sessions that were available 
through a live broadcast of the event over the Internet (livestream) in 
the fall of 2014. The BLM also conducted external outreach to partners 
and internal inquiry to staff. The Planning 2.0 Public Input Summary 
Report, issued in 2015, summarizes written comments received through 
these processes from over 6,000 groups and individuals. The agency also 
conducted extensive outreach to State, local, and tribal governments, 
along with various Federal Advisory Committee Act-chartered Resource 
Advisory Councils (RACs). In developing the proposed rule, the BLM 
considered the information received during this initial outreach 
initiative and worked to find an appropriate balance between different 
needs and perspectives.
    The proposed rule was published on February 25, 2016 (81 FR 9674) 
and was available for public comment for over 100 days, including a 90 
day formal comment period, after requests for extensions were granted. 
During that time the BLM hosted a variety of public outreach events and 
briefings for a wide range of interested parties and conducted 
government-to-government consultation with all federally recognized 
Indian tribes with which the Bureau normally consults regarding land 
use planning.

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    The BLM received 3,354 public comments on the proposed rule, which 
are available for viewing on the Federal e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov) by entering Docket ID: BLM-2016-0002 in the 
``Search'' bar.

Overview of the Final Rule

    The final rule reflects this outreach effort, including careful 
consideration of the many comments and recommendations received since 
the publication of the proposed rule. The final rule does not radically 
change the existing process, but rather improves that process based on 
public input and knowledge gained from best practices developed over 
many years.
    First, the final rule responds to concerns that, at times, the 
process can be cumbersome, slow to complete, and not adequately 
transparent or responsive to State, local, tribal or general public 
input. These concerns are addressed by increasing public access at 
earlier stages in the process, including public input on the scope of 
the resource management plan. The unique partnerships between States, 
local governments and Indian tribes are honored and enhanced. The new 
requirement for upfront information-gathering and public involvement 
should strengthen the planning process by better reflecting resource 
conditions, issues, and concerns within the planning area. Gathering 
this information up front should help reduce the need for 
supplementation later in the planning process, which is often the cause 
for long delays under the current rule, leading to added cost and 
concern that the resulting decisions are no longer relevant.
    The final rule makes resource management plans better able to deal 
with modern pressures on the public lands and to adapt to changes to 
conditions on the land. This will be done in part by gathering high 
quality information, including the best available scientific 
information, from all relevant sources to inform land management, and 
by retaining flexibility to plan at the appropriate scale to deal with 
changing resource issues.
    The final rule revises two subparts of the existing regulations, 43 
CFR subparts 1601 (Planning) and 1610 (Resource Management Planning). 
Changes in subpart 1601 clarify certain aspects of the general purpose, 
objective, responsibilities, definitions, and principles sections. 
Subpart 1610 describes the general framework for resource management 
planning. In this subpart, the final rule creates new opportunities for 
public involvement earlier in the planning process, including during a 
``planning assessment'' to determine baseline conditions before 
initiating the preparation of a resource management plan. The final 
rule fully aligns with FLPMA and the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) and clarifies the provisions for the special relationship and 
involvement of cooperating agencies, coordination with other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments and Indian tribes, and 
consistency with other plans; establishes a requirement to initiate 
tribal consultation during the preparation and amendment of resource 
management plans; establishes a requirement for the use of ``high 
quality information''; clarifies existing flexibility to determine the 
scope of the planning areas to reflect the realities of resource 
management on the ground; updates plan approval, protest, and 
implementation procedures; affirms the statutory requirements for 
designation and protection of areas of critical environmental concern 
(ACECs); and makes other clarifying edits. These revisions are 
described in detail in the section-by-section discussion of this 
preamble, and are briefly summarized below. In both subparts, the final 
rule also makes non-substantive changes to improve readability and 
understanding of the planning regulations.

Public Involvement

    The final rule provides several new opportunities for public 
involvement early in the planning process. During the planning 
assessment interested participants will be able to submit data and 
other information, such as existing resource-related plans or 
strategies, and the BLM will work with governmental partners, 
stakeholders, and the public to better understand public views in 
relation to the resource management plan and the preliminary planning 
area. At a slightly later stage, the BLM will make preliminary resource 
management alternatives and their rationale, as well as the procedures, 
assumptions, and indicators for the effects analysis, available for 
public review. This will enable the public to raise any concerns before 
the BLM begins analyzing the effects of alternatives and preparing a 
draft resource management plan. We believe these new steps will improve 
the effectiveness and timeliness of land use plans, improve the ability 
of the BLM to work with other Federal agencies, State, local, and 
tribal governments and others concerned about issues in a given 
planning area to develop a resource management plan that is responsive 
to the issues, and reduce the need for supplemental analyses and data 
gathering, as concerns and potential conflicts will be more likely to 
surface earlier in the planning process.
    The final rule also restructures the public involvement provisions 
to clarify where in the land use planning process the BLM will provide 
for public notice, public review, or public comment, and establishes 
new requirements for notification and availability of documents. The 
final rule lengthens the public comment period on draft resource 
management plans from 90 to 100 days while reducing the comment period 
for draft EIS-level amendments from 90 to 60 days, to reflect the fact 
that draft resource management plans tend to be larger in scope than 
amendments. The final rule also changes the requirements for selecting 
a preferred alternative to align more closely with the requirements of 
the Department of the Interior (DOI) NEPA implementation regulations.

Special Relationship With Indian Tribes and Other Governmental Entities

    The final rule reflects the importance of government-to-government 
consultation with Indian tribes during resource management planning by 
establishing a new regulatory requirement for the BLM to initiate 
consultation during the preparation and amendment of resource 
management plans. The final rule also clarifies and affirms existing 
provisions regarding the special partnership with cooperating agencies; 
the coordination of planning efforts with other Federal agencies, and 
State, tribal and local governments; and the efforts to maximize 
consistency with other governmental plans.
    Specifically, the final rule retains current provisions regarding 
participation by eligible governmental entities in the special status 
of ``cooperating agency'' in the planning process. Cooperating agencies 
are provided the opportunity to work closely with the BLM throughout 
the planning process to identify issues that should be addressed, 
collect or analyze data, develop or evaluate alternatives, and review 
preliminary documents not otherwise publicly available. This unique 
partnership is available by statute only to governmental entities, and 
helps the BLM develop a land use plan that is responsive to the needs 
and concerns of local communities.
    In addition, the final rule reiterates and confirms current 
practice that the BLM will coordinate with all governmental entities, 
consistent with FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)), to assure that the BLM 
considers their plans,

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policies, and management programs that are germane in the development 
of resource management plans. It also confirms the existing important 
practice, as required by FLPMA, of working to minimize and resolve 
inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal government plans.

Planning Assessment

    The final rule establishes a new upfront planning assessment which 
will be prepared prior to initiating resource management plans, as well 
as generally for plan amendments for which an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) will be prepared (EIS-level amendments). This step will 
provide an opportunity for the BLM, State, tribal, and local 
governments, stakeholders, and the public to work together to better 
understand the existing conditions in the planning area, and is likely 
to surface issues and concerns that will help inform the types of data 
and information necessary to the planning process.
    During this step, the BLM will invite eligible State, tribal, and 
local government entities to participate as cooperating agencies and 
will coordinate with them regarding inventory of the public lands and 
alignment with their resource-related plans, policies, and management 
programs. Gathering relevant data and information is an important part 
of the assessment and will improve understanding of key resource issues 
and conditions and other issues in the planning area. The results of 
the planning assessment will be summarized in a report made available 
to other Federal agencies, State, local and tribal governments, 
stakeholders, and the public, as will as much of the geospatial 
information as possible.

Planning Framework

    The final rule will focus resource management plans on the 
achievement of desired outcomes and specific resource conditions. Under 
the final rule, the BLM will use high quality information of various 
types and sources, including the best available scientific information, 
to identify desired characteristics within the planning area (i.e., the 
goals) and specific and measurable resource conditions which guide 
progress toward the achievement of goals (i.e., the objectives). By 
identifying these clear targets for management, the BLM will more 
readily be able to apply adaptive management principles and respond to 
change over time.
    In addition to the goals and objectives, the final rule identifies 
other plan components which provide planning level management 
direction. These include designations, which highlight priority 
resource values and resource uses; resource use determinations, which 
identify allowances, exclusions, and restrictions to use; monitoring 
and evaluation standards, which provide a feedback mechanism during 
plan implementation; and, where appropriate, lands identified as 
available for disposal from BLM administration. These plan components 
may only be changed through a plan amendment, except to correct a 
typographical or mapping error, or to reflect minor changes in mapping 
or data.

Plan Boundaries and Responsibilities

    The final rule reflects a flexible process for the BLM to 
collaborate with other Federal agencies, State, tribal, and local 
governments, stakeholders, and the public to identify the geographic 
area to be considered in the resource management plan, so as to best 
address all relevant resource issues. Under the final rule, the BLM 
will work with all interested parties to identify a preliminary 
planning area, taking into consideration any management concerns, 
including those identified through monitoring and evaluation; relevant 
landscapes based on these management concerns; resource-related plans 
of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian 
tribes; and any other relevant information. Other Federal agencies, 
State, tribal, and local governments, stakeholders, and the public will 
be provided an opportunity to review and provide input on the 
preliminary planning area, before it is formalized in a notice of 
intent (NOI).
    When a preliminary planning area does not cross State boundaries, 
which is likely to be the more common situation, the State Director 
will typically be the deciding official in finalizing the plan. If a 
planning area does cross State boundaries, the BLM Director will select 
the appropriate deciding official, usually from among the State 
Directors involved, and determine the final planning area. In all 
situations, the deciding official will select the appropriate 
responsible official for preparing the resource management plan or plan 
amendment.

Protests

    The final rule revises the protest procedures to provide more 
detailed information on what constitutes a valid protest issue. In 
addition, the rule provides an opportunity for the public to submit 
protests electronically through methods specified for each resource 
management plan or plan amendment, and clarifies that proposed resource 
management plans (including plan revisions) and plan amendments are 
subject to protest.
    As a general matter, the final rule clarifies that the focus of a 
protest is to identify and remedy inconsistency with Federal laws and 
regulations or the purposes, policies, and programs implementing such 
laws and regulations. It provides that a party that previously 
participated in the preparation of a plan or plan amendment may file a 
protest to identify why a plan component is believed to be inconsistent 
with Federal laws or regulations applicable to public lands, or the 
purposes, policies and programs implementing such laws and regulations 
before the final decision to approve the plan.

Transition From the Existing Planning Process

    The final rule addresses the transition from the existing planning 
regulations to those that result from this final rule. For any ongoing 
resource management planning efforts that were formally initiated prior 
to the effective date of this final rule, the planners may choose to 
complete the planning process using either the existing regulations or 
these final regulations. This ensures that the ongoing resources 
already invested in the planning process by other Federal agencies, 
State, tribal and local governments, stakeholders, the public, and the 
BLM will be maintained and respected. The final rule is effective on 
January 11, 2017.

I. Background

    The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of land, the most of 
any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public 
Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The 
BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate 
throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the 
public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future 
generations under the mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In 
Fiscal Year 2015, $88 billion in economic output was generated from 
activities associated with BLM-managed lands.\1\
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    \1\ U.S. Department of the Interior Economic Report FY 2015. 
https://www.doi.gov/ppa/economic_analysis.

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Statutory and Regulatory Authority

    The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as 
amended, is the BLM ``organic act'' that establishes the agency's 
mission to manage the public lands on the basis of multiple-use and 
sustained yield, unless otherwise specified by law. Through FLPMA, the 
BLM is directed to manage the public lands in a manner which recognizes 
the nation's need for natural resources from the public lands, provides 
for outdoor recreation and other human uses, provides habitat for fish 
and wildlife, preserves and protects certain public lands in their 
natural condition, and protects the quality of scientific, scenic, 
historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water 
resource, and archeological values. The BLM develops goals and 
objectives to guide management through the land use planning process 
under section 202 of FLPMA.
    Section 202(a) of FLPMA requires the Secretary of the Interior, 
with public involvement, to ``develop, maintain, and, when appropriate, 
revise land use plans which provide by tracts or areas for the use of 
the public lands.'' Section 202(c) of FLPMA provides that the 
Secretary, in developing and revising land use plans, shall: Use and 
observe the principles of multiple use and sustained yield; use an 
interdisciplinary approach to achieve integrated consideration of 
physical, biological, economic, and other sciences; give priority to 
the designation and protection of ACECs; use the inventory of public 
lands, resources and other values, to the extent it is available; 
consider both present and potential uses of public lands; consider the 
relative scarcity of values; weigh long-term benefits against short 
term benefits; provide for compliance with applicable pollution control 
laws; and coordinate with other Federal departments and agencies, 
Indian tribes, and States and local governments.
    Section 202(f) of FLPMA provides that the Secretary shall provide 
for public involvement and establish procedures by regulation ``to give 
Federal, State, and local governments and the public, adequate notice 
and opportunity to comment upon and participate in the formulation of 
plans and programs relating to the management of the public lands.'' 
Under FLPMA, the Secretary administers the public lands through the 
BLM.
    The BLM issued regulations establishing a land use planning system 
for BLM-managed public lands, as prescribed in FLPMA, in 1979 (44 FR 
46386). These regulations established the term ``resource management 
plan'' (RMP) for the land use plans mandated by FLPMA, to replace the 
then-existing ``management framework plans.'' The BLM revised these 
regulations in 1983 to clarify the planning process and ``eliminate 
burdensome, outdated, and unneeded provisions'' (48 FR 20364). These 
regulations were amended again in 2005 (70 FR 14561) to make clear the 
role of cooperating agencies in the land use planning process and to 
emphasize the importance of working with Federal and State agencies and 
local and tribal governments through cooperating agency relationships 
in developing, amending, and revising the BLM's resource management 
plans.

The BLM's Existing Land Use Planning Process

    The BLM planning process is a collaborative process, which involves 
Federal agencies, Indian tribes, State and local governments, and the 
public at various steps, while retaining decision-making authority 
within the BLM. Throughout the planning process, the BLM coordinates 
with other Federal agencies, Indian tribes, and State and local 
governments to ensure that BLM considers non-BLM government plans that 
are germane in the development of resource management plans and assist 
in resolving, to the extent practical, inconsistencies between Federal 
and non-Federal government plans. In addition, government entities that 
have either relevant jurisdiction by law or special expertise are 
invited to participate as cooperating agencies. Cooperating agencies 
work with the BLM during the planning process to identify issues that 
should be addressed, to collect and analyze data, develop and evaluate 
alternatives, and review preliminary documents.
    Traditionally, resource management plans are generally established 
based on a BLM field office or district office boundary and prepared by 
an interdisciplinary team under the direction of a BLM field or 
district manager. Generally, the BLM State Directors provide oversight 
and guidance to the field or district managers and the BLM State 
Directors approve the resource management plan. The BLM Director 
provides high-level guidance and renders a decision on any public 
protests of the proposed plan, and, when necessary, inconsistencies 
with State and local plans that are raised by a Governor through a 
consistency review process. The Secretary of the Interior, the 
Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, the BLM Director, 
or other BLM officials may provide oversight and approval for resource 
management plans of national importance.
    As outlined in 43 CFR subparts 1601 and 1610, the steps of the 
planning process are fully integrated with the requirements of NEPA.\2\ 
The planning process begins with public notice and formal invitation 
for the public to assist the BLM in the identification of planning 
issues, concurrent and integrated with the NEPA scoping process. 
Planning issues are defined in the current BLM Land Use Planning 
Handbook (H-1601-1) as ``disputes or controversies about existing and 
potential land and resource allocations, levels of resource use, 
production, and related management practices.''
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    \2\ Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA implementing 
regulations require Federal agencies, ``to the fullest extent 
possible,'' to ``[i]ntegrate the requirements of NEPA with other 
planning and environmental review procedures required by law or by 
agency practice so that all such procedures run concurrently rather 
than consecutively'' 40 CFR 1500.2(c).
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    Next, the BLM develops criteria to guide the development of the 
resource management plan. The planning criteria are intended to ensure 
that the resource management plan is tailored to the planning issues 
and that the BLM avoids unnecessary data collection and analyses. The 
BLM summarizes the planning issues and planning criteria in a scoping 
report, which is made available to the public. The BLM continues to 
refine the planning issues and the planning criteria throughout the 
development of the draft resource management plan.
    To aid in the planning process, the BLM arranges for the collection 
or assembly of data and information, which are then analyzed to 
determine the ability of the resources to respond to the planning 
issues as well as any management opportunities. The resulting 
``analysis of the management situation'' provides the basis for the 
BLM's development of a range of reasonable alternatives and analysis of 
the environmental impacts of these alternatives, as required by NEPA. 
The BLM presents the range of alternatives in a single integrated draft 
resource management plan and draft EIS and identifies its preferred 
alternative. The BLM then makes the draft resource management plan and 
draft EIS available to the public for a minimum 90-day comment period. 
At the close of this period, the BLM evaluates the comments received 
and prepares a proposed resource management plan and final EIS, 
including responses to any substantive public comments

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received on the draft resource management plan and draft EIS.
    The BLM provides the proposed resource management plan and final 
EIS to the Governor(s) of any State(s) the plan falls within for a 60-
day consistency review period and identifies any known inconsistences 
between State and local plans and the proposed resource management 
plan. During this period, the Governor may identify any additional 
inconsistencies and recommendations to remedy inconsistencies. This 
step, in addition to the ongoing coordination with State and local 
governments, supports implementation of the FLPMA requirement that the 
BLM keep apprised of State, local, and tribal land use plans and assist 
in resolving, to the extent practical and consistent with Federal law, 
inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal government plans (see 
43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). Concurrent with the Governor's consistency 
review, the BLM provides a 30-day period during which members of the 
public who have an interest that may be adversely affected by the 
approval of the proposed resource management plan and who participated 
in the planning process may protest approval of the proposed resource 
management plan. The BLM Director renders a decision on any protest, 
which serves as the final decision of the DOI and is not subject to an 
administrative appeal.
    Following approval of the resource management plan, the BLM 
conducts monitoring and evaluation at intervals established in the plan 
to assess the need for maintenance, revision, or amendment of the plan. 
Maintenance is provided as needed to reflect minor changes in data. An 
amendment or plan revision is initiated in response to monitoring and 
evaluation findings, new data, new or revised policy, a change in 
circumstances, or a proposed action that would not be in conformance 
with the approved resource management plan. The BLM undertakes a 
resource management plan revision when monitoring and evaluation 
findings, new data, new or revised policy, or changes in circumstances 
affect the entire plan or major portions of the plan.
    The final rule includes this general process for developing, 
revising, amending, and maintaining a resource management plan, as 
described, while making specific changes to improve the process in a 
number of ways.

Why the BLM Is Revising the Land Use Planning Process

    The final rule responds to needs identified by the BLM, State, 
local and tribal governments, the public, and related Presidential and 
Secretarial direction. In 2011, the BLM released a strategic plan 
titled ``Winning the Challenges of the Future: A Roadmap for Success in 
2016'' (the Roadmap). This document highlighted the increasing 
challenges the BLM faces in managing for multiple-use and sustained 
yield on the public lands. Population growth and urbanization in the 
West, a diversifying portfolio of use activities, demand for renewable 
and non-renewable energy sources, and the proliferation of landscape-
scale environmental change agents such as climate change, wildfire, and 
invasive species create challenges that require the BLM to develop new 
strategies and approaches to effectively manage the public lands. 
Simultaneously, the rapid acceleration in technologies such as the 
Internet, telecommunications, and analytical tools, including 
geospatial tools, have brought new opportunities to improve the land 
use planning process. Given the foundational nature of land use 
planning, a process that establishes direction for future management 
activities on the public lands, the Roadmap recognized the need for the 
BLM's resource management plans to address these challenges and respond 
to emerging opportunities. The Roadmap also recognized the importance 
of an efficient planning process, one that can effectively integrate 
new information and new technologies as they become available in order 
to keep resource management attuned to changing conditions on the 
ground and newly available information.
    Specifically, the Roadmap set the following goal for the BLM to 
accomplish by the year 2016: ``Adopt a proactive and nimble approach to 
planning that allows us to work collaboratively with partners at 
different scales to produce highly useful decisions that adapt to the 
rapidly changing environment and conditions'' (page 10). Following the 
publication of the Roadmap, the BLM chartered a team of BLM managers 
and planning staff to assess the current status of the BLM's resource 
management plans and develop recommendations to improve the process for 
developing resource management plans. The final rule, in part, 
implements the recommendations for achieving the goals set forth in the 
Roadmap.

Related Executive and Secretarial Direction

    In addition, the final rule responds to and advances direction set 
forth in several Executive or Secretarial Orders and related policies 
and strategies. This direction demonstrates an increasing emphasis 
within the DOI, and the Federal Government, on the use of landscape-
scale, science-based, collaborative approaches to natural resource 
management. Recent Presidential and Secretarial direction provided to 
DOI bureaus and agencies emphasize the importance of this approach for 
resource management planning.
    Effective collaboration is a central theme in recent Presidential 
and Secretarial directives, beginning with the President's 2009 Open 
Government Directive (M-10-06). This directive describes the three 
principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration as the 
cornerstone of an open government by promoting accountability to the 
public, sharing of information, and partnerships and cooperation within 
the Federal Government, across all levels of government, and between 
the government and private institutions. In 2012, the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) and the CEQ issued the ``Memorandum on 
Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution.'' This memorandum 
directs Federal departments and agencies to ensure they effectively 
explore opportunities for up-front collaboration in their planning and 
decision-making processes to address different perspectives and 
potential conflicts and thereby promote improved outcomes, including 
fewer appeals and less litigation.
    Multiple directives related to climate change also emphasize the 
importance of collaboration, science, adaptive management, and the need 
for landscape-scale approaches to resource management. ``Secretarial 
Order 3289--Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on America's 
Water, Land, and Other Natural and Cultural Resources,'' issued on 
September 14, 2009, and amended on February 22, 2010, directs DOI 
bureaus and agencies to work together, with other Federal, State, 
tribal and local governments, and with private landowners, to develop 
landscape-level strategies for understanding and responding to climate 
change impacts. The Departmental Manual chapter on climate change 
policy (523 DM 1), issued on December 20, 2012, similarly directs DOI 
bureaus and agencies to ``promote landscape-scale, ecosystem-based 
management approaches to enhance the resilience and sustainability of 
linked human and natural systems.'' ``The Department of the Interior 
Climate Change Adaptation Plan for 2014'' (Climate Change Adaptation 
Plan), provides guidance for implementing 523 DM 1 and ``Executive

[[Page 89585]]

Order No. 13653--Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate 
Change'' (78 FR 66819). The Climate Change Adaptation Plan directs the 
DOI bureaus and agencies to strengthen existing landscape level 
planning efforts; use well-defined and established approaches for 
managing through uncertainty, such as adaptive management; and maintain 
key ecosystem services, among other important directives. This plan 
also identifies several guiding principles, including the use of the 
best available social, physical, and natural science to increase 
understanding of climate change impacts and active coordination and 
collaboration with stakeholders.
    Likewise, recent directives associated with renewable energy 
development and mitigation practices emphasize the importance of a 
collaborative, landscape-scale approach. ``Secretarial Order 3285--
Renewable Energy Development by the Department of the Interior,'' 
issued on March 11, 2009, and amended on February 22, 2010, identified 
renewable energy production, development, and delivery as one of the 
Department's highest priorities and called on bureaus and agencies to 
carry out this priority by collaborating with one another and with 
governmental and tribal partners, local communities, and private 
landowners. In particular, this Order highlighted the need to identify 
and prioritize specific locations that are well-suited to large-scale 
renewable energy production as well as the electric transmission 
infrastructure and transmission corridors needed to deliver the energy 
produced.
    A landscape-scale approach to planning is integral to effectively 
managing the public lands consistent with the BLM's multiple use and 
sustained yield mission. ``Secretarial Order 3330--Improving Mitigation 
Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior,'' issued on 
October 31, 2013, called for the development of a DOI-wide mitigation 
strategy, which will use a landscape-scale approach to identify and 
facilitate investments in key conservation priorities in a region. The 
April 2014 report, ``A Strategy for Improving the Mitigation Policies 
and Practices of the Department of the Interior,'' provides direction 
to implement such an approach. The Departmental Manual was revised in 
October 2015, to include direction to all bureaus and agencies for 
implementation of this approach to resource management (600 DM 6).
    The Presidential Memorandum ``Mitigating Impacts on Natural 
Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private 
Investment,'' issued in November 2015, affirmed the importance of 
applying a landscape-scale approach by directing agencies that 
``[l]arge-scale plans and analysis should inform the identification of 
areas where development may be most appropriate, where high natural 
resource values result in the best locations for protection and 
restoration, or where natural resource values are irreplaceable'' (80 
FR 68743).
    Finally, ``Secretarial Order 3336--Rangeland Fire Prevention, 
Management and Restoration,'' issued on January 5, 2015, directs DOI 
bureaus and agencies to use landscape-scale approaches to address fire 
prevention, management, and restoration in the Great Basin; and to 
establish protocols for monitoring the effectiveness of fuels 
management, post-fire activities, and long-term restoration treatments 
and a strategy for adaptive management to modify management practices 
or improve land treatments when necessary.
    Collectively, these directives emphasize the importance of 
landscape-scale, science-based management, including active 
coordination and collaboration with partners and stakeholders. The BLM 
believes that changes to the resource management planning process 
included in this rule will assist in effectively implementing these 
directives.

The Planning 2.0 Initiative

    Together, the Roadmap and the recent policy and strategic direction 
described in this preamble informed the BLM's decision to revise its 
resource management planning process. The BLM's Planning 2.0 initiative 
responds to this opportunity. Through Planning 2.0, the BLM seeks to 
improve the resource management planning process, including the 
development, amendment, and maintenance of resource management plans. 
The BLM has developed three targeted goals to guide the Planning 2.0 
initiative:
    Goal 1: Improve the BLM's ability to respond to change in a timely 
manner. This goal addresses the need for land use plans that support 
effective management when faced with environmental uncertainty, 
incomplete information, or changing resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, or economic conditions. It is imperative that 
resource management plans provide clear management direction to guide 
future management activities on the public lands, while facilitating 
the use of adaptive, science-based approaches to respond to change when 
necessary and appropriate. Encompassed in this goal is the need for an 
efficient planning process so that changes to a resource management 
plan, when needed, are timely and responsive to the relevant issues.\3\
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    \3\ An efficient land use planning process under FLPMA advances 
direction in CEQ NEPA regulations and guidance for seeking 
efficiencies in the NEPA process. See, e.g., 40 CFR 1500.2(b) and 
(c) and 1500.5; Memorandum for Heads of Federal Departments and 
Agencies from Nancy H. Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental 
Quality, ``Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely 
Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act'' 
(Mar. 6, 2012), https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/improving_nepa_efficiencies_06mar2012.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Goal 2: Provide meaningful opportunities for other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, Indian tribes, and the public to 
be involved in the development of BLM resource management plans. This 
goal highlights the importance of meaningful public involvement in the 
planning process to reduce conflict and disputes over public lands 
management and develop durable resource management plans. Through the 
Planning 2.0 initiative, the BLM seeks to establish earlier and more 
frequent opportunities for public involvement in the planning process 
and to provide for effective coordination with other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes. At the same time, 
Planning 2.0 affirms the BLM's commitments to collaborating with 
cooperating agencies and working with RACs throughout the planning 
process (see existing Sec.  1610.3-1(g)).
    Goal 3: Improve the BLM's ability to apply landscape-scale 
approaches to resource management. This goal addresses the need for 
landscape-scale approaches to resource management in order to 
effectively manage public lands on the basis of multiple use and 
sustained yield and to address resource issues which occur at a range 
of geographic scales. A landscape-scale approach is a structured and 
analytical process that guides resource management decisions at 
multiple geographic scales in order to consider multiple overlapping 
landscapes and to achieve multiple social, environmental, and economic 
goals. The BLM manages a diverse range of natural resources, which 
occur at an equally diverse range of geographic scales, and 
collaborates with a diversity of partners, stakeholders and 
communities, who work at different scales. For these reasons, the BLM 
planning process must be able to consider issues and opportunities at 
multiple scales and across traditional management boundaries.
    To achieve these three goals, the BLM is amending specific 
provisions of the land use planning regulations (43 CFR

[[Page 89586]]

part 1600). These regulatory revisions are the subject of this final 
rule. Separately, the BLM also is revising the Land Use Planning 
Handbook to provide detailed guidance to implement these regulations. 
We have taken a coordinated approach to ensure that these two efforts 
mutually support achieving Planning 2.0 goals and provide consistent 
requirements and guidance for developing and amending resource 
management plans.

Related BLM Initiatives

    In recent years, the BLM has taken several steps toward the goals 
identified in the ``Related Executive and Secretarial Direction'' 
section of this preamble, including tools to aid science-based 
decision-making; landscape-scale approaches to resource management; the 
use of adaptive management techniques to manage for uncertainty; and 
active coordination and collaboration with partners and stakeholders. 
These steps include crafting new policies and strategies and 
introducing innovative data and information technology tools. The 
Planning 2.0 initiative supports the implementation of these other 
important BLM efforts and is mutually supported by these other efforts. 
Here we describe several other BLM efforts and how they relate to the 
goals of Planning 2.0, even though they are beyond the scope of this 
rulemaking.
    In partnership with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) 
and other Federal agencies, the BLM has worked to develop Rapid 
Ecoregional Assessments (REAs) in the western United States.\4\ Each 
REA synthesizes the best available information about resource 
conditions and trends within an ecoregion and highlights areas of high 
ecological value, as well as areas that have high energy development 
potential and relatively low ecological value, which could be well-
suited for siting future energy development. In addition, REAs 
establish landscape-scale baseline ecological data to help gauge the 
effect and effectiveness of future management activities. The REAs are 
an important step in support of adaptive, landscape-scale management 
approaches,\5\ and they provide necessary data and information to 
support the Planning 2.0 goal to apply landscape-scale approaches to 
resource management.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ The LCCs are a network of 22 public-private partnerships 
launched under Secretarial Order 3289 to improve the integration of 
science and management to address climate change and other 
landscape-scale issues. See http://lccnetwork.org/about. Information 
about the REAs is available at: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/Landscape_Approach/reas.html.
    \5\ See BLM Information Bulletin No. 2012-058, ``The Bureau of 
Land Management's Landscape Approach for Managing the Public Lands'' 
(Apr. 3, 2012), http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_information/2012/IB_2012-058.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 2013, the BLM issued the ``Draft--Regional Mitigation Manual 
Section (MS)--1794'' as interim guidance, which promotes consideration 
of mitigation within a broader regional context and development of 
mitigation strategies. Mitigation strategies identify, evaluate, and 
communicate potential mitigation needs and mitigation measures in a 
geographic area. Under this draft guidance, the BLM has worked 
collaboratively with partners to develop regional mitigation strategies 
in several key areas while also developing guidance consistent with 
Secretarial Order 3330. This guidance, which provides for a landscape-
scale approach to mitigation, is consistent with the Planning 2.0 goal 
to apply landscape-scale approaches to resource management. The 
Planning 2.0 initiative will support effective implementation of the 
regional mitigation policy by ensuring that resource management plans, 
like mitigation, are grounded in sound science, applied at a broader 
regional context, and that the mitigation hierarchy process is applied 
in the development and implementation of a resource management plan.
    The BLM is implementing its ``Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring 
(AIM) Strategy'' (2011), which was developed to standardize data 
collection and retrieval so information is comparable over time and can 
be readily accessed and shared. The AIM Strategy provides a process for 
the BLM to collect quantitative information on the status, condition, 
trend, amount, location, and spatial pattern of renewable resources on 
the nation's public lands. The BLM strategy, ``Advancing Science in the 
BLM: An Implementation Strategy'' (2015), outlines goals and an action 
plan for integrating science into multiple-use land management 
decisions in a consistent manner. Both strategies improve the BLM's 
ability to employ science-based decision-making and apply adaptive 
management techniques using standardized monitoring data that can be 
analyzed and applied at multiple geographic scales. These steps are 
important to achieving the Planning 2.0 goals.
    In addition, the BLM is implementing its ``Geospatial Services 
Strategic Plan'' (GSSP) (2008), which is providing the high-quality 
mapping products needed to develop and support adaptive, landscape-
scale approaches to resource management. The GSSP establishes a 
governance model for the management of BLM's geospatial information and 
institutes a structure to coordinate the use of geospatial technology 
within the BLM. The GSSP also addresses data management, data 
acquisitions, data standards, and the establishment of corporate data 
themes. Geospatial transformation is important for achieving all three 
Planning 2.0 goals. In addition to supporting science-based, landscape-
scale, adaptive approaches to resource management, advances in 
geospatial technology support the use of new and innovative methods for 
public involvement. For example, the development and deployment of 
BLM's ePlanning platform, an online national register for land use 
planning and NEPA documents, provides a dynamic and interactive link 
between text, such as land use plans, and the supporting geospatial 
data. The ePlanning platform enables the BLM to make documents and maps 
available to the public via the Internet for review and comment and 
provides a searchable register for NEPA and land use planning 
projects.\6\ The BLM is transitioning to the ePlanning platform for all 
land use planning and NEPA documents and expects that ePlanning will be 
deployed for all resource management plans throughout the BLM by 2017.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ See https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/nepa/nepa_register.do.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Finally, the BLM is strengthening its commitment to partnerships 
and cooperating agencies. The BLM's ``National Strategy and 
Implementation Plan to Support and Enhance Partnerships, 2014-2018'' 
(2014), highlights the importance of partnerships to achieving the 
BLM's mission, and creates a national framework for improved 
coordination in support of partnerships across the BLM. The updated BLM 
publication, A Desk Guide to Cooperating Agency Relationships and 
Coordination with Intergovernmental Partners (2012), reaffirmed the 
BLM's commitment to working with Federal, State, local, and tribal 
government partners. The Planning 2.0 goal of providing meaningful 
opportunities for other Federal agencies, State and local governments, 
Indian tribes, and the public to be involved in the development of BLM 
resource management plans will build on these foundational efforts.

[[Page 89587]]

Initial Public Involvement in Planning 2.0

    The BLM conducted initial public outreach and engagement activities 
as a part of the Planning 2.0 initiative. This outreach is consistent 
with section 2(c) of ``Executive Order 13563--Improving Regulation and 
Regulatory Review'' (76 FR 3822, January 21, 2011), which encourages 
agencies to seek the views of those who are likely to be affected by a 
rulemaking before issuing a proposed rule. The initial outreach for the 
overall Planning 2.0 initiative included outreach to inform the 
development of the proposed rule as well as a forthcoming revision of 
the Land Use Planning Handbook. The BLM launched the Planning 2.0 
initiative in May 2014 by seeking public input on how the land use 
planning process could be improved. The BLM developed a Web site for 
the initiative (www.blm.gov/plan2) and issued a national press release 
with information on how to provide input to the agency. The BLM held 
public listening sessions in Denver, Colorado (October 1, 2014) and in 
Sacramento, California (October 7, 2014). Both meetings were led by a 
third-party facilitator and were available to remote participants 
through a live broadcast of the event over the Internet (livestream). 
The goals of these meetings were to share information about the 
Planning 2.0 initiative with interested members of the public, to 
provide a forum for dialogue about the initiative, and to receive input 
from the public on how best to achieve the goals of the initiative. 
Summary notes from these meetings and recorded livestream video are 
available on the BLM Web site.
    The BLM conducted external outreach to BLM partners and internal 
outreach to BLM staff in State, district, and field offices. External 
outreach included multiple briefings provided to the Federal Advisory 
Committee Act chartered RACs; a briefing for State Governor 
representatives coordinated through the Western Governors Association; 
a briefing for State Fish and Wildlife Agency representatives 
coordinated through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; 
multiple briefings for other Federal agencies; a webinar for interested 
local government representatives coordinated through the National 
Association of Counties; and meetings with other interested parties 
upon request.

Public Response to Planning 2.0 During Early Engagement

    Between May 2014 and February 2015, over 6,000 groups and 
individuals submitted written comments for BLM's consideration. This 
information was summarized into a written report and made available on 
the Planning 2.0 Web site on February 3, 2015. The input received 
through written submissions and the public listening sessions covered a 
broad range of topics and opinions, which are summarized in this 
preamble and described in more detail in the ``Planning 2.0 Public 
Input Summary Report'' (2015). The summary report is available on the 
BLM Web site. The BLM worked to consider this information and to find 
an appropriate balance between different needs and perspectives in the 
development of the proposed and final rule.
    A large number of comments focused on how to integrate adaptive 
management into resource management plans. While nearly all comments 
supported the initial goal of ``a more dynamic and efficient planning 
process,'' many commenters were concerned that resource management 
plans could become so ``dynamic'' that they become meaningless. Many 
comments suggested that the BLM establish achievable and measurable 
objectives to guide future decisions, as well as indicators and 
thresholds for resource conditions in resource management plans. While 
some commenters believed that the BLM should have the ability to 
increase or reduce resource protections established in the resource 
management plan if site-specific conditions warrant, many commenters 
were concerned that such an adaptive management approach might allow 
activities that otherwise conflict with the other resource management 
plan goals and objectives.
    Some commenters suggested that efficiencies could be gained by 
developing standardized decision language, prohibiting overlapping 
designations, and working with partners to avoid duplication of 
efforts. Commenters requested that the BLM improve data collection and 
management by including non-BLM data sources in resource management 
plans; providing better public access to BLM data; establishing 
standards for monitoring in resource management plans; designating 
timeframes to modify management based on monitoring results; and 
identifying enforceable actions if monitoring does not occur.
    Public comments affirmed the value of public participation as 
essential to the success of any land use plan. Several commenters 
expressed the need for broad, comprehensive stakeholder participation 
and requested that the BLM conduct strategic and targeted outreach at 
the onset of all planning efforts to reach stakeholders. Commenters 
also encouraged the BLM to collaborate with other Federal agencies, 
which often manage adjacent lands, and to conduct outreach to Indian 
tribes.
    Numerous commenters suggested two new opportunities for public 
involvement in the planning process. Outreach before initiating the 
NEPA scoping process could be used to identify preliminary stakeholders 
and management issues, solicit input about resource data needed for 
resource management plan development, and encourage stakeholders to 
contribute inventory information. Additionally, a public review of 
preliminary management alternatives could occur between the 
identification of planning issues and the publication of the draft 
resource management plan and draft EIS to help BLM refine the range of 
alternatives to address public concerns.
    The BLM also received comments on different ways to effectively 
engage the public. Several commenters requested that the BLM leverage 
web-, tele-, and video-conference technology to reach a larger audience 
while also providing meaningful involvement opportunities for members 
of the public without technological access. Commenters also described a 
broad range of best practices for public participation and encouraged 
the BLM to implement these practices in the planning process.
    Several commenters proposed instituting a landscape level planning 
process in which the BLM would evaluate public lands, establish 
priority areas for conservation and priority areas for development, set 
desired conditions at the ecoregional level, and then allocate 
allowable uses and make special designations at the field office level. 
Conversely, some commenters questioned the utility of landscape level 
planning. It is important to many stakeholders that resource management 
plans provide specific, local context, and clearly articulate for local 
users how the BLM will manage public lands close to them. Some 
commenters were concerned that it would be shortsighted for the BLM to 
limit development only to those priority areas identified in an 
ecoregional plan, as future technological advances could make new 
unforeseeable areas appropriate for development.
    Many comments urged the BLM to integrate the DOI mitigation policy, 
``Improving Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the 
Interior'' (Secretarial Order 3330), into the land use planning 
process. Public comments also stated that effective landscape planning 
should be fully integrated with the NEPA process and provide clear 
direction for considering

[[Page 89588]]

State and private lands. At the same time, commenters cautioned that 
the BLM should ensure that landscape level planning does not result in 
time-consuming analysis that overlaps the NEPA analysis that already 
occurs during a resource management plan revision.
    In addition to input on how to meet Planning 2.0 goals, many public 
comments contained recommendations on how the BLM should address 
specific resources, uses, and special designations in resource 
management plans. These comments are summarized in the ``Planning 2.0 
Public Input Summary Report'' (2015), available on the BLM Web site.

Public Involvement on the Proposed Rule

    The BLM published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on 
February 25, 2016 (81 FR 9674) for a 60-day comment period ending on 
April 25, 2016. In response to public requests for an extension, the 
BLM extended the comment period for an additional 30 days on April 22, 
2016 (81 FR 23666). The extended comment period closed on May 25, 2016.
    During the comment period, the BLM hosted a variety of public 
outreach activities. The BLM held a public webinar (March 21, 2016) as 
well as a public meeting in Denver, CO (March 25, 2016) to provide an 
overview of the proposed rule and answer questions from the public. The 
public meeting was available to remote participants through livestream. 
In response to public interest in additional outreach activities, the 
BLM held a second public webinar (April 13, 2016) focused on frequently 
asked questions related to the proposed rule. All webinars and meetings 
were led by a third-party facilitator. Summary notes and recordings of 
all three events are available on the BLM Web site. In addition, the 
BLM provided an email address ([email protected]) at the close of 
each event for members of the public to send follow-up questions.
    The BLM also conducted external outreach to several stakeholder 
organizations or committees regarding the proposed rule. External 
outreach included briefings provided to the BLM's Federal Advisory 
Committee Act chartered RACs; a briefing for the Association of Fish 
and Wildlife Agencies; a webinar for interested local government 
representatives coordinated through the National Association of 
Counties; and meetings with other interested parties upon request.
    The BLM received 3,354 comment letters, which are available for 
viewing on the regulations.gov Web site by entering Docket ID: BLM-
2016-0002 in the ``Search'' bar.

Tribal Consultation on the Proposed Rule

    The BLM initiated government-to-government consultation with 
federally recognized Indian tribes with which the Bureau normally 
consults regarding land use planning. Each BLM State Office sent a 
letter notifying Indian tribes located within the jurisdictional 
boundary of the BLM State Office and with which the BLM State Office 
normally consults on proposed rules and requesting government-to-
government consultation. Additionally, each BLM State Office sent a 
follow-up notification and request for consultation, however, the 
format for follow-up requests varied across BLM State Offices. Formats 
included telephone calls, letters, or in-person conversations at 
previously scheduled meetings.
    To facilitate understanding of the proposed rule, the BLM held a 
webinar for interested Indian tribes on May 4, 2016. The webinar 
provided an overview of the proposed changes, discussion on topics of 
interest to tribal participants, and an opportunity for questions. In 
addition, in person meetings were held with all tribes that accepted 
the BLM's request for government-to-government consultation and 
requested a meeting with the BLM. This final rule is informed by input 
received from tribes during government-to-government consultation. 
Responses to tribal comments are addressed in the ``section-by-section 
discussion'' and ``response to public comments'' sections of this final 
rule.

How the Final Rule Achieves the Goals of Planning 2.0

    As part of the Planning 2.0 initiative, the final rule amends 
specific provisions of the land use planning regulations (43 CFR part 
1600). In the following paragraphs we explain how the changes to the 
land use planning regulations will serve the overall goals of the 
Planning 2.0 initiative.
    The final rule identifies and defines the components of a resource 
management plan. These ``plan components'' provide the planning-level 
management direction that guides all future management decisions 
without specifically prescribing future decisions. Such an approach is 
important for implementing adaptive resource management as it 
establishes firm goals and objectives and provides for the use of 
public lands, while also providing flexibility to incorporate site-
specific information, where appropriate, and respond to changing 
circumstances and new information.
    The final rule requires that, when preparing or amending resource 
management plans, the BLM must use high quality information, including 
the best available scientific information. The final rule also 
emphasizes the importance of assessing resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, and economic conditions at relevant spatial scales 
and before initiating the preparation of a resource management plan, in 
order to apply science-based decision-making and inform management 
decisions at multiple scales.
    The final rule will add new opportunities for meaningful public 
involvement in the land use planning process and emphasize the 
importance of early public involvement in order to engage different 
perspectives and ensure planning is responsive to public needs and 
values. Final changes will promote increased communication with and 
transparency to the public by providing for the use of electronic 
communications and information technology, in addition to traditional 
methods of communication. The BLM believes that enhanced public 
involvement will promote a more efficient planning process and improved 
outcomes by ensuring that diverse viewpoints are considered early and 
often. In particular, the BLM anticipates that considering diverse 
viewpoints early in the planning process, when they can help inform the 
development of the resource management plan and supporting NEPA 
analysis, will help the BLM avoid or minimize the need to re-start the 
planning process or supplement the NEPA analysis based on issues raised 
later in the process after considerable work has been completed. At the 
same time, the final rule expands the minimum requirement for the 
length of public comment periods for draft resource management plans to 
reflect the value placed on this step by members of the public, as 
indicated through public comment, and shortens the minimum requirement 
for the length of public comment periods for draft EIS-level amendments 
to reflect the fact that targeted amendments may be narrow in scope and 
scale and allow for a more efficient process in these situations.
    In revisions to both subpart 1601 and 1610, the BLM updates some 
existing text to reflect current style guidelines and to use plain 
language, consistent with the ``Presidential Memorandum on Plain 
Language in Government Writing'' (63 FR 31885, June 10, 1998), which 
directs Federal Agencies to consider rewriting existing regulations in 
plain

[[Page 89589]]

language if the opportunity is available. These changes will facilitate 
improved readability and understanding of the planning regulations, 
which will support effective collaboration during the planning process.

Summary of Changes

    The BLM received 3,354 comments on the proposed rule, which are 
available for viewing on the Federal e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov) (search Docket ID: BLM-2016-0002). The BLM has 
reviewed all public comments, and has made changes, as appropriate, to 
the final rule based on those comments and internal review. Those 
changes are described in detail in the ``section-by-section 
discussion'' of this final rule. In addition, the ``response to public 
comments'' in this final rule provides a summary of issues raised most 
frequently in public comments and the BLM's response. A table comparing 
the proposed rule to the final rule and a more comprehensive account of 
public comments and detailed responses to these comments are available 
to the public on the BLM Web site (www.blm.gov/plan2) and are included 
as a supporting document in the docket for this rulemaking on 
regulations.gov.

II. Section-by-Section Discussion of Changes to the Existing Planning 
Rule and Revisions From the Proposed Planning Rule

    The following discussion describes the final rule provisions, 
substantial changes from the existing rule and revisions from the 
proposed rule, and the rationale for these changes. The final rule 
revises part 1600, including subparts 1601 (Planning) and 1610 
(Resource Management Planning). Revisions in subpart 1601 update and 
introduce new definitions and revise the purpose, objective, 
responsibilities, environmental impact statement policy, and principles 
sections.
    Subpart 1610 is reorganized to improve readability. Revisions 
describe guidance and general requirements, and resource management 
plan components; update the public involvement provisions; update the 
provisions regarding coordination with other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments and Indian tribes; establish a requirement in 
these regulations for government-to-government consultation with Indian 
tribes; establish an assessment of baseline conditions in the planning 
area before the BLM initiates the preparation of a resource management 
plan and most EIS-level amendments; revise the steps in the planning 
process to increase transparency and add new opportunities for public 
involvement; clarify resource management plan approval and protest 
procedures; modify the monitoring and evaluation, amendment, and 
maintenance provisions; update the provisions for designating ACECs; 
and make clarifying edits.

Subpart 1601--Planning

    The final rule adopts several style changes throughout both 
subparts, consistent with the proposed rule, such as replacing the 
Bureau of Land Management with the acronym ``BLM'' and the Federal Land 
Policy and Management Act with the acronym ``FLPMA,'' for improved 
readability. The rule replaces the word ``title'' with ``part'' 
throughout both subparts for consistency with current style guidelines. 
We replace ``plan'' with ``resource management plan,'' where 
appropriate, and ``amendment'' with ``plan amendment'' throughout both 
subparts to improve consistency and precision in use of terminology.
    One proposed style change is not adopted in the final rule. The 
proposed rule would have replaced the word ``shall'' with ``will'' 
throughout both subparts for improved readability; in response to 
public comment this proposed change is not adopted in the final rule. 
Rather, the final rule retains the word ``shall,'' throughout the rule 
unless specifically noted in the discussion for a particular section. 
In some instances the word ``will'' occurs in existing regulations or 
was included in proposed new provisions, and in these instances the 
final rule replaces ``will'' with ``shall,'' throughout unless 
specifically noted in the discussion for a particular section, for 
consistent use of terminology throughout both subparts. There is no 
change in meaning from these revisions.
    Finally, the final rule removes most references to resource 
management plan ``revisions'' throughout both subparts, consistent with 
the proposed rule. Revisions are included in the definition of a 
resource management plan (see final Sec.  1601.0-5) and must comply 
with all of the requirements of these regulations for preparing and 
approving a resource management plan (see final Sec.  1610.6-7). 
Differentiating between the preparation of a new resource management 
plan and the revision of a resource management plan is unnecessary and 
confusing. For example, if the BLM revises portions of more than one 
existing resource management plan, it is unclear whether the resulting 
resource management plan would be considered a new resource management 
plan or a revised resource management plan. Under the existing, 
proposed and final regulations, there is no substantive difference 
between a resource management plan and the revision of a resource 
management plan, therefore both will be considered a ``resource 
management plan.''
Section 1601.0-1 Purpose
    The final rule adopts the proposed changes to this section to 
introduce the acronym ``BLM,'' which is used throughout the part, and 
to remove the words ``and revision'' for the reasons previously 
described. There is no change from current practice or policy resulting 
from these revisions.
    In addition, the final rule adds new language specifying that the 
process established by the regulations be ``consistent with the 
principles of multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise 
specified by law.'' This addition responds to a public comment 
requesting the BLM to include ``multiple use and sustained yield'' in 
this section, as well as general public comments asserting that the 
proposed rule would not adequately promote the principles of multiple 
use and sustained yield. The final rule reflects the requirements of 
FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1701 (a)(7)), which states that ``management be on 
the basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise 
specified by law'' and that ``in the development and revision of land 
use plans, the Secretary shall . . . use and observe the principles of 
multiple use and sustained yield set forth in this and other applicable 
law.'' (See 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(1).)
    The BLM added the phrase ``unless otherwise specified by law'' in 
the final rule to be consistent with the language in FLPMA which makes 
it clear that in some situations certain BLM lands must be managed in 
compliance with other legal authorities which in some instances 
supersede the management direction in FLPMA to manage on the basis of 
multiple use and sustained yield (see 43 U.S.C. 1732(a)). For instance, 
national monuments established under the Antiquities Act of 1906 (16 
U.S.C. 431-433) must be managed for the care and management of the 
monument objects in accordance with the terms in the proclamation 
establishing the specific national monument. This new language in the 
final rule is not a change in practice or policy, as the BLM currently 
manages on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless 
otherwise specified by law.

[[Page 89590]]

Section 1601.0-2 Objective
    The final rule revises the stated objectives of resource management 
planning to reflect the requirements of FLPMA and remove vague or 
inaccurate language. In the first sentence of this section, the final 
rule adopts the proposal to remove the phrase ``maximize resource 
values for the public through a rational, consistently applied set of 
regulations and procedures.''
    The term ``maximize resource values'' is vague and therefore 
inappropriate in regulations. Further, FLPMA directs the BLM to manage 
the public lands on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield, 
rather than to ``maximize resource values.'' FLPMA defines multiple 
use, in part, as ``the management of the public lands and their various 
resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will 
best meet the present and future needs of the American people'' as well 
as ``harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources 
without permanent impairment of the productivity of the land and the 
quality of the environment with consideration being given to the 
relative values of the resources and not necessarily to the combination 
of uses that will give the greatest economic return or the greatest 
unit output.'' (See 43 U.S.C. 1702(c).) This language provides a more 
precise explanation of how the BLM should consider resource values 
during the planning process and reaffirms statutory direction to manage 
on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise 
specified by law. The second half of the removed language describes a 
``rational, consistently applied set of regulations and procedures,'' 
which describes the purpose of developing planning regulations, but not 
an objective of resource management planning.
    In the first sentence of this section, the proposed rule would have 
replaced the phrase ``promote the concept of multiple use management'' 
with the phrase ``promote the principles of multiple use and sustained 
yield on public lands, unless otherwise provided by law.'' The final 
rule revises this phrase to read ``manage public lands on the basis of 
multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise specified by law.'' 
This change is consistent with FLPMA, which, as discussed above, 
directs the BLM to ``use and observe the principles of multiple use and 
sustained yield'' in the development and revision of land use plans 
(see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(1)) and requires that ``management be on the 
basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise specified by 
law.'' (See 43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7) and 43 U.S.C. 1732(a).) The final rule 
responds to public comments that the proposed language to ``promote'' 
the principles of multiple use and sustained yield may be perceived as 
a weaker requirement than ``managing on the basis'' of multiple use and 
sustained yield, as stated in FLPMA. This was not the intent of the 
proposed language, thus this change was made in the final rule.
    The final rule replaces existing and proposed language which states 
that an objective of resource management planning is to ``ensure 
participation by the public'' with ``provide for meaningful public 
involvement by the public.'' This change responds to public comment 
that the BLM proposed to replace ``public participation'' with ``public 
involvement'' in other sections for consistency with FLPMA and should 
use the same terminology in this section. The change also responds to a 
public comment that FLPMA does not require the BLM to ensure or 
guarantee public participation; rather, FLPMA requires the BLM to 
provide ``opportunity for participation by affected citizens.'' (See 43 
U.S.C. 1702(d).) The final rule provides opportunities for meaningful 
public involvement, but does not require that the public participate in 
these opportunities.
    This section of the proposed rule would also have specified that 
such participation occurs ``in the development of resource management 
plans.'' The final rule revises this language to read ``in the 
preparation and amendment'' of resource management plans to clarify 
that it applies in both situations. There will be no change in existing 
practice or policy from these final changes.
    Finally, the word ``appropriate'' is removed from before ``Federal 
agencies'' in the first sentence of this section. This word is 
unnecessary, as any interested Federal agency may participate in public 
involvement opportunities during the BLM's planning process; the BLM 
does not make a determination on which agencies may or may not be 
appropriate.
    The BLM proposed to add additional language to this section, 
stating that the BLM would ``ensure that the public lands be managed in 
a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, 
historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water 
resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate, will 
preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; 
that will provide for outdoor recreation and human use, and which 
recognizes the Nation's need for domestic sources of minerals, food, 
timber, and fiber from the public lands.'' This revision incorporates 
language from FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(8) and (a)(12)) to identify 
in the planning regulations the general management objectives that 
apply to the public lands and therefore apply to all resource 
management plans. While this is a change in the regulations, it would 
simply affirm statutory direction and not change existing practice or 
policy.
    The final rule adopts the proposed additional language with 
revisions in response to public comment. The final rule is revised to 
read ``which recognizes the Nation's need for renewable and non-
renewable resources, including, but not limited to, domestic sources of 
minerals, food, timber, and fiber from the public lands.'' The final 
rule includes the phrase ``renewable and non-renewable resources'' to 
clarify that a wide-range of renewable and non-renewable resources are 
considered during resource management planning, including, but not 
limited to, those specifically identified in FLPMA.
    Several public comments requested additional resources be 
identified in this section, such as ``electric energy and production.'' 
Although the objectives section cannot reasonably list all resources, 
the BLM affirms through this added language that a wide-range of 
renewable and non-renewable resources need to be considered in order to 
manage the public lands on the basis of multiple use and sustained 
yield, including renewable and non-renewable energy sources, among 
others.
    The final rule adopts the proposed change to remove the final 
sentence in this section, ``resource management plans are designed to 
guide and control future management actions and development of 
subsequent, more detailed and limited scope plans for resources and 
uses.'' This sentence does not accurately describe the objectives of 
resource management planning; rather it describes the function of a 
resource management plan. Under the final rule, consistent with the 
proposed rule, elements of the removed sentence are revised and 
incorporated into the definition for ``plan components'' (for more 
information on ``plan components,'' see the preamble discussion of 
Sec.  1601.0-5).
Section 1601.0-3 Authority
    The final rule adopts this section, which is identical to that in 
the existing and proposed regulations.

[[Page 89591]]

Section 1601.0-4 Responsibilities
    The final rule revises paragraph (a) of this section to use active 
voice, stating ``[t]he Secretary and the Director provide national 
level policy and procedure guidance for planning,'' consistent with the 
proposed rule. There is no change in the meaning of this sentence or in 
the associated responsibilities from existing regulations.
    In the second sentence of Sec.  1601.0-4(a), the BLM proposed to 
establish a new responsibility for the BLM Director to determine the 
deciding official (a new term defined in Sec.  1601.0-5) and the 
planning area for resource management plans and for plan amendments 
that cross State boundaries. This proposed change would have 
represented a change from existing regulations, where the deciding 
official is the State Director and the default planning area is a field 
office area, unless otherwise authorized by the State Director (see 
existing Sec.  1610.1(b)). In response to public comment, the final 
rule revises this paragraph to state that the BLM Director will 
determine the deciding official and the planning area when a resource 
management plan crosses State boundaries and when a plan amendment 
crosses State boundaries. When resource management plans or plan 
amendments do not cross State boundaries, the deciding official will be 
the BLM State Director with jurisdiction over the planning area, unless 
otherwise determined by the BLM Director.
    Several public comments expressed the belief that the proposed rule 
was vague by not indicating which BLM official would normally be 
selected as the deciding official and such vagueness would place a 
burden on the public and other governmental entities because they would 
not know with whom to communicate or coordinate regarding the resource 
management plan. Further, public comments expressed concern that the 
deciding official might not have familiarity with the planning area. In 
response to these comments, revisions from the proposed to final rule 
specify that the default deciding official will be the BLM State 
Director when a resource management plan or plan amendment does not 
cross State boundaries, unless otherwise determined by the Director. In 
the situation that a resource management plan or plan amendment crosses 
State boundaries, the BLM Director will select a deciding official for 
the planning effort, as is currently the case.
    The final rule also adds ``unless otherwise determined by the 
Director'' to the second sentence of Sec.  1601.0-4(a), to reiterate 
that the BLM Director may exercise the authority to determine the 
deciding official. The Secretary of the Interior, as the administrator 
of the public lands, has the discretion to delegate the authority to 
approve resource management plans and plan amendments as he or she 
finds appropriate, thus this change is not a change in practice or 
policy from the existing rule. FLPMA provides the Secretary of the 
Interior the authority and responsibility to develop resource 
management plans; the planning regulations may not remove or restrict 
this statutory authority. (See 43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(5).) Under existing 
regulations there are several examples where the Secretary has approved 
a resource management plan or plan amendment of national importance, or 
where a plan or plan amendment has been approved by a BLM official 
other than a BLM State Director. For example, in 2012 under existing 
regulations, the Resource Management Plan Amendments and Record of 
Decision for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States was 
approved by former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. In 2016, the 
Northwestern and Coastal Oregon Resource Management Plan and Record of 
Decision and the Southwestern Oregon Resource Management Plan and 
Record of Decision were both approved by the BLM's Deputy Director. In 
these situations, the relevant BLM State Directors were actively 
involved in the preparation of the resource management plan or plan 
amendment, but were not the deciding official that approved the 
resource management plan or plan amendment. The final rule affirms this 
existing authority.
    Section 1601.0-4 also addresses the determination of the planning 
area. Section 1601.0-4(a) of the final rule specifies that when a 
resource management plan or plan amendment crosses State boundaries the 
BLM Director will determine the planning area. Section 1601.0-4(b) 
specifies that when the resource management plan or plan amendment does 
not cross State boundaries, the deciding official will determine the 
planning area.
    The BLM received several comments that raised concerns about the 
BLM Director determining future planning areas. Several comments stated 
that the BLM Director would be too far removed to be adequately aware 
of resources, issues, and management concerns important to local 
stakeholders and that the BLM Director would not have time to make 
planning area determinations, which would result in delays. Comments 
also raised concerns that the BLM Director would determine planning 
areas without public involvement. In response to public comments, the 
final rule establishes an intermediate approach between the existing 
and proposed regulations by providing that the BLM Director will 
determine the planning area when it crosses State boundaries, and the 
deciding official (by default a BLM State Director) will determine the 
planning area when the planning area does not cross State boundaries. 
Also, in response to these comments, the final rule includes new 
language in the provisions for the planning assessment (see final Sec.  
1610.4). This new language describes how the BLM will identify the need 
to cross State boundaries, and therefore identify the appropriate BLM 
official to determine the planning area. Section 1610.4(a) describes 
the process for selecting a preliminary planning area boundary, 
including an opportunity for public review (see the preamble to Sec.  
1610.4(a) for more information on this process). In situations where, 
through the process described in Sec.  1610.4(a), the need is 
identified for resource management plans to cross State boundaries in 
order to address relevant management concerns, the BLM Director 
determines the final planning area and selects the appropriate deciding 
official.
    Although under current regulations the BLM is able to establish a 
different planning area than the default field office boundary, the 
final rule affirms that the BLM no longer intends to rely on the field 
office area as the default resource management plan boundary. The BLM 
acknowledges that in some situations the relevant management concerns 
may require planning area boundaries that cross traditional BLM 
administrative boundaries.
    The final rule adopts the proposed changes to Sec.  1601.0-4(b) by 
stating ``deciding officials provide quality control'' instead of 
existing language which states that ``State Directors will provide 
quality control.'' Under the final rule, the deciding official will 
have the responsibilities that the State Director has under the 
existing rule. Deciding officials will be responsible for ``quality 
control and supervisory review, including approval, for the preparation 
and amendment of resource management plans and related [EISs] or 
[EAs].'' Changes clarify that deciding officials are responsible for 
quality control and supervisory review of plan amendments and resource 
management plans, which is consistent with current practice and policy.
    Paragraph (b) of this section includes a new responsibility for the 
deciding official to determine the responsible

[[Page 89592]]

official for each resource management plan or plan amendment. The 
proposed rule did not specify how a responsible official would be 
selected and this revision clarifies this process. For the reasons 
previously described, paragraph (b) of this section also specifies that 
deciding officials determine the planning area for resource management 
plans and plan amendments that do not cross State boundaries. Although 
this represents a change in the regulations, the deciding official will 
generally be a BLM State Director when a resource management plan or 
plan amendment does not cross State boundaries (see paragraph (a) of 
this section); therefore, this change is generally consistent with 
current practice and policy.
    The final rule adopts the proposed change to remove the requirement 
that deciding officials ``provide additional guidance, as necessary, 
for use by Field Managers.'' Deciding officials may provide guidance, 
as described in proposed Sec.  1610.1-1, but this is only one of their 
many responsibilities during the planning process that are all 
encompassed by ``supervisory review.'' It is unnecessary and 
inappropriate to identify the provision of guidance as a unique 
responsibility in these regulations. The BLM intends no change in 
practice or policy by removing ``guidance'' from the responsibilities 
section.
    The final rule also adopts the proposed change to remove the 
requirement that deciding officials ``file draft and final [EISs].'' 
This language is unnecessary and redundant with the requirement that 
deciding officials provide supervisory review for ``related [EISs]'' 
which will include supervisory review of filing the documents. Current 
BLM practice is for the State Director to delegate the responsibility 
of filing EISs or EAs, thus this change is consistent with current 
practice.
    In paragraph (c) of this section, the final rule adopts the 
proposed changes to replace references to ``Field Managers'' with 
``responsible officials'' (a proposed new term defined in Sec.  1601.0-
5) and provide that responsible officials will prepare resource 
management plans and plan amendments, and related EISs and EAs. As 
discussed in the preamble to the definitions in Sec.  1601.0-5, the 
term ``responsible official'' is adapted from the term used in the DOI 
NEPA regulations (see 43 CFR 46.30). There is no change in the 
responsibilities associated with this role in the planning process, but 
the new term makes it clear to the public that the BLM has the 
flexibility under its regulations to prepare or amend resource 
management plans at levels other than a field office.
    Changes to this section are intended to facilitate planning across 
traditional BLM administrative boundaries. For instance, if the 
planning area for a resource management plan or plan amendment is 
larger than the BLM field office administrative boundary in order to 
address a management concern that crosses administrative boundaries, 
the BLM Field Manager may not be the most appropriate BLM employee to 
prepare the resource management plan or plan amendment. These revisions 
are consistent with current practice permitted by the existing 
regulations. For example, the BLM District Manager is the responsible 
official for the preparation of the Carson City, Nevada resource 
management plan, which is currently under development and includes more 
than one BLM field office.
    The final rule adopts the proposed change to include the 
preparation of related ``EAs'' (in addition to EISs) as a 
responsibility of responsible officials. This change fixes an existing 
inconsistency in the regulations. Responsible officials prepare plan 
amendments and either an EIS or an EA could be prepared to inform the 
plan amendment. The BLM intends no change in practice or policy from 
this addition.
    The final rule removes the last sentence of paragraph (c) of this 
section, consistent with the proposed rule, which required that ``State 
Directors must approve these documents.'' Under the final rule, 
deciding officials will approve these documents, as discussed in 
paragraph (b) of this section.
Section 1601.0-5 Definitions
    The final rule adds several new terms and definitions to this 
section. The final rule adopts, without revision, the proposed 
definitions of eight of these new terms: High quality information, 
Indian tribe, mitigation, plan revision, planning area, planning issue, 
responsible official, and sustained yield. The final rule revises the 
proposed definitions of five of these new terms: Deciding official, 
plan amendment, plan components, plan maintenance, and planning 
assessment. The final rule does not adopt the proposal to add the term 
implementation strategies.
    Additionally, the BLM proposed to revise several existing 
definitions. The final rule adopts the proposed definition for the term 
areas of critical environmental concern or ACEC. The final rule further 
revises the other existing definitions that were proposed for 
revisions: Conformity or conformance, cooperating agency, local 
government, officially approved and adopted (land use) plans, and 
resource management plan.
    The final rule, consistent with the proposed rule, removes the 
definitions of: Eligible cooperating agency, Field Manager, guidance, 
and resource area or field office. The final rule does not adopt, 
however, the proposal to remove the definition for ``consistent'' and 
instead revises the existing definition and rephrases the term as 
``consistent with officially approved and adopted plans.'' The 
following paragraphs describe the changes to these definitions and the 
rationale for each. This discussion does not discuss the definitions of 
terms that are included in the final rule without amendment from 
existing regulations.
    Areas of Critical Environmental Concern or ACEC. The final rule 
moves the last sentence of this definition (``[t]he identification of a 
potential ACEC shall not, of itself, change or prevent change of the 
management or use of public lands.'') to the ACEC provisions in Sec.  
1610.8-2(b), consistent with the proposed rule. This change makes the 
definition of an ACEC in this section more consistent with FLPMA. This 
sentence is not part of the definition of an ACEC provided in FLPMA; 
rather, it describes the effect of the identification of such an area. 
The sentence is therefore most appropriately placed following the 
description of the criteria for identifying a potential ACEC (see Sec.  
1610.8-2(b)). This change is not a change in practice or policy.
    Conformity or conformance. The final rule adopts the proposals to 
remove language that an action ``shall be specifically provided for in 
the plan'' and replace the phrase ``terms, conditions, and decisions'' 
with ``plan components'' of the approved resource management plan in 
the definition of conformity or conformance. These changes are 
consistent with changes to Sec.  1610.1-2, which refer to plan 
components instead of ``terms, conditions, and decisions.'' The changes 
reflect that plan components provide the planning-level management 
direction that guides all future management actions and with which 
those future actions must be consistent.
    The final rule provides a more precise definition of conformance, 
which will assist the BLM and the public in identifying whether a 
proposed action is in conformance with an approved resource management 
plan. The final rule also removes the words ``plan amendment'' from the 
end of the definition, as proposed. These words are not necessary; an 
approved plan

[[Page 89593]]

amendment is encompassed by an approved resource management plan (i.e., 
following approval the plan amendment amends the resource management 
plan).
    Finally, the final rule adds a reference to ``see Sec.  1610.6-3,'' 
which is the corresponding policy provision related to conformance. 
This change between the proposed and final rule improves readability of 
the planning regulations by directing readers to related sections and 
does not represent a change in the meaning of the definition.
    Consistent with officially approved and adopted plans. The BLM 
proposed to remove the definition of the term ``consistent'' because 
this is commonly used terminology. Several comments expressed concern 
over the proposed removal of the definition of consistency. In response 
to public comment, the final rule includes a revised term and 
definition.
    The term ``consistent'' is replaced with ``consistent with 
officially approved and adopted plans.'' This change is necessary 
because the word ``consistent'' is used in the regulations in multiple 
contexts. For example, in final Sec.  1610.3-3 the term ``consistent'' 
is used in the context of consistency with the officially approved and 
adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, 
and Indian tribes. The definition of conformance, however, uses the 
word ``consistent'' in a different context that does not align with the 
definition for consistent in the existing regulations. The final rule 
uses a more precise term to avoid confusion regarding when this 
definition applies.
    The definition of ``consistent with officially approved and adopted 
plans'' also varies from the existing definition of ``consistent'' in 
several ways. The final rule replaces ``adhere to'' with ``are 
compatible with'' in regards to the terms, conditions, and decisions of 
officially approved and adopted plans. This is an important distinction 
because the phrase ``adhere to'' could be misinterpreted to mean that 
BLM plans must use the exact terms, conditions, and decisions described 
in the plans of other governmental entities as plan components. These 
terms, conditions, and decisions, however, may not use the same 
terminology as resource management plans or reflect the requirements of 
plan components (see Sec.  1610.1-2), may be smaller in scope or scale 
than a resource management plan, or may not provide integrated 
consideration of resources, for example. In these situations, a plan 
component might vary from the terms, conditions, and decisions of the 
officially approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes while still maintaining 
compatibility with these terms, conditions, and decisions. The final 
rule affirms that such variance is acceptable, so long as the plan 
components are compatible with the terms, conditions, and decisions in 
the officially approved and adopted plan, subject to the qualifications 
of Sec.  1610.3.
    The final rule also replaces ``officially approved and adopted 
resource-related plans'' with ``officially approved and adopted plans'' 
for consistent use in terminology throughout. Please see the preamble 
to the definition for ``officially approved and adopted plans'' in this 
section for a more detailed explanation of this change.
    The final rule includes the phrase ``to the maximum extent the BLM 
finds consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other Federal law and 
regulations applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies and 
programs implementing such laws and regulations'' for consistency with 
final Sec.  1610.3-3(a).
    Finally, the final rule removes the existing phrase ``or in their 
absence, with policies and programs'' from this definition. This change 
is consistent with the removal of existing Sec.  1610.3-2(b) and helps 
to distinguish between FLPMA requirements for coordination and for 
consistency.
    FLPMA requires that the BLM ``coordinate the land use inventory, 
planning, and management activities of or for such lands with the land 
use planning and management programs of other Federal departments and 
agencies and of the States and local governments within which the lands 
are located . . . by, among other things, considering the policies of 
approved State and tribal land resource management programs.'' (See 43 
U.S.C. 1712(c)(9).) Coordination is addressed in final Sec.  1610.3-2, 
which the final rule revises to address coordination on policies and 
programs (see Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(1) and (2)). FLPMA also requires 
that resource management plans ``shall be consistent with State and 
local plans to the maximum extent [the Secretary] finds consistent with 
Federal law and the purposes of this Act.'' (See 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9).) 
This FLPMA requirement does not include ``policies and programs,'' 
rather it limits consistency to ``State and local plans'' while the 
broader coordination requirements include the consideration of policies 
and programs. The final rule aligns the BLM regulations with FLPMA by 
requiring that the BLM coordinate with other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes on all types of plans, 
policies, management programs, and inventory that are germane to the 
development of resource management plans, in order to assure that 
consideration is given to all of these documents and information during 
the planning process. The consistency requirements, however, only apply 
to ``officially approved and adopted plans,'' as provided by FLPMA. The 
final rule represents a change from the existing regulations, but more 
closely aligns the BLM regulations with the requirements of FLPMA.
    Eligible cooperating agency. The final rule adopts the proposal to 
remove this definition and revise the definition of ``cooperating 
agency'' to cite the definition of ``eligible governmental entity'' in 
the DOI NEPA regulations (43 CFR 46.225(a)). The DOI definition was 
promulgated after the BLM Planning regulations were last amended in 
2005. No change in meaning or practice is intended; the BLM merely 
seeks to make the planning regulations consistent with the DOI NEPA 
regulations.
    Cooperating agency. In defining ``cooperating agency'' for resource 
management planning purposes, the BLM proposed to modify the existing 
definition in the planning regulations for improved consistency with 
the DOI NEPA regulations (43 CFR 46.225(a)) and to clarify existing 
language. Proposed changes were intended to make clear that while 
cooperating agencies are defined under the CEQ NEPA regulations, 
cooperating agencies have unique roles in the BLM land use planning and 
NEPA processes and that the BLM defines cooperating agencies in the 
same way for both processes. The final rule adopts the first two 
sentences of this definition, but does not adopt the third and final 
sentence of the proposed definition.
    The final rule includes a reference to the definition of ``eligible 
governmental entity'' from the DOI NEPA regulations (43 CFR 46.225(a)) 
and clarifies that a cooperating agency agrees to participate in the 
development of an ``environmental impact statement or environmental 
assessment'' under NEPA and in the planning process. The final rule 
removes ``written'' from the first sentence of this definition, because 
a Federal cooperating agency--unlike State, local, or tribal 
governments--need not enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or 
other written agreement to confirm its status under DOI NEPA 
regulations (see proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(2)), although this is 
typically recommended for other Federal agencies.
    In response to public comment, the final rule removes the final 
sentence of the existing and proposed definitions.

[[Page 89594]]

The BLM proposed to add the words ``appropriate'' and ``scope of their 
expertise'' to the last sentence to indicate that cooperating agencies 
will participate in the planning process as feasible and 
``appropriate,'' given the ``scope of their expertise'' and constraints 
of their resources. This sentence is not necessary or appropriate in 
the definition for a cooperating agency as it does not describe the 
meaning of the term, nor does it address eligibility to participate as 
a cooperating agency, as defined in 43 CFR 46.225(a).
    Deciding official. The final rule adopts the proposed new 
definition of deciding official, with only minor edits. This new 
definition refers to the BLM official who is delegated the authority to 
approve a resource management plan or plan amendment. As discussed 
throughout this preamble, it replaces the term ``State Director'' 
throughout the planning regulations in order to facilitate planning 
across traditional BLM administrative boundaries, when appropriate.
    The final rule adds a reference to ``see Sec.  1601.0-4,'' which is 
the corresponding policy provision related to conformance. This change 
between the proposed and final rule improves readability of the 
planning regulations by directing readers to related sections and does 
not represent a change in the meaning of the definition.
    Field Manager. The final rule adopts the proposal to remove this 
definition. The final rule replaces references to the Field Manager 
with ``responsible official'' or ``the BLM'' throughout, as proposed. 
This change is intended to facilitate planning across traditional BLM 
administrative boundaries, when appropriate.
    Guidance. The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the 
definition of guidance. Internal BLM guidance must be in compliance 
with all applicable laws and regulations, so the term is not necessary 
in the regulations and further restrictions in the definitions section 
of these regulations is not necessary or appropriate. The removal of 
this unnecessary definition also improves readability of the 
regulations. This change is not a change in practice or policy.
    High quality information. The final rule adopts the proposal to add 
this new definition to describe new terminology introduced into 
proposed Sec. Sec.  1610.1-1(c) and 1610.4(b). High quality information 
is defined as ``any representation of knowledge such as facts or data, 
including the best available scientific information, which is accurate, 
reliable, and unbiased, is not compromised through corruption or 
falsification, and is useful to its intended users.'' For more 
information, please see the preamble to Sec.  1610.1-1(c).
    Implementation strategies. The final rule does not adopt the 
proposal to add this new definition. This definition is no longer 
necessary as the term ``implementation strategy'' is not included in 
the final rule in response to public comment. For more information, 
please see the preamble to Sec.  1610.1-3.
    Indian tribe. The final rule adopts the proposal to add a new 
definition of Indian tribe for consistency with the Federally 
Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 5130). The existing 
planning regulations were promulgated prior to this Act and this new 
definition clarifies the use of this term. Consistent with the proposed 
rule, the term Indian tribe refers to federally recognized Indian 
tribes in the final rule. This change is not a change in practice or 
policy.
    In connection with this change, the final rule removes the words 
``federally recognized'' from five locations where the existing 
regulations refer to ``federally recognized Indian tribes,'' as 
proposed. These references were added under the 2005 revision to the 
regulations (70 FR 14561), but other existing references to Indian 
tribes were not amended at that time. Consequently, the existing 
regulations are inconsistent in their use of terminology. The 
references to ``federally recognized'' Indian tribes are no longer 
necessary as a result of the revised definition, which includes only 
federally recognized Indian tribes. The five references are identified 
and clarified in the corresponding sections of this preamble.
    Several public comments recommended including Tribal Historic 
Preservation Officers in sections referencing cooperation and 
coordination with Indian tribes. We have not adopted this 
recommendation since Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are part of 
tribal governments and therefore already encompassed by this 
definition.
    It is important to note that the final rule does not affect 
government-to-government consultation with federally recognized Indian 
tribes during the preparation or amendment of a resource management 
plan and the final rule includes a statement of this requirement in 
section 1610.2-1(a). The final rule also does not affect implementation 
of the ``Department of the Interior Policy on Consultation with Alaska 
Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporations'' (2012). The BLM 
will continue to conduct government-to-government consultation with 
federally recognized Indian tribes and will also continue to consult 
with ANCSA corporations during the preparation and amendment of 
resource management plans, consistent with DOI policy.
    Landscape. In response to public comment, the final rule includes a 
definition for the term ``landscape.'' This term is not found in the 
existing or proposed regulations, but was used throughout the preamble 
to the proposed rule, including in the discussion of the overarching 
goals of the Planning 2.0 initiative. The term ``landscape'' is added 
to Sec.  1610.4(a)(1)(ii) of the final rule, which requires that the 
BLM consider ``relevant landscapes'' when identifying a preliminary 
planning area, and therefore a definition is warranted. The final rule 
defines a landscape as ``an area of land encompassing an interacting 
mosaic of ecosystems and human systems characterized by a set of common 
management concerns. The landscape is not defined by the size of the 
area, but rather by the interacting elements that are relevant and 
meaningful in a management context.'' This definition aligns with the 
definition of a landscape adopted by DOI in the Departmental Manual on 
implementing mitigation at the landscape-scale (600 DM 6 6.4(D)). 
Please see the preamble discussion of Sec.  1610.4(a)(1)(ii) for 
information about the BLM's use of this term.
    Mitigation. The final rule adopts the proposal to add this new 
definition of mitigation to explain that mitigation includes the 
sequence of avoiding impacts, minimizing impacts, and compensating for 
remaining unavoidable impacts. This sequence is commonly referred to as 
the ``mitigation hierarchy.'' By including this definition in the 
planning regulations, the BLM acknowledges that this sequence also 
applies to the planning process. For example, during the preparation of 
resource management plans, the BLM first and foremost applies the 
principle of avoidance through the identification of planning issues 
and the formulation of alternatives that are guided by the planning 
issues (i.e., identifying potential impacts and developing alternatives 
that avoid those potential impacts). During the preparation of a 
resource management plan, the BLM also identifies mitigation standards, 
which help to guide the future application of the principles of 
minimization and then compensation (for more information, see the 
discussion on mitigation standards at the preamble for Sec.  1610.1-
2(a)(2)). The definition is consistent with the Departmental Manual 
chapter on

[[Page 89595]]

``Implementing Mitigation at the Landscape-scale'' (600 DM 6).
    Multiple use. The final rule includes the definition of multiple 
use with no changes from the existing and proposed rule. This 
definition is a direct quote of the definition in FLPMA.
    Officially approved and adopted plans. The BLM proposed to replace 
the phrase ``resource related plans'' with ``land use plans'' in this 
definition and throughout both subparts. Several public comments stated 
that requiring consistency with ``land use plans'' would limit the 
scope of plans that the BLM would consider during the revision or 
amendment of resource management plans, and may leave out relevant 
plans that are specific to resources and uses such as water, weeds, 
dust control, and travel management. In response to public comments, 
the final rule instead replaces ``resource related plans'' with 
``plans,'' and defines an ``officially approved and adopted plan'' as a 
``resource-related plan.''
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the words ``policies, 
programs, and processes'' from the definition of officially approved 
and adopted plans. The existing definition is inconsistent with 
existing Sec.  1610.3-2 (final Sec.  1610.3-3), which distinguishes 
between ``officially approved or adopted resource related plans'' in 
existing Sec.  1610.3-2(a) and ``officially approved or adopted 
resource related policies and programs'' in existing Sec.  1610.3-2(b), 
rather than combining them, such as in the existing definition.
    These changes mean that the consistency requirements of final Sec.  
1610.3-3(a) applies to the ``resource-related plans'' of other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes, but is not 
required for their ``policies, programs, and processes.'' This change 
is consistent with FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). For more 
information, please see the discussion on the definition for 
``consistent with officially approved and adopted plans'' at the 
preamble for this section and the discussion on consistency 
requirements at the preamble for Sec.  1610.3-3.
    The final rule includes two revisions to this definition that were 
not included in the proposed rule. This definition includes the word 
``tribal'' to clarify that the plans of Indian tribes are prepared 
pursuant to and in accordance with authorization provided by ``tribal'' 
constitutions, legislation, or charters. The final rule also removes 
the word ``State'' from the phrase ``which have the force and effect of 
[State] law.'' This change is intended to clarify that tribal 
constitutions, legislation, and charters have the force and effect of 
tribal law, not State law. These revisions were not addressed in the 
proposed rule, however, they do not result in a change to the meaning 
of this definition; rather, they fix an internal inconsistency in the 
definition.
    Plan amendment. The final rule adopts the proposed new term ``plan 
amendment,'' with minor edits to the definition. The final definition 
clarifies that a plan amendment could either be an amendment to an 
approved resource management plan or a management framework plan. A 
management framework plan is a land use plan that was prepared and 
approved prior to FLPMA. In either case, the BLM will be required to 
follow the same amendment procedures, as described in this part.
    In response to public comment, the final rule specifies that a plan 
amendment means an amendment to an approved resource management plan or 
management framework plan ``to change one or more plan components.'' 
This added language does not change the meaning of the proposed 
definition; rather it provides a more precise description that 
amendments are required to change one or more plan components.
    Plan components. The final rule adopts the proposed new term ``plan 
component,'' with minor edits to the definition. This new definition 
identifies plan components as the elements of a resource management 
plan with which future management actions shall be consistent. Although 
other items could be prepared in conjunction with a resource management 
plan, such as a travel management plan, they are not considered a 
component of the resource management plan (for more information, see 
the discussions on plan components in the preamble for Sec.  1610.1-2).
    For improved clarity, the final rule identifies the six different 
types of plan components and adds a reference to Sec.  1610.1-2, where 
plan components are described in more detail. These changes between the 
proposed and final rule provide clarity, but do not represent a change 
in the meaning of the definition.
    Plan maintenance. The final rule adopts the proposed new term 
``plan maintenance,'' with minor edits to the definition. Some comments 
expressed that the term ``minor changes'' was ambiguous and requested 
the BLM define this term. In response to public comment, we remove the 
word ``minor'' from the phrase ``minor change(s) to an approved 
resource management plan.'' The phrase ``minor changes'' is unnecessary 
here. The final definition more clearly describes plan maintenance as 
changes to an approved resource management plan to correct 
typographical or mapping errors or reflect minor changes in mapping or 
data. For example, the BLM might maintain a plan by fixing a misspelled 
word or by updating maps in the plan to correct a mistake in the 
location of a fence line. The BLM also might update maps in the plan to 
reflect minor changes in data, such as the location of a river that has 
migrated over time. The final rule retains the term ``minor changes'' 
when referring to changes in mapping or data because this term is 
necessary here, as not all changes in mapping or data would be 
considered plan maintenance. The BLM interprets this term, consistent 
with its use in existing Sec.  1610.5-4, to mean a change that is small 
in both scope and scale, and will not alter or modify a plan component. 
The final language regarding ``minor changes in mapping or data'' is 
consistent with the maintenance section of the existing regulations 
(Sec.  1610.5-4), proposed rule (Sec.  1610.6-5), and final rule (Sec.  
1610.6-5).
    Changes between the proposed and final rule are intended to clarify 
that any corrections of typographical or mapping errors or changes 
reflecting minor changes in mapping or data are considered plan 
maintenance. For the purposes of this rule, a minor change in mapping 
or data is one that does not result in a substantial change to the 
scope of one or more plan components and must be considered within the 
context of any given resource management plan. For example, if a plan 
component designates a river corridor as a riparian protection area, 
and the riparian zone moves slightly from year-to-year based on normal 
hydrological processes, the movement of the riparian protection area 
would not be considered a substantial change in the scope of the 
planning designation.
    Plan revision. The final rule adopts the proposed definition for 
plan revisions, as a revision of an approved resource management plan 
or major portions of the resource management plan. The final rule 
clarifies in this definition that the phrase ``preparation or 
development of a resource management plan,'' which is used throughout 
the proposed planning regulations, includes plan revisions. The added 
language improves understanding that the revision of a resource 
management plan follows the same procedures as the preparation of a new 
resource management plan (see final Sec.  1610.6-7).
    Planning area. The final rule adopts the new definition ``planning 
area,'' as

[[Page 89596]]

proposed. This definition describes the geographic area for the 
preparation or amendment of a resource management plan and replaces the 
existing definition for ``resource area or field office.'' The final 
rule replaces the terms ``resource area'' or ``field office'' with 
``planning area'' throughout the proposed rule. This change is 
consistent with the terminology the BLM currently uses to describe the 
geographic area for which resource management plans are prepared (see 
page 14 of BLM Handbook H-1601-1). The final rule provides revised 
direction for determination of planning area boundaries in Sec. Sec.  
1601.0-4 and 1610.4(a). This change is not a change in practice or 
policy.
    Planning assessment. The final rule adopts the proposed new term 
``planning assessment,'' with minor edits to the definition. This new 
definition describes an evaluation of relevant resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, and economic conditions in the planning area, which 
is developed to describe the current status of lands and resources in 
the planning area, project demand for those resources, and to assess 
how these demands can be met consistent with the BLM's multiple use and 
sustained yield mandate. The assessment will inform the preparation 
and, as appropriate, the implementation of a resource management plan 
or revision. Section 1610.4 of this preamble describes the proposed 
planning assessment step in the planning process, including 
opportunities for collaboration and public involvement. The planning 
assessment may also be used during the implementation of a resource 
management plan. For example, the BLM could use information from a 
planning assessment to evaluate whether a future proposed action 
conforms with an objective in the approved resource management plan 
related to the protection of a sensitive resource and could supplement 
that information with down-scaled information specific to the project 
area being considered. The BLM could also use information from a 
planning assessment to inform the preparation of a travel management 
plan.
    Changes to this definition between the proposed and final rule add 
a reference to the planning assessment section of the final rule (Sec.  
1610.4) for improved readability of the regulations. The BLM intends no 
change in the meaning of this definition from this change.
    Planning issue. The final rule adopts the proposed new definition 
for ``planning issue'' without amendment. This new definition 
identifies planning issues as disputes, controversies, or opportunities 
related to resource management. For example, a planning issue might 
identify a potential dispute over resource management, such as a 
popular recreation area that coincides with important cultural sites, 
habitat, or another multiple use. A planning issue might also identify 
a potential opportunity, such as an opportunity to control the spread 
of invasive species through resource management. The new definition is 
consistent with current practice and policy.
    Public. We proposed to retain the existing definition for 
``public.'' In response to public comment, the final rule revises the 
existing definition to clarify that the ``public'' also includes 
officials of other Federal agencies. For example, officials from the 
Environmental Protection Agency are welcome to participate in BLM's 
planning process, including attending public meetings, submitting 
written comments, or any other opportunities for public involvement. 
This revision does not represent a change from existing practice or 
policy.
    Public involvement. In response to public comment, the final rule 
includes a new definition for public involvement stating that public 
involvement means ``the opportunity for participation by the public in 
decision making and planning with respect to the public lands.'' This 
definition is based on the FLPMA definition of public involvement (see 
43 U.S.C. 1702(d)). However, this definition is slightly broader than 
the FLPMA definition in that it includes all members of the ``public,'' 
as defined in these regulations, and not just affected citizens. The 
BLM believes that it is appropriate to provide opportunities for 
participation to any ``affected or interested individuals'' and not 
just affected citizens. For example, non-citizens that reside near 
public lands may be affected by a resource management plan, and 
therefore it is appropriate for these non-citizens to participate in 
opportunities for public involvement. By providing for opportunities 
for participation in public involvement activities by citizens, FLPMA 
does not preclude participation by non-citizens.
    Public lands. The final rule adopts the proposal to replace Bureau 
of Land Management with BLM and to split the existing definition into 
two sentences for improved readability. These changes are not a change 
in practice or policy.
    Resource area or field office. The final rule adopts the proposal 
to remove this definition, because the resource area or field office no 
longer will be the ``default'' planning area. The final rule replaces 
the terms ``resource area'' or ``field office'' with ``planning area'' 
throughout the final rule, as proposed.
    Resource Management Plan. The final rule adopts the proposal to 
simplify the existing definition of a resource management plan with 
minor revisions, providing that a resource management plan is ``a land 
use plan as described under section 202 of the FLPMA, including plan 
revisions.'' Much of the existing language, and a more in depth 
discussion of what constitutes a resource management plan, is moved to 
final Sec.  1610.1-2. ``Plan components'' described in final Sec.  
1610.1-2 replace some of the elements generally established in a 
resource management plan under the existing definition in Sec.  1601.0-
5(n), and some of these elements will be removed. As discussed in the 
preamble for Sec.  1610.1, these changes aim to clarify that a resource 
management plan is a planning-level document that guides future 
management activities. They also aim to distinguish the land use 
planning-level components of a resource management plan (i.e., plan 
components) from future actions that are taken during the 
implementation of the resource management plans.
    The final rule clarifies that the term ``resource management plan'' 
includes plan revisions, consistent with the proposed rule. This change 
improves understanding that the revision of a resource management plan 
follows the same procedures as the preparation of a new resource 
management plan (see proposed Sec.  1610.6-7).
    The final rule adopts the proposal to revise existing language at 
the end of this definition to read ``approval of a resource management 
plan is not a final implementation decision on actions which require 
further specific plans, process steps, or decisions under specific 
provisions of law and regulations.'' The decision to approve a resource 
management plan is therefore not an approval of future actions within 
the planning area that require subsequent plans (such as a mining plan 
of operations), process steps (such as site-specific NEPA-analysis), or 
decisions (such as the decision to approve a future action based on the 
site-specific NEPA analysis).
    Responsible official. The final rule adopts the proposed definition 
for ``responsible official'' without amendment. This new term replaces 
the term ``Field Manager'' throughout the planning regulations, 
acknowledging that the BLM employee authorized to prepare a resource 
management plan or plan amendment may not always be the Field Manager 
due to the need to plan across traditional BLM administrative

[[Page 89597]]

boundaries, when appropriate. The term is based on the definition of 
``Responsible official'' in the DOI NEPA regulations, ``the bureau 
employee who is delegated the authority to make and implement a 
decision on a proposed action and is responsible for ensuring 
compliance with NEPA'' (43 CFR 46.30). This term, as modified, is only 
applicable to the BLM land use planning process; no change to the DOI 
NEPA regulations is intended. However, note that in the DOI NEPA 
regulations, the responsible official has the authority to make and 
implement a decision on a proposed action and is responsible for 
ensuring compliance with NEPA. The final rule divides these 
responsibilities between the deciding official and the responsible 
official for purposes of this planning rule. Under the final rule, the 
responsible official prepares the resource management plan or plan 
amendment and related EISs and EAs, and the deciding official approves 
the resource management plan.
    State and local government. The final rule replaces the proposed 
term ``local government'' with ``State and local government,'' and 
revises the definition to include the State. The revised definition 
describes ``the State, any political subdivision of the State, and any 
general purpose unit of local government with resource planning, 
resource management, zoning, or land use regulatory authority.'' This 
change broadens the existing and proposed definitions of ``local 
government'' to include the State, but there is no change in the 
meaning of either the ``State'' or ``local government.'' This change 
improves readability of the regulations as the phrase ``State and local 
government'' is used throughout this part.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to replace the existing language 
for ``regulation authority'' with ``regulatory authority'' for improved 
readability. No change in meaning is intended by this revision.
    Several public comments recommended including State Historic 
Preservation Officers in sections referencing cooperation and 
coordination with State governments. We have not made this change since 
State Historic Preservation Officers are part of State governments, and 
therefore are already encompassed by this definition.
    Sustained yield. The final rule adopts the proposed new definition 
of ``sustained yield.'' This new definition comes from the FLPMA 
definition (see 43 U.S.C. 1702(h)). This definition is added because 
the planning regulations already include the statutory definition of 
multiple use and the principles of multiple use and sustained yield 
guide the BLM's development and revision of land use plans under 
section 202(c)(1) of FLPMA, absent other applicable law. This 
definition is useful because this term is referenced throughout the 
existing, proposed, and final regulations.
Section 1601.0-6 Environmental Impact Statement Policy
    The final rule replaces the existing word ``plan'' with ``resource 
management plan'' throughout this section and replaces the first 
sentence of this section, which states that the approval of a resource 
management plan is a major Federal action, with a requirement that the 
BLM will prepare an EIS when preparing a resource management plan. This 
change is intended to provide clarity on this existing requirement; the 
BLM intends no change in practice or policy.
    The BLM did not receive public comments specific to this section.
Section 1601.0-7 Scope
    The final rule adopts this section, which is identical to that in 
the existing and proposed regulations. The BLM did not receive public 
comments specific to this section.
Section 1601.0-8 Principles
    The first sentence of this section requires that the ``development, 
approval, maintenance, amendment, and revision of resource management 
plans shall provide for public involvement and shall be consistent with 
the principles described in section 202 of FLPMA.'' Several public 
comments requested the final rule restate one or more of the principles 
described in this section of FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712). The final rule 
is not revised in response to these public comments because this 
provision requires the BLM to be consistent with all of the principles 
described in this section of FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712), although they 
are not individually listed. In this sentence, the final rule uses the 
word ``shall'' instead of ``will'' and replaces ``the Federal Land 
Policy and Management Act of 1976'' with ``FLPMA,'' for the reasons 
previously described. Existing regulations state that ``. . . plans 
will provide . . .'' and ``. . . shall be consistent,'' while the 
proposed rule used ``will'' in both places. Under this final rule, the 
BLM uses ``shall'' in both places in this sentence. The BLM intends no 
change in practice or policy from this change.
    Under existing regulations, this section requires the BLM to 
consider ``. . . the impact on local economies and uses of adjacent or 
nearby non-Federal lands and on non-public land surface over federally-
owned mineral interests. . . .'' The proposed rule rephrased this 
requirement for active voice and expanded it to include the 
consideration of ``. . . resource, environmental, ecological, social, 
and economic conditions at appropriate scales.''
    In response to public comment, the final rule replaces the word 
``appropriate'' with ``relevant'' to clarify that the BLM will consider 
scales that the agency has reason to believe are relevant to the 
decision. This broader range of potential impacts includes the 
consideration of impacts to local economies, in addition to impacts at 
other scales and on other conditions. The final language more 
accurately describes current practice to consider impacts of resource 
management plans at relevant scales, which provides important 
information for the deciding official. For example, it is important 
that the deciding official is aware of the socioeconomic impacts of a 
resource of national significance found within the planning area, such 
as the Federal Helium Reserve, which the BLM administers near Amarillo, 
Texas. The revised language is also consistent with the Planning 2.0 
goal of addressing landscape-scale resource issues, which may occur at 
a range of different geographic scales.
    We wish to clarify that consideration of the impacts of a resource 
management plan on local conditions, including local economies, is a 
relevant scale. At this time, the BLM cannot contemplate a situation 
where a resource management plan would not impact local conditions 
within the planning area; therefore the BLM will continue to consider 
impacts on local economies under the final rule. The intent of these 
revisions is to assure that BLM considers other relevant scales, in 
addition to local scales.
    The proposed and final regulations do not prescribe additional 
weight of consideration to any scale or condition when rendering a 
decision. Rather, the BLM believes it is appropriate for a deciding 
official to consider all relevant scales and information before 
rendering a decision.
    The last sentence of this section contains the requirement that the 
BLM consider the impacts of resource management plans on adjacent or 
nearby Federal and non-Federal lands, as well as the uses of adjacent 
or nearby Federal and non-Federal lands. The final rule expands the 
requirement in existing regulations to include

[[Page 89598]]

consideration of impacts on adjacent or nearby Federal lands in 
addition to non-Federal lands. This language is consistent with the 
Planning 2.0 goal to improve the BLM's ability to apply landscape-scale 
management approaches and facilitates coordination and collaboration 
with adjacent Federal land managers and landowners, as appropriate. No 
substantive changes are made to this sentence from the proposed to 
final rule.

Subpart 1610--Resource Management Planning

Section 1610.1 Resource Management Planning Framework
    The final rule revises the heading of Sec.  1610.1 by replacing the 
word guidance with framework, consistent with the proposed rule. The 
broader heading will reflect the entire section as revised.
    Many of the provisions of existing Sec.  1610.1 are found in 
Sec. Sec.  1610.1-1 and 1610.1-2 of the final rule. The final rule does 
not adopt proposed Sec.  1610.1-3 in the final rule. Those sections are 
discussed in greater detail as follows.
Section 1610.1-1 Guidance and General Requirements
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.1-1, with revisions. This 
section addresses the development of guidance for resource management 
planning and general requirements for the preparation and amendment of 
resource management plans.
    Section 1610.1-1(a) of the final rule contains provisions of 
existing Sec.  1610.1(a). This section still refers to planning 
guidance, but references to ``State Director'' are replaced with 
``deciding official'' and references to ``Field Manager'' are replaced 
with ``responsible official,'' consistent with the proposed rule. These 
changes facilitate planning across traditional BLM administrative 
boundaries, when appropriate. The final rule specifies that the word 
``plan'' refers to a ``resource management plan,'' consistent with the 
proposed rule.
    Section 1610.1-1(a)(1) contains provisions of existing Sec.  
1610.1(a)(1), and explains that guidance may include ``Policy 
established by the President, Secretary, Director, or deciding official 
approved documents, so long as such policy complies with the Federal 
laws and regulations applicable to public lands.'' The final rule 
adopts the proposed change to remove existing language limiting this 
guidance to ``National level policy'' in order to also include policy 
developed at the deciding official level as another type of guidance 
that may be developed to help the responsible official prepare a 
resource management plan. The final rule also adopts the proposed 
change to remove existing language that provides examples of policy, 
such as ``appropriately developed resource management commitments.'' 
These examples are unnecessary in the regulations and do not adequately 
cover the broad range of policy examples that could be included as 
guidance.
    A public comment suggested that the phrase ``is consistent with'' 
Federal laws and regulations in paragraph (a)(1) of this section 
introduces potential for controversy and suggested replacing this 
language with ``shall comply with.'' In response to this comment, the 
final rule replaces the phrase ``is consistent'' in paragraph (a)(1) of 
this section with ``complies,'' to clarify that any policy must comply 
with Federal laws and regulations. The BLM intends no change in 
practice or policy from revisions to this section. Rather, these 
changes are intended to improve readability and reaffirm that the BLM 
may only develop or apply policy that complies with Federal laws and 
regulations.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.1-1(a)(2), which provides 
that guidance may include ``[a]nalysis requirements, planning 
procedures, and other written information and instructions required to 
be considered in the planning process.'' Section 1610.1-1(a)(2) of the 
final rule contains most of the provisions found in existing Sec.  
1610.1(a)(2), with some revisions from existing language, but remains 
unchanged from the proposed rule.
    The final rule removes existing Sec.  1610.1(a)(3), consistent with 
the proposed rule. This section is no longer necessary because guidance 
developed at the deciding official level is incorporated into Sec.  
1610.1-1(a)(1). The final rule also removes existing requirements for 
the State Director to reconsider inappropriate guidance during the 
planning process, consistent with the proposed rule. This language is 
vague and confusing, as it does not define what it means for guidance 
to be ``inappropriate.'' The BLM must comply with the requirements of 
Federal laws and regulations applicable to public lands and therefore 
guidance developed to inform the preparation of a resource management 
plan must also comply with Federal laws and regulations applicable to 
the public lands.
    The final rule adopts the proposed change to remove existing Sec.  
1610.1(b), which states ``a resource management plan shall be prepared 
and maintained on a resource or field office area basis, unless the 
State Director authorizes a more appropriate area.'' This language is 
no longer necessary because final Sec.  1610.4(a) describes the process 
for developing a preliminary planning area and final Sec.  1601.0-4 
describes the responsibilities for determining the final planning area. 
For more information, see the discussions on planning areas at the 
preamble for Sec. Sec.  1610.4(a) and 1601.0-4.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.1-1(b), with minor edits. 
Section 1610.1-1(b) contains the provisions of existing Sec.  
1610.1(c). The first sentence is revised to read ``the BLM shall use a 
systematic interdisciplinary approach in the preparation and amendment 
of resource management plans to achieve integrated consideration of 
physical, biological, ecological, social, economic, and other 
sciences.'' This language highlights the objective of using an 
interdisciplinary approach, as described in FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 
1712(c)(2)), as well as the importance of integrated consideration of 
sciences in the planning process. This list is not intended to be 
exhaustive; rather, it describes the disciplines provided in FLPMA (see 
43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(2)), including the broader inclusion of ``other 
sciences,'' and identifies social sciences for consistency with the CEQ 
NEPA regulations (see 40 CFR 1502.6).
    As proposed, the second sentence of Sec.  1610.1-1(b) is revised to 
replace the word ``disciplines'' with ``expertise.'' This change 
reflects that BLM staff may have expertise outside of their formal 
discipline, and an ``interdisciplinary approach'' should be based on 
expertise, not limited to formal disciplines. This change is consistent 
with current practice under the existing regulations. The final rule 
adds the word ``resource'' before values, to clearly identify what type 
of values this sentence applies to and to specify that ``the expertise 
of the preparers will be appropriate to . . . the principles of 
multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise specified by law.'' 
The final rule replaces the proposed phrase ``or other applicable law'' 
with ``unless otherwise specified by law'' for grammatical clarity and 
for consistency with FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7); 43 U.S.C. 
1732(a)). No change in meaning, practice, or policy is intended by 
these changes.
    Finally, the final rule adopts the proposed change to replace 
``Field Manager'' with ``responsible official'' in the last sentence of 
proposed Sec.  1610.1-1(b). This change is consistent with other 
changes in terminology in this final rule.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.1-1(c) with only minor 
revisions. This section requires the BLM to use high quality 
information to inform the

[[Page 89599]]

preparation, amendment, and maintenance of resource management plans. 
High quality information includes the best available scientific 
information, but the requirement extends to other information as well. 
For example, ``Traditional Ecological Knowledge'' (TEK) refers to the 
knowledge specific to a location acquired by indigenous and local 
peoples over hundreds or thousands of years through direct contact with 
the environment. Under the proposed rule, TEK would be considered a 
type of high quality information that could inform the preparation, 
amendment, and maintenance of resource management plans, so long as the 
TEK is relevant to the planning effort and documented using 
methodologies designed to maintain accuracy and reliability, and to 
avoid bias, corruption, or falsification, such as ethnographic research 
methods.
    As the BLM considers what constitutes high quality information for 
purposes of the planning process, the BLM is mindful of its obligations 
under the Information Quality Act, section 515 of the Treasury and 
General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 
106-554, H.R. 5658), and implementing guidelines of OMB,\7\ DOI,\8\ and 
the BLM for ``ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, 
utility, and integrity of information (including statistical 
information) disseminated by Federal agencies.'' \9\ The descriptions 
of objectivity, integrity, and utility provided in the BLM guidelines, 
as well as the principle of using the ``best available'' information, 
are particularly instructive with regard to information considered and 
shared with the public during resource management planning. In the 
planning process, the BLM also adheres to NEPA requirements for using 
``high quality'' information and ``[a]ccurate scientific analysis'' (40 
CFR 1500.1(b)), and for ensuring the ``professional integrity, 
including scientific integrity, of the discussions and analyses in 
[EISs]'' (40 CFR 1502.24).
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    \7\ Office of Management and Budget, ``OMB Guidelines for 
Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and 
Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies; 
Republication,'' (67 FR 8452, February 22, 2002).
    \8\ U.S. Department of the Interior, ``Information Quality 
Guidelines Pursuant To Section 515 Of The Treasury And General 
Government Appropriations Act For Fiscal Year 2001,'' http://www.doi.gov/ocio/information_management/upload/515Guides.pdf.
    \9\ Bureau of Land Management, ``Information Quality 
Guidelines--Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, 
Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by 
the Bureau of Land Management,'' http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/national/national_page.Par.7549.File.dat/guidelines.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, the BLM intends that the March 2015 publication, 
``Advancing Science in the BLM: An Implementation Strategy,'' will 
inform a responsible official's consideration of high quality 
information. This publication describes several principles and 
practices that pertain to the identification and consideration of high 
quality information in resource management planning. They include: 
Using the best available scientific knowledge relevant to a problem or 
decision, including peer-reviewed literature where it exists; 
acknowledging, describing, and documenting assumptions and 
uncertainties; and using quantitative data when it exists, together 
with professional scientific expertise from within and outside the 
BLM.\10\ Moreover, all BLM employees are subject to the DOI scientific 
integrity policy in the Departmental Manual (305 DM 3, Dec. 16, 2014) 
when they use scientific information for DOI policy, management, or 
regulatory decisions. This policy states: ``Scientific information 
considered in Departmental decision-making must be robust, of the 
highest quality, and the result of as rigorous a set of scientific 
processes as can be achieved. Most importantly, the information must be 
trustworthy.'' (305 DM 3, section 3.4).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ The implementation strategy is available at: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/blm-library/publications/blm_publications/advancing_science.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Together, these requirements, policies, and strategies relating to 
high quality information, including scientific information, will guide 
responsible officials as they consider information for planning 
purposes. The BLM anticipates that including the BLM's commitment to 
using high quality information in the planning regulations, and 
operating consistent with Departmental policy on scientific integrity 
and BLM's strategy for advancing science, will result in greater 
consistency in how BLM identifies and uses information, including 
scientific information, throughout the land use planning process. 
Section 1610.1-1(c) establishes an explicit regulatory requirement for 
using high quality information in the planning regulations, as the 
existing regulations do not address information quality.
Section 1610.1-2 Plan Components
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.1-2 with some revisions, 
which are described in the discussion for each corresponding paragraph 
of Sec.  1610.1-2.
    Section 1610.1-2 describes the components of a resource management 
plan. The existing definition of ``resource management plan'' lists 
eight elements that a plan ``generally establishes'' (see existing 
Sec.  1601.0-5(n)). The final rule incorporates many of these elements 
into the ``plan components'' and removes several of the elements (for 
more information on elements that are removed from the planning 
regulations, please see the discussion at the preamble for proposed, 
but not adopted, Sec.  1610.1-3). The plan components provide planning-
level direction with which future management activities and decisions 
must be consistent (i.e., planning-level management direction).
    Consistent with the proposed rule, final Sec.  1610.1-2 describes 
the following six ``plan components'' which every resource management 
plan will include: goals, objectives, designations, resource use 
determinations, monitoring and evaluation standards, and as applicable, 
certain lands identified as available for disposal. Plan components 
provide planning-level management direction and will therefore only be 
changed through plan amendments or revisions under Sec.  1610.1-2(c). 
Typographical and mapping errors, or minor changes in mapping or data 
for a plan component could be updated through plan maintenance (see 
Sec.  1610.6-4). This is consistent with current BLM policy and 
practice (see Sec.  1610.6-4).
    The final rule clearly identifies the planning-level management 
direction reflected in the plan components of an approved resource 
management plan. This planning-level management direction is intended 
to guide future management activities towards the achievement of goals 
and objectives across the landscape, while also providing for use of 
the public lands by tracts or areas as required by FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 
1712(a)). The plan components will not, however, prescribe future 
management actions, which require further specific plans, process 
steps, or decisions. By doing so, the final rule enables the BLM to 
establish clear management direction in a resource management plan, 
while allowing adaptive approaches to implement future actions under 
the plan. It also provides consistency throughout the BLM in how plans 
are structured.
    The six plan components are based on the first four elements and 
the eighth element described in the existing definition of a resource 
management plan (see existing Sec. Sec.  1601.0-5(n)(1) through 1601.0-
5(n)(4) and 1601.0-5(n)(8)). Under the final rule, these elements are 
called plan components and each component is provided a

[[Page 89600]]

distinct name and a precise definition to facilitate understanding and 
consistent interpretation and inclusion in resource management plans.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec. Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(1) and 
1610.1-2(a)(2), with some revisions. These sections describe the first 
two types of plan components--goals and objectives--and explicitly 
require the inclusion of goals and objectives, as proposed. While not a 
major change from current practice, the final rule also provides 
clarity on the definition of the goals and objectives, which improve 
understanding and consistency in implementation.
    Goals are defined in the final rule as broad statements of desired 
outcomes addressing resource, environmental, ecological, social, and 
economic characteristics within the planning area or a portion of the 
planning area. The BLM will direct the management of the land and 
resources within the planning area toward the goals of the resource 
management plan. This plan component replaces ``resource condition 
goals'' described in existing Sec.  1601.0-5(n)(3). The final rule 
removes the words ``resource condition'' as goals may address other 
characteristics within a planning area as well. This is an important 
distinction as FLPMA directs the BLM to use and observe the principles 
of multiple use and sustained yield when developing resource management 
plans. Multiple use, as defined in FLPMA, means, in part, the 
management of the public lands so that all resources are utilized in 
the combination that best meet the needs of the American people taking 
into account the long term needs of future generations for renewable 
and non-renewable resources. The final rule provides that these needs 
are reflected in the goals of a resource management plan. These needs 
may address a broad range of desired outcomes related to resource, 
environmental, ecological, social, or economic characteristics. For 
example, the needs of local communities may include economic outcomes 
related to development of the public lands, or they may include social 
outcomes such as access to public lands for recreation, solitude, or 
gathering of traditional plants. The BLM intends no change from 
existing practice; rather, providing a clear definition of ``goals'' in 
the regulations will improve consistency and reflect FLPMA's mandate to 
manage on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield.
    The only change to proposed Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(1) in the final rule 
is to replace the phrase ``within a planning area'' to ``within the 
planning area,'' for grammatical clarity. The BLM intends no change in 
meaning by this grammatical clarification.
    Objectives are described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section and 
replace the ``resource condition . . . objectives'' described in 
existing Sec.  1601.0-5(n)(3). An objective is a concise statement of 
desired resource conditions that guides progress toward one or more 
goals. In response to public comment, we add language to the first 
sentence of paragraph (a)(2) of this section to make clear that an 
objective is a statement of desired resource conditions ``within the 
planning area, or a portion of the planning area.'' This new language 
clarifies that a single objective may apply to the entire planning 
area, or it may only apply to a portion of the planning area. For 
example, an objective related to the achievement of National Ambient 
Air Quality Standards would likely apply to the entire planning area, 
whereas an objective related to vegetation composition may only apply 
to a portion of it.
    The final rule adopts the proposed new requirement that objectives 
must be specific and measurable and should have established time-frames 
for achievement. Measurable objectives will be defined using the most 
appropriate scale of measurement for that objective. For example, an 
objective to manage an area as visual resource class one, two, or three 
is based on an ordinal scale of measurement. An ordinal scale ranks 
categories in order (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), but there is no relative 
degree of difference between the categories. In contrast, an objective 
related to managing for a specific proportion of vegetation cover 
(e.g., total acreage) is based on a ratio scale of measurement. A ratio 
scale has a fixed zero value and allows the comparison of differences 
of values.
    Establishing measurable objectives will improve the BLM's ability 
to evaluate whether the objectives are being met, to track progress 
toward their achievement, and to change management direction, as 
appropriate, to meet established objectives. Since future resource 
management actions will be required to conform to the plan components, 
including the objectives (see the definition of ``conformity or 
conformance'' in Sec.  1601.0-5), the requirement for measurable 
objectives will assist the BLM when determining if a proposed action is 
in conformance with the resource management plan objectives. For 
example, if the NEPA analysis reveals that a proposed action will 
prevent the achievement of an objective, the proposed action would not 
be in conformance with the resource management plan. These changes also 
support the use of adaptive management, where appropriate, as a 
measurable objective could identify a threshold that triggers a 
response, such as the initiation of a plan amendment. If such a 
threshold is identified as part of a measurable objective, the BLM will 
use the monitoring and evaluation process to determine whether the 
threshold has been met (see the discussion on monitoring and evaluation 
at the preamble for Sec.  1610.6-4).
    The final rule adopts the proposal that objectives should identify 
standards to mitigate undesirable impacts to resource conditions, with 
minor edits. This change supports implementation of the BLM mitigation 
policy. For example, an objective might identify a mitigation standard 
for no net loss to a sensitive species, which would provide a standard 
to guide future authorizations in avoiding, minimizing, and 
compensating for any unavoidable remaining impacts to the sensitive 
species.
    Changes between the proposed and final rule replace ``to the extent 
practical'' with ``as appropriate'' in paragraph (a)(2) of this 
section. This change is intended to clarify that there may be 
situations when it is not appropriate to identify a mitigation standard 
in a resource management plan, such as within a wilderness area where 
development is not allowed, or when there is insufficient scientific 
information available to develop a standard. The final rule also 
replaces the word ``effects'' with ``impacts'' in paragraph (a)(2)(i) 
of this section for consistency with the proposed and final definition 
of mitigation (see Sec.  1601.0-5). The BLM intends no substantive 
change in meaning from these changes between the proposed and final 
rule.
    The final rule adopts the proposal that objectives should provide 
integrated consideration of resource, environmental, ecological, 
social, and economic factors (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(2)), however, this 
provision will also be applied ``as appropriate'' instead of ``as 
practical'' for improved clarity that there may be situations when it 
is not appropriate to provide integrated consideration of these 
factors. For example, when establishing measurable objectives for 
vegetation communities, social factors may or may not be pertinent 
depending on the location and circumstances.
    Finally, in response to public comment, the final rule establishes 
an additional requirement (final Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(2)(iii)) that, as 
appropriate, objectives should identify indicators for

[[Page 89601]]

evaluating progress toward achievement of the objective. The purpose of 
this new provision is to provide clear direction in the resource 
management plan on how the BLM intends to measure the objective. The 
indicators described in the objectives will be the same indicators as 
described in the monitoring and evaluation standards. Identifying these 
same indicators in both the objectives and the monitoring and 
evaluation standards more clearly links the achievement of objectives 
to monitoring and evaluation and will ensure that BLM is able to 
determine if the plan objective is being met through monitoring and 
evaluation. This provision is applied ``as appropriate'' because in 
some circumstances an objective may include more than one indicator, 
whereas in other circumstances an indicator may not be relevant or 
necessary in order to measure progress towards the achievement of the 
objective.
    Section 1610.1-2(b) of the final rule describes four additional 
plan components that are developed either to achieve the goals and 
objectives of the resource management plan, or to comply with 
applicable legal requirements or policies. These four plan components 
include designations, resource use determinations, monitoring and 
evaluation standards, and lands identified as available for disposal, 
as applicable. These plan components will also provide planning-level 
management direction while supporting achievement of the goals and 
objectives of the resource management plan. The final rule adopts 
proposed section 1610.1-2(b), with the revisions described in the 
following paragraphs.
    Paragraph (b)(1) of this section describes ``designations,'' which 
replaces the existing element of a resource management plan described 
as ``land areas for . . . designation, including ACEC designation'' 
(see existing Sec.  1601.0-5(n)(1)). Designations identify areas of 
public land where management is directed toward one or more priority 
resource values or resource uses. A designation highlights these areas 
to clearly communicate the BLM's intention to prioritize these resource 
values or resource uses when developing management direction or making 
future management decisions in the area. Changes between the proposed 
and final rule replace ``uses'' with ``resource uses'' for improved 
clarity. No change in meaning is intended by this revision.
    Designations include both ``planning designations,'' which are 
identified through the BLM land use planning process, and ``non-
discretionary designations,'' which are identified by the President, 
Congress, or the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to other legal 
authorities. The final rule adopts, with no changes, proposed 
paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (b)(1)(ii) of this section which describe 
planning designations and non-discretionary designations.
    Planning designations will be identified through the BLM land use 
planning process in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the 
plan or to comply with applicable legal requirements or policies. 
Examples of existing designations or allocations that will become 
planning designations that could be identified in a resource management 
plan are an ACEC, a research natural area, a special recreation 
management area, a backcountry conservation area, a wildlife corridor 
area, or a solar energy zone.
    The BLM intends to include a list of planning designations 
available for use during the planning process in the revisions to the 
Land Use Planning Handbook. The BLM recognizes that new information or 
unique circumstances in a planning area may warrant the development of 
new planning designations; thus, the list in the handbook will not 
preclude development of additional designations in the future. The 
purpose of developing a list of available planning designations in the 
forthcoming revision of the Land Use Planning Handbook is to provide 
consistent terminology and naming conventions for use across BLM 
resource management plans. Further, it is not the BLM's intention that 
all public lands will be included in a planning designation; rather, 
the final rule and the forthcoming revision of the Land Use Planning 
Handbook will clarify that this is an existing planning tool that is 
available during the planning process to highlight and prioritize 
unique or special areas that require management that is different from 
surrounding lands.
    Non-discretionary designations, in contrast, are identified by the 
President, Congress, or the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to other 
legal authorities. For instance, Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, 
Congress has the exclusive authority to designate or change the 
boundaries of wilderness areas. The BLM and other Federal land 
management agencies manage wilderness areas consistent with 
Congressional direction. The BLM manages National Conservation Areas 
(NCA) and similarly designated lands such as Cooperative Management and 
Protection Areas, Outstanding Natural Areas, and the Headwaters Forest 
Reserve in northern California pursuant to Congressional direction.
    Non-discretionary designations are not established or amended 
through the BLM land use planning process. These non-discretionary 
designations will, however, be identified in a resource management 
plan, and management direction for the designation, including plan 
components, will be developed, consistent with applicable direction 
provided in the proclamation, legislation, or order that established 
the non-discretionary designation.
    This section of the final rule does not represent a substantive 
change from the existing rule, other than identifying designations as a 
plan component and specifying that planning designations can be applied 
either to achieve the goals and objectives of the resource management 
plan or to comply with legal requirements or policies. Further, the 
final rule clarifies the difference between a designation and other 
plan components, such as a resource use determination. The BLM believes 
that differentiating between resource use determinations and 
designations in the regulations will help to improve general 
understanding of terminology.
    Resource use determinations are another type of plan component 
described in final Sec.  1610.1-2(b). Resource use determinations 
replace several existing elements of a resource management plan, 
including ``land areas for limited, restricted, or exclusive use,'' 
``allowable resource uses,'' and ``program constraints,'' (see existing 
Sec.  1601.0-5(n)). A resource use determination identifies areas of 
public lands or mineral estate where specific uses are excluded, 
restricted, or allowed in order to achieve the goals and objectives of 
the resource management plan or applicable legal requirements or 
policies. Resource use determinations include the specific restrictions 
to an allowed use that will be required for all future activities and 
authorizations within the area. Examples of resource use determinations 
include: Areas identified as available or unavailable for livestock 
grazing, open or closed to mineral leasing, or open to mineral leasing 
subject to standard terms and conditions or major or moderate 
constraints, or open, limited, or closed to Off-Highway-Vehicle use. In 
most circumstances, a resource use determination indicating that a use 
is allowed, or allowed with restrictions in an area, will not represent 
a final decision allowing future use authorizations in the area, rather 
it will indicate that future authorizations for the activities may be 
considered for

[[Page 89602]]

approval following site-specific NEPA analysis.
    In response to public comment, the final rule adds language to 
paragraph (b)(2) of this section to clarify that a resource use 
determination is ``subject to valid existing rights.'' The final rule 
includes this language in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, although it 
is not necessary, as determinations are always subject to valid 
existing rights, because we believe it is instructive in regards to 
resource use determinations, which provide for the use of public lands. 
This change between proposed and final rule does not represent a change 
in the meaning of this section, nor does it represent a change from 
current practice or policy.
    Also in response to public comment, the final rule adds language to 
paragraph (b)(2) of this section stating that ``resource use 
determinations shall be consistent with or support the management 
priorities (i.e., the resource values and resource uses) identified 
through designations.'' In contrast to designations, which indicate 
where one or more resources or uses is prioritized over other resources 
or uses, resource use determinations identify where a use is excluded, 
restricted, or allowed, but do not identify a priority for one or more 
multiple-uses. Resource use determinations may be developed for the 
designation, or they may be developed for another purpose, but overlay 
a designation; in these situations, the resource use determinations 
must be consistent with or support the management priorities 
established through the designations, subject to valid existing rights.
    Final Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2) provides terminology for the ``allowable 
resource uses'' and ``land use allowances, exclusions, and 
restrictions'' identified in the existing definition of a resource 
management plan. This change improves the identification of these 
elements in a resource management plan and consistent use of 
terminology. The BLM intends no substantive change in practice or 
policy associated with this new terminology; however, under the final 
rule there are changes in how the various parts of a resource 
management plan are categorized.
    For example, under this final rule, some common ``management 
actions'' described in resource management plans prepared under the 
existing planning regulations are classified as ``resource use 
determinations,'' such as any explicit restrictions to an allowed use 
at the land use planning level. For example, mineral lease stipulations 
such as No Surface Occupancy or Controlled Surface Use will be 
considered resource use determinations, as these constraints represent 
restrictions to an allowed use that are explicitly required at the land 
use planning level. Resource use determinations will be changed only 
through plan amendments or revisions. This change does not represent a 
change in current practice under the existing regulations, as planning-
level restrictions to an allowed use are currently subject to protest 
procedures and may be changed only through plan amendments.
    With these changes, the BLM also affirms that planning designations 
and resource use determinations may be defined explicitly by geographic 
boundaries, or implicitly by describing the specific conditions or 
criteria under which a resource or use will be prioritized, or a use 
will be excluded, restricted, or allowed. In situations where a 
criteria-based approach is used, the BLM will develop maps showing 
where the criteria apply based on current data and conditions. These 
options for defining planning designations and resource use 
determinations are consistent with current practice and do not 
represent a change from existing policy, though it does represent a 
change in terminology.
    For example, under the existing planning regulations, the BLM 
applied both approaches when developing the ``Approved Resource 
Management Plan Amendments and Record of Decision (ROD) for Solar 
Energy Development in Six Southwestern States'' (Western Solar Energy 
Plan). In this Plan the BLM developed a list of areas where utility-
scale solar energy development was prohibited. Some of these areas were 
defined by explicit geographic boundaries, such as lands in the Ivanpah 
Valley in California and Nevada. Others were defined by the presence of 
a specific land use designation in an applicable land use plan (e.g., 
ACECs) or the presence of a specific resource or condition (e.g., 
designated or proposed critical habitat for ESA-listed species). The 
geographic boundaries for these areas may change over time as land use 
plans are revised or amended and new information on resource conditions 
is developed. When developing the Western Solar Energy Plan and its 
associated NEPA analysis, the BLM mapped and estimated the acreage for 
all exclusion areas based on best available information; however, those 
maps will be updated over time through plan maintenance.
    Monitoring and evaluation standards are another type of plan 
component. These standards are described in paragraph (b)(3) of this 
section and replace the existing element of a resource management plan 
entitled ``Intervals and standards for monitoring and evaluating the 
plan to determine the effectiveness of the plan and the need for 
amendment or revision'' (see existing Sec.  1601.0-5(n)(8)). The final 
rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(3) of this section with no changes. 
Monitoring and evaluation standards include ``indicators and intervals 
for monitoring and evaluation to determine whether the objectives are 
being met or there is relevant new information that may warrant 
amendment or revision of the resource management plan.'' Indicators and 
intervals for monitoring will be tied directly to the measurable 
objectives to clearly indicate how each objective will be measured 
(i.e., the indicator) and how often it will be measured (i.e., the 
interval). The indicators described in the monitoring and evaluation 
standards will be the same indicators as described in the objectives 
(see Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(2)(iii)). Intervals for evaluating the resource 
management plan identify the frequency for evaluating the resource 
management plan to determine whether the resource management plan 
objectives are being met or if there is relevant new information that 
may warrant amendment or revision of the resource management plan. The 
forthcoming revision of the Land Use Planning Handbook will provide 
guidance on developing appropriate indicators and intervals for 
monitoring and evaluation.
    Lands identified as available for disposal from BLM administration 
constitute the final type of plan component and replace the existing 
element of a resource management plan described as ``land areas . . . 
for transfer from Bureau of Land Management Administration'' (see 
existing Sec.  1601.0-5(n)(1)). The final rule adopts proposed 
paragraph (b)(4), which specifies that lands identified as available 
for disposal will be considered a plan component. This paragraph is 
revised to clarify that lands identified for disposal may include, but 
are not limited to sales under section 203 of FLPMA. FLPMA provides for 
the disposal of tracts of public land where the BLM determines that the 
disposal meets specified criteria (see 43 U.S.C. 1713; 43 U.S.C. 1716; 
and 43 U.S.C. 1719).
    Identification of lands available for disposal is ``as 
appropriate'' because they may not be applicable to every resource 
management plan. For example, it is unlikely that a resource management 
plan developed for a national monument or national conservation area 
will identify lands as

[[Page 89603]]

available for disposal. As a plan component, identification of lands as 
available for disposal will only be changed through amendment or 
revision. This is consistent with current BLM policy.
    Collectively, the plan components described in this final rule 
provide the framework for a land use plan (i.e., a resource management 
plan), as contemplated by FLPMA. FLPMA provides direction that the 
present and future use of public lands and their resources be projected 
through land use planning (i.e., resource management planning) (43 
U.S.C. 1701(a)(2)), and similarly, that land use plans provide, by 
tracts or areas, for the use of public lands (43 U.S.C. 1712(a)). In 
the development of land use plans, FLPMA directs the BLM to use and 
observe the principles of multiple use and sustained yield. In doing 
so, the BLM must manage the various resource values so that they are 
utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future 
needs of the American people, making the most judicious use of the land 
for some or all of these resources or related services over areas large 
enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in use 
to conform to changing needs and conditions (see 43 U.S.C. 1702(c)).
    Under the final rule, the plan components are designed to 
accomplish each of these FLPMA mandates. The needs of the American 
people are articulated through the goals of the resource management 
plan, the management of resource values is provided through the 
objectives, as well as the designations and resource use 
determinations. The resource use determinations also provide, by tracts 
or areas, for the use of the public lands. Finally, the standards for 
monitoring and evaluation provide the means to respond to changing 
needs and conditions, by ensuring the BLM monitors changes to the 
resource values identified in the plan objectives. This rule sets 
forward what the BLM will include in resource management plans, and a 
process for developing those plans, consistent with FLPMA.
Proposed Section 1610.1-3 Implementation Strategies
    The final rule does not adopt proposed section 1610.1-3. Proposed 
Sec.  1610.1-3 described implementation strategies that the BLM 
proposed to develop in conjunction with a resource management plan, but 
that would not represent planning level management direction and would 
not be considered components of the resource management plan. As 
proposed, implementation strategies would be included as an appendix to 
the resource management plan. The proposed rule described 
implementation strategies as examples of how the BLM would implement 
future actions consistent with the planning-level management direction. 
After careful consideration of public comment, the BLM believes that 
this proposed concept is not appropriate for inclusion in this rule.
    Many public comments indicated that the concept of implementation 
strategies, as described in the proposed rule, was confusing. Namely, 
commenters questioned why implementation strategies would be developed 
during the planning process and described in this subpart if they were 
not intended to be a part of the resource management plan. Several 
public comments suggested that implementation strategies should follow 
the same procedures as those required for the preparation and amendment 
of a resource management plan, which would effectively make 
implementation strategies a plan component. The BLM does not believe 
that implementation strategies would be appropriate as a plan 
component, however, because this approach would limit the BLM's ability 
to efficiently and effectively apply adaptive management approaches to 
ensure that the goals and objectives of land use plans are being met. 
Therefore, this proposed change would not support the goals of the 
Planning 2.0 initiative and this rulemaking.
    As a consequence of not adopting proposed Sec.  1610.1-3(a)(1), 
several elements described in the existing definition of a resource 
management plan are not retained in the final rule. These elements do 
not represent requirements under existing regulations, as they are 
described as ``generally'' included in a resource management plan. The 
existing elements include ``general management practices,'' the ``need 
for an area to be covered by more detailed and specific plans,'' 
``general implementation sequences, where carrying out a planned action 
is dependent upon prior accomplishment of another planned action,'' and 
some ``support action[s].'' These existing elements are removed from 
the final rule because they require site-specific information before a 
final decision can be rendered, or they describe procedures and are not 
associated with a formal decision, and therefore they do not represent 
planning-level management direction.
    Under current practice, some of these existing elements are 
generally described as ``management actions'' (for a definition of 
management actions, please see the current Land Use Planning Handbook, 
H-1601-1) and the removal of these existing elements represents a 
change from current practice; however, not all ``management actions'' 
are removed from the final rule, those that represent planning level 
management direction will be incorporated into the plan components. For 
example, under the final rule a restriction on use, such as a lease 
stipulation, will be a resource use determination; similarly a 
statement that describes desired resource conditions, such as a desired 
vegetation composition, will be a plan objective.
    The removal of these existing elements in existing Sec.  1601.0-
5(n), combined with new requirements in final Sec.  1610.1-2 related to 
plan components, represents a transition in the overall resource 
management planning framework applied by the BLM through the resource 
management planning process. This change is necessary in order to apply 
adaptive approaches to resource management and is based on new research 
and information that was not available when the existing definition of 
a resource management plan was promulgated (44 FR 46386). Under the 
final rule the plan objectives describe specific and measurable desired 
resource conditions, including indicators, as appropriate, for 
measuring progress towards their achievement. Further, the BLM will 
develop standards for monitoring and evaluating to determine if 
objectives are being achieved. These new requirements ensure that 
resource management plans will provide clear direction for the desired 
objectives to be achieved.
    By identifying objectives, while maintaining flexibility to vary 
the actions taken to achieve the objectives, the BLM will be able to 
more readily respond to change. These changes are consistent with 
current guidelines for applying adaptive management. The DOI technical 
guide on adaptive management describes ``adaptive management'' as a 
decision process that promotes flexible decision making that can be 
adjusted in the face of uncertainties as outcomes from management 
actions and other events become better understood. Adaptive management 
requires explicit and measurable objectives so that progress toward 
their achievement can be assessed, and performance that deviates from 
objectives may trigger a change in management. Adaptive management also 
requires flexibility to change management actions when necessary. The 
final rule supports the use of these types of adaptive approaches, 
while still

[[Page 89604]]

providing direction in resource management plans regarding the areas of 
public lands available for use, and the goals and objectives to be 
achieved, as provided for in FLPMA. The final rule does not preclude 
development of the information described in the two types of proposed 
implementation strategies--management measures and monitoring 
procedures. Rather, it affirms that while this information is not 
required as planning level management direction and need not be 
included in a resource management plan this information is important 
for resource management and essential to the effective implementation 
of adaptive management procedures. In some situations, the BLM may 
choose to develop this information concurrently with resource 
management planning, and the final rule does not preclude this option.
Section 1610.2 Public Involvement
    In the heading of this section and throughout the planning 
regulations, the final rule adopts the proposal to replace the term 
``public participation'' with ``public involvement'' to be more 
consistent with FLPMA. The BLM intends no change in practice or meaning 
from this revision. Public involvement is central to the BLM land use 
planning process under FLPMA, which directs the Secretary, ``with 
public involvement'' and consistent with FLPMA, to ``develop, maintain, 
and, when appropriate, revise land use plans which provide by tracts or 
areas for the use of the public lands.'' (See 43 U.S.C. 1712(a).) FLPMA 
also requires that the Secretary ``allow an opportunity for public 
involvement and by regulation shall establish procedures . . . to give 
Federal, State, and local governments and the public, adequate notice 
and opportunity to comment upon and participate in the formulation of 
plans and programs relating to the management of the public lands.'' 
(See 43 U.S.C. 1712(f).) FLPMA broadly defines the term ``public 
involvement'' as ``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 held at 
locations near the affected lands, or advisory mechanisms, or such 
other procedures as may be necessary to provide public comment in a 
particular instance'' (see 43 U.S.C. 1702(d)). The final rule provides 
a similar definition to public involvement as ``the opportunity for 
participation by the public in decision making and planning with 
respect to the public lands.'' This is also discussed in the preamble 
discussion of the definition of public involvement Sec.  1601.0-5.
    The BLM interprets this definition (see Sec.  1601.0-5) as 
encompassing notice by varied means, including by making a planning 
document available electronically (e.g., on the BLM Web site), 
providing direct notice to individuals or groups that have asked to 
receive notice about public involvement opportunities (e.g., by 
electronic means such as email or by U.S. mail), or publishing general 
notice for the public (e.g., in a local newspaper or in the Federal 
Register). The final rule adopts the proposal to revise Sec.  1610.2 to 
indicate more clearly the points in the planning process when the BLM 
will provide notice through one or more of these means.
    In addition, the final rule adopts the proposal to distinguish in 
the regulations between making a document ``available for public 
review'' and specifically requesting public comments. Where the BLM 
makes documents available for public review, the BLM believes it is 
important for the public to have an opportunity to see the BLM's 
progress. The public is welcome to bring any questions or concerns to 
the responsible official's attention based on public review and, to the 
extent that it is practical, the responsible official will consider 
their input and document it in the decision file associated with the 
resource management plan or plan amendment.
    When the BLM makes a document ``available for public review'' the 
BLM is not required to provide a formal opportunity for public comment, 
including a time-period for submission of comments or a formal summary 
or response to any public comments received. This is not a change from 
existing practice, but clarifies the BLM's intent when we use this 
terminology.
    In contrast, where the BLM ``requests written comments,'' the BLM 
will provide a minimum of 30 days for response (see Sec.  1610.2-2(a)). 
As appropriate, the BLM will also summarize and respond to substantive 
comments. For example, the BLM will summarize public comments raised 
during scoping, develop planning issues based on the comments, and 
issue a scoping report. Similarly, the BLM will summarize and respond 
to substantive public comments submitted on a draft resource management 
plan and draft EIS. In some situations, the BLM may request written 
comments, but will not provide a written response to commenters. For 
example, the BLM may request public comment on a draft EA-level 
amendment without issuing a written response. Again, this is not a 
change from existing practice, but will clarify to the public the BLM's 
intent when we use this terminology.
    The final rule also makes it clear that the requirements to make a 
document ``available for public review,'' as described in this subpart, 
represent a minimum requirement and do not preclude the BLM from 
providing additional or enhanced opportunities for public involvement 
during any given planning effort. For example, a responsible official 
may choose to request written comments and provide a time-period for 
submission of comments when making the preliminary alternatives 
available for public review, should the responsible official believe 
that it would add value to that particular planning effort. The 
responsible official may not provide a summary of these written 
comments, but would describe in the draft resource management plan how 
public involvement informed the development of the draft alternatives 
(see Sec.  1610.5-4(a)(1)).
    The final rule adopts the proposal to restructure Sec.  1610.2 to 
clearly indicate the different aspects of public involvement in the 
land use planning process. General provisions are outlined in final 
Sec.  1610.2, which is followed by specific sections, including: Public 
notice (see final Sec.  1610.2-1); public comment periods (see final 
Sec.  1610.2-2); and availability of the resource management plan (see 
final Sec.  1610.2-3). The following table and paragraphs explain the 
specific changes to Sec.  1610.2 and the supporting rationale.

[[Page 89605]]



     Table 1--Comparison of Public Involvement Opportunities in Existing vs. Proposed Regulations vs. Final
                                                   Regulations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Step in planning process for the                           Level of public involvement
preparation of a resource  management --------------------------------------------------------------------------
   plan or an  EIS-level amendment       Existing regulations     Proposed regulations      Final regulations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Planning assessment..................  Not applicable: The      1610.4: The public       1610.4: Same as
                                        planning assessment      would be provided        proposed regulations,
                                        will be a new            opportunities to         except for option to
                                        requirement under the    provide existing data    waive a planning
                                        proposed rule, and       or information or to     assessment. The BLM
                                        therefore is not         suggest policies,        could waive the
                                        applicable to the        guidance, or plans for   requirement to conduct
                                        existing regulations.    consideration in the     a planning assessment
                                                                 planning assessment.     for project-specific
                                                                 The BLM would identify   or other minor EIS-
                                                                 public views in          level amendments.
                                                                 relation to the
                                                                 planning area, which
                                                                 could include public
                                                                 meetings. The planning
                                                                 assessment would be
                                                                 documented in a
                                                                 report, which would be
                                                                 made available for
                                                                 public review. The BLM
                                                                 could waive the
                                                                 requirement to conduct
                                                                 a planning assessment
                                                                 for project-specific
                                                                 or minor EIS-level
                                                                 amendments.
Identification of planning issues....  1610.2(c) and 1610.4-1:  1610.2-1(f) and 1610.5-  1610.2-1(f) and 1610.5-
                                        The BLM publishes a      1: Same as existing      1: Same as existing
                                        NOI in the Federal       regulations.             and proposed
                                        Register and publishes                            regulations.
                                        a notice in
                                        appropriate local
                                        media. The public is
                                        provided a minimum of
                                        30-days to comment.
Development of planning criteria.....  1610.4-2: Proposed       1610.5-2 and 1610.5-3:   1610.5-2 and 1610.5-3:
                                        planning criteria are    Planning criteria        Same as proposed
                                        published in a NOI in    would no longer be       regulations, except
                                        the Federal Register     required under the       the public review of
                                        and made available for   proposed rule.           the rationale for
                                        public comment through   Instead, the BLM would   alternatives and basis
                                        the scoping period and   describe the rationale   for analysis will be
                                        comment on the draft     for the differences      made available for
                                        resource management      between alternatives     public review ``as
                                        plan.                    as well as the basis     appropriate'' for EIS-
                                                                 for analysis.            level amendments.
                                                                 Preliminary versions
                                                                 of both would be made
                                                                 available for public
                                                                 review prior to the
                                                                 publication of the
                                                                 draft resource
                                                                 management plan or EIS-
                                                                 level amendment.
Inventory data and information         1610.4-3: No             1610.4: This step would  1610.4: Same as
 collection.                            opportunities for        be replaced with the     proposed regulations.
                                        public involvement are   planning assessment.
                                        provided at this step.   The public would be
                                                                 provided opportunities
                                                                 to provide existing
                                                                 data or information or
                                                                 to suggest policies,
                                                                 guidance, or plans for
                                                                 consideration in the
                                                                 planning assessment.
                                                                 The BLM would identify
                                                                 public views in
                                                                 relation to the
                                                                 planning area, which
                                                                 may include public
                                                                 meetings. The planning
                                                                 assessment would be
                                                                 documented in a
                                                                 report, which would be
                                                                 made available for
                                                                 public review.
Analysis of the management situation.  1610.4-4: No             1610.4: This step would  1610.4: Same as
                                        opportunities for        be replaced with the     proposed regulations.
                                        public involvement are   planning assessment.
                                        provided at this step.   The public would be
                                                                 provided opportunities
                                                                 to provide existing
                                                                 data or information or
                                                                 to suggest policies,
                                                                 guidance, or plans for
                                                                 consideration in the
                                                                 planning assessment.
                                                                 The BLM would identify
                                                                 public views in
                                                                 relation to the
                                                                 planning area, which
                                                                 could include public
                                                                 meetings. The planning
                                                                 assessment would be
                                                                 documented in a
                                                                 report, which would be
                                                                 made available for
                                                                 public review.

[[Page 89606]]

 
Formulation of resource management     1610.4-5: No             1610.5-2: The            1610.5-2: Same as
 alternatives.                          opportunities for        preliminary              proposed regulations,
                                        public involvement are   alternatives and         except the public
                                        provided at this step.   preliminary rationale    review of the
                                                                 for alternatives would   rationale for
                                                                 be made available for    alternatives and basis
                                                                 public review before     for analysis will be
                                                                 publication of the       made available for
                                                                 draft resource           public review ``as
                                                                 management plan or EIS-  appropriate'' for EIS-
                                                                 level amendment.         level amendments.
Estimation of effects of alternatives  1610.4-6: No             1610.5-3: The            1610.5-3: Same as
                                        opportunities for        preliminary              proposed regulations,
                                        public involvement are   procedures,              except the preliminary
                                        provided at this step.   assumptions, and         procedures,
                                                                 indicators to be used    assumptions, and
                                                                 when estimating the      indicators to be used
                                                                 effects of               when estimating the
                                                                 alternatives would be    effects of
                                                                 made available for       alternatives will be
                                                                 public review before     made available for
                                                                 publication of the       public review ``as
                                                                 draft resource           appropriate'' for EIS-
                                                                 management plan or EIS-  level amendments.
                                                                 level amendment.
Preparation of the draft resource      1610.4-7: No             1610.5-4: Same as        1610.5-4: Same as
 management plan and selection of       opportunities for        existing regulations.    existing and proposed
 preferred alternatives.                public involvement are                            regulations.
                                        provided at this step.
Publication of the draft resource      1610.2(e): The BLM       1610.2-2: When           1610.2-2: When
 management plan.                       requests public          requesting written       requesting written
                                        comment on the draft     comments on a draft      comments on a draft
                                        resource management      resource management      resource management
                                        plan and draft EIS and   plan and draft EIS,      plan and draft EIS,
                                        provides 90 calendar     the BLM would notify     the BLM will notify
                                        days for response.       the public and provide   the public and provide
                                                                 at least 60 calendar     at least 100 calendar
                                                                 days for response.       days for response.
                                                                 When requesting          When requesting
                                                                 written comments on an   written comments on an
                                                                 EIS-level amendment,     EIS-level amendment,
                                                                 the BLM would notify     the BLM will notify
                                                                 the public and provide   the public and provide
                                                                 at least 45 calendar     at least 60 calendar
                                                                 days for response.       days for response.
Selection of the proposed resource     1610.4-8: The BLM        1610.5-5: The BLM would  1610.5-5: Same as
 management plan.                       publishes the proposed   publish the proposed     existing regulations.
                                        resource management      resource management
                                        plan and final EIS.      plan or plan amendment
                                                                 and final EIS and also
                                                                 will publish any
                                                                 implementation
                                                                 strategies. The BLM
                                                                 expects that the
                                                                 implementation
                                                                 strategies will be
                                                                 included as appendices
                                                                 to the proposed
                                                                 resource management
                                                                 plan.
Protest..............................  1610.5-2: The BLM        1610.6-2: The BLM would  1610.6-2: Same as
                                        provides 30 calendar     still provide 30         proposed regulations.
                                        days for the public to   calendar days for the
                                        protest plan approval.   public to protest plan
                                        The public must submit   approval, but the
                                        a hard-copy of the       proposed rule would
                                        protest to the BLM.      describe more specific
                                                                 requirements on what
                                                                 constitutes a valid
                                                                 protest and allow for
                                                                 dismissal of any
                                                                 protest that does not
                                                                 meet these
                                                                 requirements. The
                                                                 public could submit a
                                                                 hard-copy or an
                                                                 electronic-copy of the
                                                                 protest to the BLM.
Resource management plan approval....  1610.5-1: The BLM must   1610.6-1: If the BLM     1610.6-1: Same as
                                        provide public notice    intends to select an     proposed regulations.
                                        and opportunity for      alternative that is
                                        comment on any           substantially
                                        significant change       different than the
                                        made to the proposed     proposed resource
                                        plan before approval     management plan or
                                        of the plan.             plan amendment, the
                                                                 BLM would notify the
                                                                 public and request
                                                                 written comments on
                                                                 the change before
                                                                 approval of the
                                                                 resource management
                                                                 plan or plan
                                                                 amendment. The BLM
                                                                 would notify the
                                                                 public when a resource
                                                                 management plan or
                                                                 plan amendment has
                                                                 been approved.

[[Page 89607]]

 
Monitoring and evaluation............  1610.4-9: No             1610.6-4: The BLM would  1610.6-4: Same as
                                        opportunities for        document the             proposed regulations.
                                        public involvement are   evaluation of the
                                        provided at this step.   resource management
                                                                 plan in a report made
                                                                 available for public
                                                                 review.
Plan maintenance.....................  1610.5-4: No             1610.5-4: When changes   1610.5-4: Same as
                                        opportunities for        are made to an           proposed regulations.
                                        public involvement are   approved resource
                                        provided at this step.   management plan
                                                                 through plan
                                                                 maintenance, the BLM
                                                                 will notify the public
                                                                 and make the changes
                                                                 available for public
                                                                 review at least 30
                                                                 days prior to their
                                                                 implementation.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2(a) with only minor 
revisions. Final Sec.  1610.2(a) remains relatively unchanged from 
existing regulations and states that the BLM will provide the public 
with opportunities to become meaningfully involved in and comment on 
the preparation and amendment of resource management plans. The final 
rule removes references to ``related guidance'' in order to focus this 
provision on the preparation and amendment of resource management 
plans. During the planning process, the public may submit comments on 
``related guidance'' to the BLM and the BLM will consider substantive 
comments as they relate to the preparation of the resource management 
plan, but the BLM does not provide a separate and distinct comment 
period for related guidance. This is not a change in existing practice 
or policy, but will provide clarity to the public on opportunities for 
comment.
    The final rule also removes language on giving ``early notice of 
planning activities'' from existing Sec.  1610.2(a). This language is 
vague and unnecessary because final Sec.  1610.2-1(e) carries forward 
the existing and proposed requirement that the BLM notify the public at 
least 15 days before any public involvement activities. The BLM will 
provide further advance notice beyond the 15-day requirement to the 
extent possible, consistent with current practice.
    Final Sec.  1610.2(a) will also carry forward the existing 
requirement that public involvement in the planning process conform to 
the requirements of NEPA and its associated implementing regulations. 
The final rule also revises the paragraph to use active voice for 
improved readability. No substantive revisions were made to paragraph 
(a) of this section between the proposed and final rule.
    The final rule removes existing Sec.  1610.2(b) and includes 
several of its provisions in final Sec.  1610.2(c), consistent with the 
proposed rule.
    Existing Sec.  1610.2(b) requires the BLM to publish a planning 
schedule early in each fiscal year in order to advise the public of the 
status of each plan being prepared or scheduled to start during the 
year, the major planning actions expected during the fiscal year, and 
the projected new planning starts for the next three fiscal years. The 
final rule revises this requirement. Final Sec.  1610.2(c) replaces 
existing Sec.  1610.2(b) and requires the BLM to post the status of 
each resource management plan in the process of being prepared, or 
scheduled to be started, on the BLM's Web site before the close of each 
fiscal year. The BLM often does not know its budget, priorities, or on-
the-ground needs several years in advance; in recent years the BLM has 
operated under a continuing resolution to the budget for several months 
into the fiscal year, and is therefore unable to accurately predict a 
planning schedule with the specificity required in the existing 
regulations.
    The BLM's current practice is to post a planning schedule for 
resource management plans currently under preparation or approved to 
initiate preparation on the national BLM planning Web site when this 
information is available. This change in the regulations will give the 
BLM flexibility in communicating its planning schedule, including by 
posting the schedule electronically, and will be consistent with 
current practice. It also reflects the fact that budgetary constraints 
and the need to address new and emerging resource issues make it 
difficult to accurately predict a planning schedule beyond the current 
fiscal year.
    Final paragraph (c) of this section does not include the related 
requirement for requesting public comments on the projected new 
planning starts so that comments can be considered when refining 
priorities. This existing requirement is not practical, as the BLM 
often does not know its budget, priorities, or on-the-ground needs far 
enough in advance to request public comments on projected planning 
starts. However, by posting the status of resource management plans 
scheduled to be started, the BLM will provide transparency to the 
public, while also retaining adequate flexibility to respond to 
emerging resource management issues or changes in available budgets. 
This change will make the planning regulations consistent with current 
BLM practice, but will represent a change from existing regulations.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2(b) with some revisions. 
Final Sec.  1610.2(b) is adapted from Sec. Sec.  1610.2(d) and (e) of 
the existing planning regulations. This section maintains the existing 
requirement that public involvement activities conducted by the BLM be 
documented either by a record or by a summary of the principal issues 
discussed and comments made. This requirement applies to ``activities'' 
the BLM hosts for the public during the preparation or amendment of a 
resource management plan, such as public meetings, listening sessions, 
or workshops. The final rule is revised to clarify that the BLM may 
provide ``either'' a record or a summary. No change in meaning is 
intended by this clarifying change. This provision further provides 
that the record or summary will be available to the public and open

[[Page 89608]]

for 30 days to any participant who wishes to review the record or 
summary. There will be no change in BLM operation or impact on the 
public from this change under the final rule. For example, the BLM will 
continue to prepare a scoping report following the identification of 
planning issues (see Sec.  1610.5-1), which summarizes scoping meetings 
and written scoping comments under Sec.  1610.2(b).
    Existing Sec.  1610.2(c) requires the BLM to publish a Notice in 
the Federal Register whenever beginning any new plan, revision, or 
amendment. This requirement is carried forward in final Sec.  1610.2-
1(f) and is discussed in the corresponding section of this analysis.
Section 1610.2-1 Public Notice
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1 with some revisions. 
Final Sec.  1610.2-1 describes the requirements for when and how the 
BLM will provide public notice related to opportunities for public 
involvement.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-1(a) contains the provisions of existing Sec.  
1610.2(f) with edits for consistency with other proposed changes. Final 
Sec.  1610.2-1(a) lists the points in the planning process when the BLM 
will notify the public and provide opportunities for public involvement 
that are appropriate to the areas and people involved in the 
preparation of a resource management plan, or an EIS-level amendment. 
We replace the existing and proposed phrase ``steps in the planning 
process'' with ``points in the planning process'' to clarify that the 
planning regulations do not require a sequential order for all of these 
``points'' in the process. For example, the BLM intends that the review 
of the preliminary alternatives and the rationale for alternatives will 
generally be made available for public review concurrently with the 
basis for analysis, however there is no requirement that these occur 
concurrently. The BLM intends no change in meaning from this clarifying 
edit.
    The following paragraphs describe each of these points in the 
planning process and any changes between the existing, proposed, and 
the final rule. These points will include new opportunities for public 
involvement early in the planning process, such as during the planning 
assessment, as appropriate.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(1) of this section, 
with minor edits. This paragraph requires that the BLM notify the 
public and provides opportunities for public involvement during the 
preparation of the planning assessment, subject to Sec.  1610.4. The 
BLM intends that such notification will occur when the BLM initiates 
the planning assessment and provides opportunities for public 
involvement during the planning assessment. The final rule is revised 
to replace ``as appropriate'' with ``subject to Sec.  1610.4'' in this 
provision to clarify that under Sec.  1610.4 the deciding official may 
waive the requirement to prepare a planning assessment for project-
specific or other minor EIS-level amendments. In these specific 
circumstances, a planning assessment will not be conducted, and 
therefore the BLM cannot provide opportunities for public involvement. 
However, when a planning assessment is conducted, the BLM must notify 
the public and provide opportunities for public involvement. For more 
information on this waiver, please see the discussion at the preamble 
for Sec.  1610.4(f). The planning assessment is a new requirement under 
the final rule, so this represents a new opportunity for public 
involvement.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(2) of this section, 
with minor revisions. Final Sec.  1610.2-1(a)(2) requires that the BLM 
notify the public and provide opportunities for public involvement 
during the identification of planning issues. Changes between the 
proposed and final rule include the ``review of the preliminary 
statement of purpose and need'' in this section. This added language 
identifies a new opportunity for public involvement, as there is no 
similar requirement under existing regulations, but does not represent 
a substantive change between the proposed and final rule, as this new 
opportunity for public review was described in proposed Sec.  1610.5-1. 
The BLM will include this language simply for improved readability and 
consistency with the requirements of Sec.  1610.5-1.
    The final rule adopts and combines proposed paragraphs (a)(3) and 
(a)(4) of this section into a single final paragraph (a)(3). Final 
Sec.  1610.2-1(a)(3) requires that the BLM notify the public and 
provide opportunities for public involvement during the public review 
of the preliminary resource management alternatives, rationale for 
alternatives, and the basis for analysis. Changes between the proposed 
and final rule will add the phrase ``subject to Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2(c) 
and 1610.5-3(a)(1)'' for consistency with these sections. Under 
Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2(c) and 1610.5-3(a)(1) the BLM will provide a public 
review of preliminary alternatives, rationale for alternatives, and the 
basis for analysis for all resource management plans and ``as 
appropriate'' for EIS-level amendments. When the public review is 
conducted, the BLM must notify the public and provide opportunities for 
public involvement.
    The public review of the preliminary resource management 
alternatives, rationale for alternatives, and the basis for analysis is 
a new opportunity for public involvement and therefore a change from 
existing regulations. Please see the discussions at the preamble for 
Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2(c) and 1610.5-3(a)(1) for more information on this 
change between the requirements of the existing, proposed, and final 
rule.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(5) of this section, 
however, this paragraph will instead be designated as final Sec.  
1610.2-1(a)(4). Paragraph (a)(4) of this section requires that the BLM 
notify the public and provide opportunities for public involvement 
during the public comment period on the draft resource management plan. 
There will be no change from existing requirements.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(6) of this section, 
however, this paragraph will be designated as final Sec.  1610.2-
1(a)(5). Paragraph (a)(5) of this section requires that the BLM notify 
the public and provide opportunities for public involvement during the 
protest period of the proposed resource management plan. This is not a 
change from existing requirements.
    In the proposed rule, the BLM requested public comment on whether 
the provisions of proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(a) should apply to the 
preparation of a resource management plan, but not apply to EIS-level 
amendments because plan amendments are generally smaller in scope than 
the preparation of a resource management plan. Under this alternative, 
the BLM would have notified the public and provided opportunities for 
public involvement in the preparation of an EIS-level amendment, as 
appropriate to the areas and people involved during: (1) Identification 
of planning issues; (2) Comment on the draft resource management plan; 
and (3) Protest of the proposed resource management plan. In response 
to public comment, the final rule does not adopt this proposal; 
however, final Sec.  1610.2-1(a)(3) is revised, from the proposed rule, 
to specify that the BLM will provide a public review of the preliminary 
alternatives, rationale for alternatives, and the basis for analysis, 
``as appropriate.'' Please see the discussions at the preamble for 
Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2(c) and 1610.5-3(a)(1) for more information on this 
change between the proposed and final rule and for response to public 
comments related to this change.

[[Page 89609]]

    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(b), with minor edits. 
Final Sec.  1610.2-1(b) lists the points in the planning process when 
the BLM will notify the public and provide opportunities for public 
involvement in the preparation of a plan amendment where an EA is 
prepared (EA-level amendment), as appropriate to the areas and people 
involved. Changes between the proposed and final rule will replace the 
word ``steps'' with ``points'' for consistency with the changes made to 
paragraph (a) of this section. The BLM intends no change in the meaning 
of this section from this change between proposed and final rules.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(3) 
without edits. These paragraphs identify the points where the BLM will 
notify the public and provide opportunities for public involvement. The 
points include: (1) Identification of planning issues; (2) Comment on 
the draft resource management plan amendment, as appropriate; and (3) 
Protest of the proposed resource management plan amendment.
    The existing regulations do not require that BLM provide 
opportunities for public involvement during the identification of 
planning issues for EA-level amendments, however, the BLM often chooses 
to provide such opportunities. Under the final rule, public involvement 
will be required when identifying planning issues for EA-level 
amendments. This change supports the goal of establishing early 
opportunities for public involvement in the planning process, including 
EA-level amendments. The final rule will not, however, require that the 
BLM request public comment on draft EA-level amendments, consistent 
with the existing regulations. However, the BLM often chooses to 
request public comments on draft EA-level amendments, and in such 
circumstances the public will be provided 30 calendar days for response 
(see final Sec.  1610.2-2(a)).
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec. Sec.  1610.2-1(c) through (e), 
with some revisions. Sections 1610.2-1(c) through (e) are general 
provisions that will apply whenever the BLM provides public notice 
relating to the preparation or amendment of a resource management plan.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(c), which establishes 
new requirements that the BLM announce opportunities for public 
involvement by posting a notice on the BLM Web site and at all BLM 
offices within the planning area. In response to public comments, the 
final rule also includes a new requirement that the responsible 
official identify additional forms of notification to reach local 
communities located within the planning area, as appropriate. The BLM 
acknowledges that in many rural communities, Internet access may not be 
readily available and residents often live many hundred or more miles 
from BLM offices. In these situations, the BLM will provide additional 
notifications using formats that are relevant and accessible to the 
various publics interested in or affected by the planning effort, 
including local communities. For example, the BLM may also post an 
announcement at a local library, post-office, or other frequently 
visited location; issue a local, regional, or national press release; 
notify community leaders of the opportunity; or post an announcement 
using various social media. The use of these additional formats will 
vary based on the location and public interest in the planning effort.
    These new notification requirements are consistent with current 
practice in many BLM offices and ensure consistency in implementation 
throughout the BLM. Final Sec.  1610.2-1(c) provides certainty to the 
public on where, at a minimum, they can find information on all public 
involvement opportunities.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(d) with only minor 
revisions. This section provides that individuals or groups could ask 
the BLM to notify them of opportunities for public involvement related 
to the preparation and amendment of a resource management plan. The BLM 
will notify those individuals or groups through written or electronic 
means, such as a letter sent by U.S. mail or email.
    Under existing regulations (Sec.  1610.2(d)), the Field Manager 
must maintain a mailing list of those individuals or groups known to be 
interested in or affected by a resource management plan or that have 
asked to be placed on the list and notify those individuals or groups 
of public participation activities. The final rule removes the 
requirement for the BLM to maintain a list of groups or individuals 
``known to be interested in or affected by a resource management 
plan,'' which places an unnecessary burden on the BLM to find contact 
information for groups or individuals that may not be readily 
available. The final rule instead requires the BLM to notify any groups 
or individuals that have explicitly requested to be notified of 
opportunities for public involvement.
    The BLM will continue its current practice of conducting outreach 
to all individuals or groups known to be interested in or affected by a 
resource management plan. The BLM believes that such outreach is 
important to a successful planning process. The final rule reflects the 
fact that the BLM cannot ``guarantee'' that such individuals or groups 
and their correct contact information will be added to the mailing list 
unless they request to be added and provide the BLM with current 
contact information. The forthcoming revision of the Land Use Planning 
Handbook will provide more detailed guidance on best practices for 
providing public notifications and public involvement.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(e) with only minor 
revisions. Under this section, the BLM will notify the public at least 
15 days before any public involvement activities where the public is 
invited to attend, such as a public meeting. This requirement is the 
same as that in Sec.  1610.2(e) of the existing regulations. It is 
intended to allow members of the public to plan their schedules and 
make arrangements to attend scoping meetings, ``open house'' style 
workshops, or other public meetings that are part of the BLM land use 
planning process. The BLM will provide further advance notice beyond 
the 15-day requirement to the extent possible, consistent with current 
practice.
    In response to public comment, final Sec.  1610.2-1(f) retains the 
existing requirement that the BLM publish a notice in the Federal 
Register when initiating the identification of planning issues for a 
resource management plan or plan amendment. The proposed rule would 
have removed this requirement for EA-level amendments; however, in 
response to public comments, the BLM will retain this existing 
requirement. The final rule combines proposed paragraphs (f)(1) and 
(f)(2) of this section into final paragraph (f)(1). Separate paragraphs 
distinguishing between the notice requirements for EA-level amendments 
and EIS-level amendments are no longer necessary, as the final notice 
requirements are the same.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-1(f)(1) provides that when initiating the 
identification of planning issues for the preparation of a resource 
management plan or plan amendment, in addition to posting a notice on 
the BLM's Web site and at all BLM offices in the planning area and 
providing direct notice to those individuals or groups who have 
requested notification, the BLM will also publish a notice in 
appropriate local media, including in newspapers of general circulation 
in the planning area

[[Page 89610]]

and publish a notice of intent (NOI) in the Federal Register. This 
requirement will apply regardless of the level of NEPA analysis (e.g., 
whether the BLM prepares an EA or an EIS). This section retains 
existing language stating that the NOI also may constitute the NEPA 
scoping notice (see 40 CFR 1501.7 and 43 CFR 46.235(a)).
    Final Sec.  1610.2-1(f)(1) maintains the existing requirement (see 
existing Sec. Sec.  1610.2(c) and (f)(1)) to publish a NOI in the 
Federal Register where the BLM prepares an EIS for a resource 
management plan or plan amendment. Publishing a NOI to prepare an EIS 
for a resource management plan or plan amendment in the Federal 
Register is consistent with NEPA requirements (40 CFR 1501.7 and 
1508.22) and CEQ direction that agencies ``integrate the NEPA process 
with other planning at the earliest possible time to insure that 
planning and decisions reflect environmental values, to avoid delays 
later in the process, and to head off potential conflicts'' (40 CFR 
1501.2). Publishing an NOI for these EISs also contributes to an 
efficient, integrated process by offering an opportunity to integrate 
planning with NEPA scoping requirements.\11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ CEQ and DOI NEPA regulations encourage such integration. 
See 40 CFR 1501.7(b)(4) (providing that as part of the NEPA scoping 
process, a lead agency may ``(h)old an early scoping meeting or 
meetings which may be integrated with any other early planning 
meeting the agency has'') and 43 CFR 46.235(a)) (stating that 
scoping ``provides an opportunity to bring agencies and applicants 
together to lay the groundwork for setting time limits, expediting 
reviews where possible, integrating other environmental reviews, and 
identifying any major obstacles that could delay the process'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The final rule does not include the existing language in Sec.  
1610.2(c) allowing the Field Manager to decide whether it is 
appropriate to publish a notice in media in adjoining States. This 
language is no longer needed because final Sec.  1610.2-1(f) allows the 
BLM discretion to identify ``appropriate local media,'' and this 
encompasses media in adjoining states. There will be no change in 
practice in the implementation of this section.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(f)(3), with minor 
edits; however, this section will be redesignated as Sec.  1610.2-
1(f)(2) in the final rule. This section outlines the information that 
will be included in the notices described in Sec.  1610.2-1(f)(1) and 
contains the provisions of existing Sec.  1610.2(c)(1) through (8), 
respectively, as follows.
    There will be no changes to the requirement in final 1610.2-
1(f)(2)(i) from existing requirements (see existing Sec.  
1610.2(c)(1)). The final rule adopts the proposal to specify in 
paragraph (f)(2)(ii) of this section that the ``plan'' in reference is 
a ``resource management plan.'' In response to public comment, we 
replace ``geographic area'' with ``planning area'' for consistent use 
in terminology throughout this part. There will be no change in the 
meaning of this provision from this change between the proposed and 
final rule. Final paragraph (f)(2)(iii) of this section remains 
unchanged from the existing and proposed requirements. In paragraph 
(f)(2)(iv) of this section, the final rule adopts the proposal to 
replace ``disciplines'' with ``expertise,'' to reflect that BLM staff 
may have expertise outside of their formal discipline, and an 
``interdisciplinary approach'' should be based on expertise, not formal 
disciplines. The final rule also adopts the proposal to specify that 
the ``plan'' in reference is a ``resource management plan'' and the 
purpose of having a range of expertise represented is to ``achieve an 
interdisciplinary approach.'' There is no substantive change in 
practice or policy. Final paragraph (f)(2)(v) of this section adopts 
the proposal to add language indicating that the notice should include 
the kind and extent of public involvement activities ``as known at the 
time.'' Although there is no substantive change in practice or policy, 
this clarifies that the BLM may always provide additional opportunities 
for public involvement as planning proceeds. There are no substantive 
changes to the requirements in paragraphs (f)(2)(vi) through 
(f)(2)(viii) of this section.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec. Sec.  1610.2-1(g) and (h) with 
only minor revisions. Final Sec.  1610.2-1(g) contains the provisions 
of existing Sec.  1610.2(f)(5) and provides that if the BLM intends to 
select an alternative that is substantially different than the proposed 
resource management plan, the BLM will notify the public and request 
written comments on the change. This requirement is intended to ensure 
that the public has an opportunity to comment on important changes that 
are made late in the planning process, such as those that result from 
protest resolution or the recommendations of a Governor during the 
Governor's consistency review.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-1(h) establishes a new regulatory requirement 
for the BLM to notify the public when a resource management plan or 
plan amendment has been approved, consistent with current practice. The 
BLM expects to post this notification on the BLM Web site, at the local 
BLM office where the plan was prepared, and by direct notification to 
those individuals and groups that have asked to receive notice of 
specific planning efforts. This notification will help those who are 
interested to stay up-to-date on plans and increase transparency.
    The BLM did not receive public comments related to paragraph (h) of 
this section.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(i), with minor edits 
that require the BLM to notify the public any time changes are made to 
an approved resource management plan through plan maintenance and to 
make those changes generally available to the public at least 30 days 
before the change is implemented. This change will provide transparency 
to the public on any changes made to the resource management plan 
through plan maintenance, including the correction of typographical or 
mapping errors or changes made to reflect minor changes in mapping or 
data. The BLM expects to notify the public by posting the changes to 
the BLM Web site.
    The final rule does not adopt proposed Sec.  1610.2-1(j). This 
section would have required that the BLM notify the public any time a 
change is made to an implementation strategy and make those changes 
available to the public at least 30 days before their implementation. 
This provision is no longer necessary because the final rule does not 
include the concept of implementation strategies. For more information, 
please see the discussion on implementation strategies at the preamble 
for Sec.  1610.1-3.
Section 1610.2-2 Public Comment Periods
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-2, with revisions to 
the proposed lengths of public comments periods and inclusion of a new 
provision to address public comment requirements when a resource 
management plan or plan amendment involves the possible designation of 
ACECs.
    Final Sec. Sec.  1610.2-2(a) through (c) address the length of 
public comment periods when the BLM requests written comments and this 
final section also replaces most of existing Sec.  1610.2(e). Final 
Sec.  1610.2-2(a) requires that when requesting written comments, the 
BLM will provide a comment period of at least 30 calendar days, unless 
a longer period is required by law or regulation, in which case the 
longer period will be provided as a minimum. For example, when the BLM 
requests scoping comments, a minimum 30 day comment period will be 
required; if the BLM offers a public comment period for a

[[Page 89611]]

plan amendment where an EA is prepared, a minimum 30 day comment period 
will be required. This section maintains the requirement from existing 
Sec.  1610.2(e) to provide at least 30 calendar days for public 
comment, while also clarifying that in certain circumstances the BLM is 
legally required to offer a longer comment period.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-2(b) describes the public comment period the BLM 
will provide for draft EIS-level amendments. The BLM proposed to 
require at least 45 calendar days for public comment on the draft plan 
amendment and draft EIS. This would have been shorter than the 90-day 
public comment period that applies to all EIS-level plan amendments 
under the existing planning regulations, but consistent with existing 
NEPA requirements. Many public comments did not support the reduction 
in the length of any public comment period, although a few comments did 
indicate support for the proposal. In response to public comments, the 
final rule requires at least 60 calendar days for public comment for 
draft EIS-level amendments.
    The BLM acknowledges the importance in providing adequate lengths 
of time for the public to review and comment on draft plan amendments. 
At the same time, the BLM recognizes that the scope and scale of draft 
EIS-level amendments varies substantially. In many circumstances, an 
EIS-level plan amendment may be narrow in scope and scale, such as a 
project-specific amendment for a small geographic area. In these 
situations, a mandatory comment period of 90 calendar days is 
unnecessary and inefficient. The final rule provides a balanced 
approach by requiring a minimum of 60 calendar days for public comment, 
a period longer in length than the proposed rule, but shorter in length 
than the existing regulations. For those plan amendments that are broad 
in scope or scale, such as a multi-State programmatic plan amendment, 
the BLM expects to typically offer a longer public comment period, 
commensurate with the complexity of the draft plan amendment. The 
forthcoming revision of the Land Use Planning Handbook will provide 
guidance to responsible officials regarding the length of the public 
comment period.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-2(c) describes the public comment period the BLM 
will provide for draft resource management plans and draft EISs. The 
BLM proposed to provide at least 60 calendar days for public comment on 
the draft resource management plan and draft EIS. This would have been 
shorter than the 90-day public comment period that applies to all draft 
resource management plans under the existing planning regulations. 
Although a few public comments supported this proposal, the majority of 
public comments did not, and some public comments suggested the BLM 
should provide a longer comment period than the existing regulations. 
In response to public comment, the final rule revises Sec.  1610.2-2(c) 
to provide at least 100 calendar days for public comment, a period 
longer in length than the existing requirement.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-2(c) retains the existing provision that the 
public comment period begins when the EPA publishes a notice of 
availability (NOA) of the draft EIS in the Federal Register. The BLM 
will continue to comply with public involvement and notification 
requirements of NEPA, including 40 CFR 1506.6(b)(2), which provides 
that agencies must provide public notice of availability of 
environmental documents in the Federal Register for actions with 
effects of national concern. In many cases where the BLM prepares an 
EIS for a resource management plan or plan amendment, the BLM expects 
to continue its current practice of publishing a NOA in the Federal 
Register for Draft and Final EISs and the record of decision for these 
EIS level planning efforts.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-2(d) includes a new requirement that when a 
draft resource management plan or plan amendment involves possible 
designation of one or more potential ACECs, the BLM shall request 
written comments on the designations under consideration. This 
paragraph is added between in the final rule for consistency with 
changes to Sec.  1610.8-2 and in response to associated public 
comments. Existing regulations require a minimum of 60 calendar days be 
provided for public comments on a proposed ACEC designation (see 
existing Sec.  1610.7-2(b)), and the proposed rule would have removed 
this requirement. The BLM received several public comments indicating 
that a public comment period is necessary any time an ACEC is being 
considered for designation. In response to public comments, the final 
rule requires the BLM to provide a public comment period of at least 30 
calendar days. The BLM intends that this comment period will normally 
be integrated with the public comment period on the draft resource 
management plan or plan amendment; therefore, a longer period will be 
provided for EIS-level amendments (at least 60-days) and resource 
management plans (at least 100-days). For more information, please see 
the discussion at the preamble for final Sec.  1610.8-2(b)(1).
    Consistent with the existing regulations, the final rule does not 
explicitly address situations where the BLM prepares an EA for a plan 
amendment (EA-level amendment) and the BLM elects to offer an 
opportunity for public comment. In this situation, however, the BLM 
will provide at least 30 calendar days for public comment on the draft 
plan amendment, unless a longer period is required by law or 
regulation, consistent with the requirements of final Sec.  1610.2-
2(a). The public comment period will begin on the date the BLM notifies 
the public of the availability of the draft plan amendment and EA.
    While the BLM often offers a public comment period on an EA-level 
plan amendment, this is not required by NEPA,\12\ the existing planning 
regulations, or the final planning regulations. There may be situations 
where there is no public interest in a minor EA-level amendment and a 
formal public comment period is not necessary. The forthcoming revision 
of the Land Use Planning Handbook will provide more detailed guidance 
on this topic.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ NEPA requires public involvement, to the extent 
practicable, in the preparation of an environmental assessment, but 
it need not take the form of a public comment period. 40 CFR 
1504.1(b) and 43 CFR 46.305(a); see 40 CFR 1506.6; BLM National 
Environmental Policy Act Handbook (H-1790-1), 8.2, p. 76.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The following table provides a comparison of some public 
involvement opportunities in the final rule for EA-level amendments, 
EIS-level amendments, and resource management plans.

[[Page 89612]]



                 Table 2--Public Notification and Involvement Opportunities Under the Final Rule
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                           Resource management
     Step in the planning process        EA-level amendments      EIS-level amendments            plans
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Planning Assessment..................  The BLM is not required  When the BLM conducts a  To formally initiate
                                        to conduct a planning    planning assessment      the planning
                                        assessment for EA-       for EIS-level            assessment, the BLM
                                        level amendments.        amendments, to           will post a notice on
                                                                 formally initiate the    the BLM Web site and
                                                                 planning assessment,     at BLM offices within
                                                                 the BLM will post a      the planning area, and
                                                                 notice on the BLM Web    provide direct
                                                                 site and at BLM          notification to those
                                                                 offices within the       who have requested
                                                                 planning area, and       such notification.
                                                                 provide direct
                                                                 notification to those
                                                                 who have requested
                                                                 such notification.
Plan initiation and identification of  The BLM will publish a   The BLM will publish a   The BLM will publish a
 planning issues.                       NOI in the Federal       NOI in the Federal       NOI in the Federal
                                        Register and will        Register and will        Register and will
                                        publish a notice in      publish a notice in      publish a notice in
                                        appropriate local        appropriate local        appropriate local
                                        media, on the BLM Web    media, on the BLM Web    media, on the BLM Web
                                        site, and at BLM         site, and at BLM         site, and at BLM
                                        offices within the       offices within the       offices within the
                                        planning area, and       planning area, and       planning area, and
                                        provide direct           provide direct           provide direct
                                        notification to those    notification to those    notification to those
                                        who have requested       who have requested       who have requested
                                        such notification.       such notification.       such notification.
                                       The BLM will offer a     The BLM will offer a     The BLM will offer a
                                        minimum 30 day comment   minimum 30 day comment   minimum 30 day comment
                                        period on                period on                period on
                                        identification of        identification of        identification of
                                        planning issues.         planning issues.         planning issues.
Review of the preliminary              These steps do not       The BLM will provide     The BLM will post the
 alternatives, rationale for            apply to EA-level        this step for EIS-       preliminary
 alternatives, and the basis for        amendments.              level amendments, as     alternatives,
 analysis.                                                       appropriate. The BLM     rationale for
                                                                 will post the            alternatives, and the
                                                                 preliminary              basis for analysis on
                                                                 alternatives,            the BLM Web site. The
                                                                 rationale for            BLM will post notice
                                                                 alternatives, and the    of their availability
                                                                 basis for analysis on    on the BLM Web site,
                                                                 the BLM Web site. The    and at BLM offices
                                                                 BLM will post notice     within the planning
                                                                 of their availability    area, and provide
                                                                 on the BLM Web site      direct notification to
                                                                 and at BLM offices       those who have
                                                                 within the planning      requested such
                                                                 area, and provide        notification.
                                                                 direct notification to
                                                                 those who have
                                                                 requested such
                                                                 notification.
Comment on the draft plan or           If the BLM requests      The BLM will offer a 60  The BLM will offer a
 amendment.                             written comment, BLM     day comment period.      100 day comment
                                        will offer a minimum     The BLM will announce    period. The BLM will
                                        30 day comment period.   the start of the         announce the start of
                                        The BLM will announce    comment period by        the comment period by
                                        the start of the         posting a notice on      posting a notice on
                                        comment period by        the BLM Web site and     the BLM Web site and
                                        posting a notice on      at BLM offices within    at BLM offices within
                                        the BLM Web site and     the planning area, and   the planning area, and
                                        at BLM offices within    provide direct           provide direct
                                        the planning area, and   notification to those    notification to those
                                        provide direct           who have requested       who have requested
                                        notification to those    such notification. The   such notification. The
                                        who have requested       EPA will publish an      EPA will publish an
                                        such notification.       NOA in the Federal       NOA in the Federal
                                                                 Register.                Register under
                                                                                          separate authorities.
Protest..............................  The BLM will offer a 30  The BLM will offer a 30  The BLM will offer a 30
                                        day protest period.      day protest period.      day protest period.
                                        The BLM will announce    The BLM will announce    The BLM will announce
                                        the start of the         the start of the         the start of the
                                        protest period by        protest period by        protest period by
                                        posting a notice on      posting a notice on      posting a notice on
                                        the BLM Web site and     the BLM Web site and     the BLM Web site and
                                        at BLM offices within    at BLM offices within    at BLM offices within
                                        the planning area, and   the planning area, and   the planning area, and
                                        provide direct           provide direct           provide direct
                                        notification to those    notification to those    notification to those
                                        who have requested       who have requested       who have requested
                                        such notification.       such notification. The   such notification. The
                                                                 EPA will publish an      EPA will publish an
                                                                 NOA in the Federal       NOA in the Federal
                                                                 Register.                Register under
                                                                                          separate authorities.
Comment on a substantive change made   The BLM will offer a 30  The BLM will offer a 30  The BLM will offer a 30
 after release of a proposed plan or    day comment period.      day comment period.      day comment period.
 amendment (i.e., if the BLM intends    The BLM will announce    The BLM will announce    The BLM will announce
 to select an alternative that is       the start of the         the start of the         the start of the
 substantially different than the       comment period by        comment period by        comment period by
 proposed plan or amendment).           posting a notice on      posting a notice on      posting a notice on
                                        the BLM Web site and     the BLM Web site and     the BLM Web site and
                                        at BLM offices within    at BLM offices within    at BLM offices within
                                        the planning area, and   the planning area, and   the planning area, and
                                        provide direct           provide direct           provide direct
                                        notification to those    notification to those    notification to those
                                        who have requested       who have requested       who have requested
                                        such notification.       such notification.       such notification.

[[Page 89613]]

 
Plan approval........................  The BLM will notify the  The BLM will notify the  The BLM will notify the
                                        public by posting a      public by posting a      public by posting a
                                        notice on the BLM Web    notice on the BLM Web    notice on the BLM Web
                                        site and at BLM          site and at BLM          site and at BLM
                                        offices within the       offices within the       offices within the
                                        planning area, and       planning area, and       planning area, and
                                        provide direct           provide direct           provide direct
                                        notification to those    notification to those    notification to those
                                        who have requested       who have requested       who have requested
                                        such notification.       such notification.       such notification.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 1610.2-3 Availability of the Resource Management Plan
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-3, with some revisions. 
This section addresses the availability of resource management plans.
    Final Sec.  1610.2-3(a) contains revised language from existing 
Sec.  1610.2(g) and requires that the BLM make copies of the draft, 
proposed, and approved resource management plan or plan amendment 
reasonably available for public review. The final rule requires, at a 
minimum, that the BLM make copies of these documents available 
electronically and at all BLM offices within the planning area.
    For example, the BLM could make documents available electronically 
by posting documents on the BLM Web site, or if Internet access is 
limited in an area, by sending participants a Compact Disc or a USB 
flash drive in the mail. The BLM will also make resource management 
plans available for public viewing at all BLM offices within the 
planning area. While this is a change from existing regulations, it is 
consistent with current practice for most BLM offices. This language 
replaces the existing requirements to make copies of the resource 
management plan available at the State, district, and field office (see 
existing Sec. Sec.  1610.2(g)(1) through (3)) and copies of supporting 
documents available at the office where the plan was prepared. These 
changes will increase electronic availability of documents and change 
the BLM offices where the document is required to be available for 
viewing.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the existing 
requirement to make ``supporting documents'' available to the public as 
this term is vague and it is unclear what is considered a supporting 
document. In response to public comments, we will include new language 
in final Sec.  1610.2-3(a) that the BLM will make scientific or 
technical reports that the responsible official uses in preparation of 
a resource management plan or plan amendment reasonably available to 
the public, to the extent practical and consistent with Federal law. 
For the purposes of this provision, the BLM considers scientific or 
technical reports to be final documents that describe the results of 
scientific research or technical analysis related to the preparation of 
the resource management plan or plan amendment. The BLM includes 
pertinent scientific and technical information and reports in the 
project file and generally makes certain scientific or technical 
reports, such as a biological opinion, available to the public as 
appendices to the resource management plan or plan amendment, or on the 
BLM's Web site. We expect that in most situations, the BLM will 
continue to post these types of scientific or technical reports on its 
Web site, make them available for viewing at BLM offices within the 
planning area, or make them available as appendices to the resource 
management plan. While this is a new requirement in the regulations, it 
is consistent with current BLM practice.
    The BLM will not, however, post the entire project file, including 
email records or other types of communication, to the BLM's Web site or 
make the entire project file available at BLM offices within the 
planning area. This would be inconsistent with current practice and 
policy and would place an unnecessary administrative and personnel 
burden on the BLM. These types of supporting documents are made 
available to the public through other means, such as a Freedom of 
Information Act request.
    The new requirements in Sec.  1610.2-3(a) to make resource 
management plans available electronically reflect that digital 
technology and Internet access is far more widely available than it was 
when these regulations were last updated. These requirements will 
advance BLM policy on transitioning to electronic distribution of NEPA 
and planning documents (IM 2013-144, Transitioning from Printing Hard 
Copies of National Environmental Policy Act and Planning Documents to 
Providing Documents in Electronic Formats (June 21, 2013), http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2013/IM_2013-144.html), and with the DOI 
Environmental Statement Memorandum No. 13-7, ``Publication and 
Distribution of DOI NEPA Compliance Documents via Electronic Methods'' 
(Jan. 7, 2013), http://www.doi.gov/pmb/oepc/upload/ESM13-7.pdf). These 
changes will also ensure consistency in how the BLM makes documents 
available to the public, increase transparency, and help to ensure that 
the public has access to current versions of plans without missing 
amendments that only appear in paper copies. Electronic posting of 
planning documents also may help to reduce high printing costs.
    The BLM recognizes, however, that there are many communities with 
limited technological and Internet availability, such as rural 
communities and some environmental justice communities.\13\ The BLM 
will continue to work to involve these communities in the development 
of resource management plans and make planning documents available in 
the most appropriate formats. For example, resource management plans 
could be made available at public libraries, community centers, or 
other locations frequented by local communities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ ``Executive Order 12898--Federal Actions to address 
Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income 
Populations'' directs Federal agencies to identify and address 
disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental 
effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority 
populations and low-income populations in the United States (59 FR 
7629, February 16, 1994).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.2-3(b) without any 
substantive revisions. This section clarifies the requirements in 
existing Sec.  1610.2(g) that the BLM will make single printed copies 
of a resource management plan available to individual members of the 
public upon request during the public involvement process, and that 
after the BLM has approved a plan, the BLM may charge a fee for 
additional printed copies. The BLM considered an alternative option, 
which was discussed in the preamble for the proposed rule, to make 
these copies available through digital means, such as a compact disc or

[[Page 89614]]

other digital storage device, instead of printed copies and requested 
public comment on this option. This option would have allowed the 
agency to continue to move away from printing paper copies in the 
future as technology continues to become more available to the public. 
Although some public comments supported this approach, others indicated 
that a paper copy is necessary because not everyone uses or has the 
available resources to access digital media. In response to public 
comments, the final rule does not include this alternative, and the BLM 
will continue to provide paper copies as provided in final Sec.  
1610.2-3(b).
    Final Sec.  1610.2-3(b) also maintains the language in existing 
Sec.  1610.2(g) concerning fees for reproducing requested documents 
beyond those used as part of the public involvement process, although 
this section refers to a ``resource management plan'' instead of a 
``revision'' and ``public involvement'' instead of ``public 
participation.'' This word change will reflect changes made throughout 
this final rule and the use of the FLPMA term ``public involvement.'' 
These changes are not a change in practice or policy.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove existing Sec.  
1610.2(j) and (k). The BLM prepared the coal program regulations 
simultaneously with the first land use planning regulations under FLPMA 
in the late 1970's and certain coal-related provisions remain in 43 CFR 
subpart 1610. The BLM believes that these coal-related provisions are 
inappropriate in the planning regulations, as they are either 
duplicative of the coal program regulations, or reference procedures 
that are inconsistent with current practice and policy.
    Existing Sec.  1610.2(j) requires consultation with surface owners 
when resource management plans involve areas of potential mining for 
coal by means other than underground mining. Input and consent from a 
qualified surface owner is required at the leasing stage under 43 CFR 
3427.1, therefore existing 1610.2(j) is duplicative of the consultation 
requirements at 43 CFR 3427.1 and unnecessary.
    Existing Sec.  1610.2(k) is also removed in the final rule. 
Existing Sec.  1610.2(k) is consistent with a process of ``regional 
coal leasing,'' described in subpart 3420, which the BLM used in 
designated coal production regions (defined in Sec.  3400.5) at the 
time the planning regulations were originally published. Since 1990, 
all coal production regions have been decertified and the BLM currently 
uses the ``lease by application'' process described in subpart 3425, 
where approval for coal leasing is conducted for each individual 
application, as opposed to at the resource management plan level. Since 
publication of the resource management plan only designates areas as 
suitable for coal leasing and no longer approves coal leases over the 
entire suitable area, this public hearing is no longer appropriate 
during the land use planning process. Under the ``lease by 
application'' process, a hearing will be held for each coal lease 
application, consistent with the BLM coal regulations at Sec.  
3425.4(a)(1) and current BLM practice.
    The BLM received a few comments in opposition to the removal of 
existing Sec.  1610.2(j) and (k). These comments stated that the 
planning process is the appropriate time for BLM to contact surface 
owners about their preferences regarding leasing, and that the similar 
notice prescribed in the BLM's leasing regulations may come after coal-
related decisions in a resource management plan or plan amendment have 
been finalized. Additionally, comments stated that the BLM should not 
make coal-related regulatory changes until the ongoing review of the 
Federal coal program and its associated Programmatic EIS are completed.
    The final rule is not revised in response to this comment. The BLM 
believes that removing Sec.  1610.2(k) will help reduce confusion, 
avoid redundancy with existing requirements in the coal regulations, 
and keep coal-specific requirements in the coal regulations, where they 
are more appropriate. Further, the BLM will provide for public 
involvement during the preparation and amendment of resource management 
plans, including for any coal-related issues. These regulatory changes 
will not be a change in current practice or policy during coal leasing.
    As a separate matter, Secretarial Order 3338 issued on January 15, 
2016, requires the BLM to conduct a comprehensive review to modernize 
the Federal coal program, including a Programmatic EIS. The regulatory 
changes in this final rule are unrelated to and will not impact the 
Secretarial Order or the BLM's comprehensive review.
Section 1610.3 Consultation With Indian Tribes and Coordination With 
Other Federal Agencies, State and Local Governments, and Indian Tribes
    The final rule revises the proposed heading of section 1610.3 to 
include ``consultation with Indian tribes.'' This change is necessary 
for consistency with final Sec.  1610.3-1, a new section in the final 
rule.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the words ``federally 
recognized'' before Indian tribes throughout final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-1, 
1610.3-2, and 1610.3-3 for consistent use in terminology. These 
references are no longer necessary with the inclusion of the proposed 
definition for Indian tribes in Sec.  1601.0-5. For further information 
on this revision, see the preamble discussion of the definition for 
``Indian tribe.'' The final rule is revised to replace any existing 
uses of ``will'' in this section with ``shall,'' for the reasons 
previously described. These changes are not a change in practice or 
policy.
Section 1610.3-1 Consultation With Indian Tribes
    In response to input received during consultation with federally 
recognized Indian tribes regarding the proposed rule, as well as public 
comments, the final rule includes a new section on tribal consultation. 
Proposed Sec.  1610.3-1 is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-2 in the final 
rule. This section provides that the BLM will initiate consultation 
with Indian tribes on a government-to-government basis during the 
preparation and amendment of resource management plans. This section is 
added to the final rule to reflect the fact that the BLM is required to 
initiate consultation with affected Indian tribes during the planning 
process, and will consult with any Indian tribes that choose to accept 
the BLM's request for consultation, but the BLM cannot guarantee that 
an Indian tribe will agree to consultation. Although this will be a new 
provision in the planning regulations, this is an existing requirement 
for the BLM under Executive Order 13175--Consultation and Coordination 
with Indian Tribal Governments (2000) and Secretarial Order 3317--
Department of the Interior Policy on Consultation with Indian Tribes 
(2011).
    This government-to-government consultation shall be initiated 
regardless of an Indian tribe's status as a cooperating agency or any 
on-going coordination with the Indian tribe. Should an Indian tribe 
choose to participate as a cooperating agency or to coordinate with the 
BLM, the BLM is still required to initiate government-to-government 
consultation.
Section 1610.3-2 Coordination of Planning Efforts
    Proposed Sec.  1610.3-1 is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-2 in the 
final rule. Final Sec.  1610.3-2 contains the provisions of existing 
and proposed section 1610.3-1, with revisions. This section retains the

[[Page 89615]]

heading ``coordination of planning efforts.''
    The final rule adds introductory language to final Sec.  1610.3-
2(a) to clarify that this section describes the ``objectives of 
coordination.'' Final Sec.  1610.3-2(a) contains the provisions of 
existing Sec.  1610.3-1(a), but replaces the reference to ``State 
Directors and Field Managers'' with ``the BLM'' because the 
responsibility of coordination are those of the BLM and they extend 
beyond any individual.
    Elsewhere throughout final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(b) through (f), the 
final rule replaces references to ``Field Manager(s)'' with 
``responsible official(s)'' and replaces references to ``State 
Director(s)'' with ``deciding official(s),'' as proposed. The new 
terms, which are defined in final Sec.  1601.0-5, refer to specific 
official responsibilities.
    Proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(a) (final Sec.  1610.3.2(a)) would have 
added language to clarify that coordination is accomplished ``to the 
extent consistent with Federal laws and regulations applicable to 
public lands, and the purposes, policies and programs of such laws and 
regulations.'' Several public comments noted that this proposed 
requirement would exceed the statutory requirement that coordination 
occur ``to the extent consistent with the laws governing the 
administration of the public lands'' (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). In 
response to public comment, the final rule replaces the proposed 
language with ``to the extent consistent with Federal laws and 
regulations applicable to public lands.'' Although FLPMA only mentions 
the ``laws governing the administration of the public lands,'' the BLM 
interprets this phrase to encompass the regulations implementing the 
laws, as these regulations have the full force and effect of law and 
the BLM is required to comply with Federal laws and regulations. Final 
Sec.  1610.3-2(a) does not represent a change from current practice or 
policy.
    Final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(1) and (a)(2) are revised in response 
to public comments. Several public comments expressed concern over the 
proposal to remove existing Sec.  1610.3-2(b) regarding consistency 
between resource management plans and the policies and programs of 
other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes 
as well as references to these ``policies and programs'' in other 
sections of the existing regulations (please see the discussion for the 
definitions of ``consistent with officially approved and adopted 
plans'' and ``officially approved and adopted plans'' at the preamble 
for final Sec.  1601.0-5 as well as the discussion for final Sec.  
1610.3-3(b)). Comments expressed concern that the BLM would no longer 
consider these policies and programs during the planning process and 
suggested that such a change would be in violation of FLPMA. The BLM 
acknowledges and affirms that coordination on relevant policies and 
programs of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and 
Indian tribes is important to the success of a planning effort, 
consistent with FLPMA.
    FLPMA requires that the BLM ``coordinate the land use inventory, 
planning, and management activities of or for such lands with the land 
use planning and management programs of other Federal departments and 
agencies and of the States and local governments within which the lands 
are located. . . by, among other things, considering the policies of 
approved State and tribal land resource management programs.'' (See 43 
U.S.C. 1712(c)(9).) The final rule revises paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) 
of Sec.  1610.3-2 (proposed Sec.  1610.3-1) to incorporate this 
direction provided by FLPMA and in response to concerns raised in 
public comments, stating that objectives of coordination are for the 
BLM to ``[k]eep apprised of the plans, policies, and management 
programs of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and 
Indian tribes'' and to ``[a]ssure that the BLM considers those plans, 
policies, and management programs that are germane in the development 
of resource management plans for public lands.''
    The final rule supports the achievement of these objectives. For 
example, final Sec.  1610.4(b)(2) requires that during the planning 
assessment the responsible official ``identify relevant national, 
regional, State, tribal, or local laws, regulations, policies, 
guidance, strategies, or plans for consideration in the planning 
assessment.'' Further, final Sec.  1610.4(b)(3) requires that the 
responsible official provide opportunities for other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes to suggest other law, 
regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, or plans. The responsible 
official will fulfill these requirements through coordination, as 
contemplated by FLPMA, and in doing so the responsible official will 
assure that the BLM considers those plans, policies, and management 
programs that are germane in the development of resource management 
plans for public lands.
    In addition, final Sec.  1610.3-2(b) describes the procedures for 
establishing a cooperating agency relationship with governmental 
entities. Cooperating agencies are provided a special role during the 
preparation of resource management plans. Cooperating agencies work 
closely with the BLM at every stage of the planning process to identify 
issues that should be addressed, collect or analyze data, develop or 
evaluate alternatives, and review preliminary documents. This unique 
partnership is provided only to governmental entities and helps the BLM 
develop a resource management plan that is responsive to the needs and 
concerns of local communities. Further, this partnership helps the BLM 
to achieve the objectives described in final Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(1) and 
(a)(2). Should a governmental entity choose not to participate as a 
cooperating agency, final Sec.  1610.3-2(c) provides additional 
requirements for coordination, to ensure that BLM achieves the 
objectives of coordination.
    In response to public comments, the final rule also removes the 
existing and proposed phrase ``non-BLM'' plans in final Sec.  1610.3-
2(a)(1), and clarifies that this section refers to the plans, policies, 
and management programs of ``other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes.'' This distinction is important, as the 
objectives of this section apply uniquely to other governmental 
entities. This is not a change in practice or policy; rather, this 
change improves readability of these regulations.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph 1610.3-2(a)(3) of this 
section without revision. The existing word ``practicable'' (see 
existing Sec.  1610.3-1(a)(3)) is replaced with ``practical'' in the 
final rule for consistency with FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). 
Several public comments noted that this represents a substantive change 
from existing regulations, as ``practicable'' and ``practical'' are not 
exact synonyms, and suggested that the proposed rule did not adequately 
address this subtle distinction. The BLM disagrees there is a 
substantive difference but acknowledges the subtle distinction in the 
meaning of these terms; however, we believe this change is appropriate 
for consistency with FLPMA, which uses the term ``practical.'' (See 43 
U.S.C. 1712(c)(9) (``the Secretary shall, to the extent he finds 
practical, keep apprised of State, local, and tribal land use plans . . 
.'').)
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(4) of this section. 
Changes to this section will remove the word ``public'' from ``early 
public notice'' for improved clarity. The BLM intends no change in 
practice or policy from this change.

[[Page 89616]]

    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(5) of this section, 
which is identical to the existing regulations.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to add introductory language to 
Sec.  1610.3-2(b) (proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)) to indicate that this 
section describes procedures and requirements related to ``cooperating 
agencies.'' This paragraph is also broken down into subparagraphs to 
improve readability and is revised as follows.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b) of this section, with 
no substantive changes. The final rule is revised to replace the 
existing word ``will'' with ``shall'' for the reasons previously 
described. The first sentence of final Sec.  1610.3-2(b) replaces 
``developing'' with ``preparing'' for consistent use in terminology. 
The BLM intends no change in meaning or practice. The final rule also 
replaces ``eligible Federal agencies, State and local governments, and 
Indian tribes'' with ``eligible governmental entities'' for consistency 
with the DOI NEPA regulations, and to specify that the responsible 
official will follow applicable regulations regarding the invitation of 
eligible governmental entities, including the DOI NEPA regulations at 
43 CFR 46.225. The BLM intends no change in practice or policy from 
these changes.
    The second sentence of final Sec.  1610.3-2(b) is revised to 
reflect the fact that a plan is not amended by an EIS, rather the EIS 
is prepared to inform the amendment.
    The final rule does not adopt the proposal to remove the last three 
sentences of existing Sec.  1610.3-1(b), which provided for State 
Director review of a Field Manager's decision to deny requests for 
cooperating agency status. Several public comments noted that the DOI 
NEPA regulations do not provide an opportunity for governmental 
entities to appeal a denial to a request for cooperating agency status 
beyond the responsible official and suggested that the existing 
opportunity to appeal a denial provides more certainty to governmental 
entities that their request for cooperating agency status will be given 
due consideration. In response to public comments, the final rule will 
retain this opportunity to appeal, with revisions, by adding Sec.  
1610.3-2(b)(1) to the final rule.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(1) states that the ``responsible official 
shall consider any request by an eligible governmental entity to 
participate as a cooperating agency. If the responsible official denies 
a request or determines it is inappropriate to extend an invitation to 
an eligible governmental entity, he or she shall inform the deciding 
official of the denial. The deciding official shall determine if the 
denial is appropriate and state the reasons for any denials in the 
[EIS].'' In the first sentence, we replace ``State Directors and Field 
Managers'' with the ``responsible official'' for consistency with new 
terminology and to specify that the responsible official is the BLM 
employee responsible for considering cooperating agency requests. We 
revise the second sentence of this paragraph to use active voice, 
replace ``field manager'' with ``responsible official,'' and improve 
consistency with the DOI NEPA regulations (43 CFR 46.225(c)). In 
addition to denials of requests, responsible officials will also inform 
the deciding official if he or she determines it is inappropriate to 
extend an invitation to an eligible governmental entity (i.e., any 
Federal agency or non-Federal agency (State, tribal, or local) that is 
qualified to participate by virtue of its jurisdiction by law or its 
special expertise (see 43 CFR 46.225(a))). This is a broader 
requirement than the existing regulations, which only apply to denials 
of requests and will ensure that deciding officials are aware of all 
eligible governmental entities that were not provided cooperating 
agency status. Finally, the third sentence replaces ``State Director'' 
with ``deciding official'' and will establish a new requirement that 
deciding officials ``state the reasons for any denials in the [EIS].'' 
Although this requirement is new to the planning regulations, it is 
already required under the DOI NEPA regulations (43 CFR 46.225(c)) and 
therefore does not represent a change in practice or policy.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(1) with only minor 
revisions, however this section will be redesignated as final Sec.  
1610.3-2(b)(2). This section will describe that a memorandum of 
understanding (MOU) must be used for a non-Federal cooperating agency 
and must include a commitment to maintain confidentiality of documents 
and deliberations prior to their public release. The change reflects an 
existing requirement in the DOI NEPA regulations (see 43 CFR 46.225(d)) 
and therefore would not be a change in practice or policy. Although a 
written agreement is not explicitly required for Federal cooperating 
agencies, the BLM often chooses to prepare such an agreement to clarify 
the roles and responsibilities of all parties, and the final rule will 
not preclude the continuation of this practice. No change in practice 
or policy is intended.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(2), with some 
revisions. This section is redesignated as final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3).
    This section identifies the various steps during the planning 
process when the responsible official will collaborate with cooperating 
agencies. The BLM promulgated regulations in 2005 (70 FR 14561), which 
required BLM Field Managers to collaborate with cooperating agencies at 
steps throughout the planning process (see existing Sec.  1610.4). The 
final rule adopts the proposal to consolidate these references that are 
currently inserted throughout existing Sec.  1610.4 and to identify 
additional steps where cooperating agencies will be involved, including 
the preparation of the planning assessment and the preparation of the 
proposed resource management plan. The BLM intends no change in 
practice or policy by consolidating these references; rather, the BLM 
believes that consolidating these references improves readability and 
clarity.
    Under the final rule, the BLM provides an additional role for 
cooperating agencies during the new planning assessment. While NEPA 
regulations require a lead agency to invite cooperating agencies to 
participate in the NEPA process ``at the earliest possible time'' (40 
CFR 1501.6(a)(1); see 43 CFR 46.200(a) and (b)), the BLM recognizes 
that eligible governmental entities may be reluctant to agree to serve 
as cooperating agencies for a planning effort before the scoping 
process yields a fuller understanding of the scope of the plan or 
revision and the supporting NEPA analysis.
    The BLM further recognizes that DOI NEPA regulations and the final 
rule (see final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(2)) require the BLM to work with non-
Federal cooperating agencies to develop an MOU that outlines agencies' 
respective roles, assignments, schedules, and other commitments and 
such a cooperating agency MOU may not yet be completed during the 
planning assessment step.
    Nonetheless, the BLM does not foresee any problems working with 
eligible governmental entities without an MOU during the planning 
assessment step, because this step primarily involves information 
gathering by the BLM. Additionally, the BLM believes the planning 
assessment will afford the BLM and eligible governmental entities alike 
valuable time to build working relationships and share information that 
will inform the planning assessment and contribute to the formation of 
fruitful cooperating agency relationships. However, the BLM may need to 
withhold confidential information, such as locations of

[[Page 89617]]

sensitive cultural resources, until an MOU has been executed.
    In response to public comments, final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3) 
(proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(2)) is revised to provide ``[t]he 
responsible official shall collaborate, to the fullest extent possible, 
with all cooperating agencies concerning those issues relating to their 
jurisdiction and special expertise.'' We remove the proposed phrase 
``as feasible and appropriate given their interests, scope of expertise 
and the constraints of their resources.'' These changes are consistent 
with the DOI NEPA regulations which provide ``the lead bureau will 
collaborate, to the fullest extent possible, with all cooperating 
agencies concerning those issues relating to their jurisdiction and 
special expertise'' (43 CFR 46.230). The proposed language was adapted 
from the final sentences of the existing definition of a cooperating 
agency (see existing Sec.  1601.0-5) which states ``[c]ooperating 
agencies will participate in the various steps of BLM's planning 
process as feasible, given the constraints of their resources and 
expertise.'' In response to public comments noting that it is the 
decision of a potential cooperating agency, and not the BLM, as to 
whether the potential cooperator has adequate resources to participate 
as a cooperating agency, the BLM will not retain this existing language 
in the definition of a cooperating agency, nor will it be retained in 
final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3). Further, the final rule more precisely 
reflects the DOI NEPA regulations regarding the constraints of a 
cooperating agencies expertise.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec. Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(2)(i) through 
(b)(2)(vi) (redesignated as final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3)(i) through 
(b)(3)(vi)). The only change between the proposed and final rule is the 
removal of the phrase ``and implementation strategies'' from final 
paragraph (b)(2)(vi) of this section. This language is no longer 
necessary, as the concept of implementation strategies is not included 
in the final rule. For more information on this topic, please see the 
discussion on implementation strategies at the preamble for proposed 
Sec.  1610.1-3.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(c), with some 
revisions. This section is designated as final Sec.  1610.3-2(c). This 
section describes requirements for coordination with other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes, consistent 
with FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). These requirements are in addition 
to the opportunities for public involvement described in Sec.  1610.2, 
which apply to governmental entities (see the definition of public in 
Sec.  1610.0-5).
    We adopt the proposal to add introductory language to paragraph (c) 
of this section to indicate that this section describes general 
``coordination requirements'' and to divide the existing paragraph (c) 
into three separate paragraphs (paragraphs (c), (c)(1), and (c)(2) in 
the final rule) for improved readability.
    The final rule adopts the proposed change to replace the existing 
phrase ``State Directors and Field Managers'' with ``[t]he BLM'' in the 
first sentence of paragraph (c) of this section because the 
responsibility of coordination are those of the BLM and they extend 
beyond any individual. Some public comments noted that although it is 
the BLM's responsibility to provide for coordination, by not 
identifying the BLM employee who is responsible for this important 
task, there would be no accountability to the public regarding which 
BLM official will ensure the task is completed. The BLM believes it is 
appropriate to use ``the BLM'' when describing a role that applies to 
multiple BLM employees and describes a requirement related to 
coordination in general, such as in paragraph (c) of this section. 
Paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(5) of this section, however, identify 
specific coordination requirements and these responsibilities are 
assigned to either the deciding official or the responsible official. 
In response to public comments, the final rule is revised to use 
``responsible official'' instead of ``the BLM'' in a few sections that 
describe specific coordination requirements (see final Sec. Sec.  
1610.3-2(c)(5), 1610.3-2(d)).
    Final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(1) provides that ``deciding officials 
should seek the input of the Governor(s) on the timing, scope and 
coordination of resource management planning; definition of planning 
areas; scheduling of public involvement activities; and resource 
management opportunities and constraints on public lands.'' We adopt 
the proposed changes to replace ``policy advice'' with ``input'' 
because the topics listed in this provision are not ``policy,'' 
therefore the phrase ``policy advice'' is inaccurate. We also adopt the 
proposal to replace ``plan components'' with ``resource management 
planning'' because the existing language would be inconsistent with new 
terminology and definitions in the final rule (see Sec.  1610.1-2). The 
final rule does not adopt the proposal to replace ``multiple use'' with 
``resource management'' because this change is unnecessary. The term 
``multiple use'' already includes the various aspects of resource 
management (see 43 U.S.C. 1702(c)). The final rule is instead revised 
to replace ``multiple use'' with ``multiple use and sustained yield'' 
for consistency with FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(2)) and throughout 
these regulations. The BLM intends no change from current practice or 
policy from these changes.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove existing Sec.  1610.3-
1(d), which describes how the State Director will provide guidance to 
the Field Manager. This existing section is unnecessary as it describes 
an internal BLM process. Further, existing Sec.  1610.3-1(d) exceeds 
the statutory requirements of FLPMA, which provides for consistency 
with resource management plans, but not BLM guidance. (See 43 U.S.C. 
1712(c)(9).) Several public comments raised concerns over the removal 
of existing Sec.  1610.3-1(d), stating that this is a significant and 
unjustified change from current regulations. The final rule is not 
revised in response to these comments. The removal of existing Sec.  
1610.3-1(d) represents a change from existing requirements; however, 
the BLM believes that this change is appropriate.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(c)(3), with some 
revisions. This proposed section will be split into two paragraphs and 
redesignated as Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(3) and 1610.3-2(c)(4) in the 
final rule, for improved readability. Final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(4) 
contains the first sentence of proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(c)(3) and final 
Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(3) contains the remaining provisions of proposed 
Sec.  1610.3-1(c)(3), with revisions.
    Final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(3) and (c)(4) contains the provisions 
of existing Sec.  1610.3-1(e) and are revised to reflect changes to 
Sec.  1610.2 concerning public involvement, to use active voice for 
improved readability, and to respond to public comments.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(3) requires that ``[t]he responsible 
official shall notify Federal agencies, State and local governments, 
and Indian tribes that have requested to be notified or that the 
responsible official has reason to believe would be interested in the 
resource management plan or plan amendment.'' The final rule does not 
adopt the proposal to clarify that heads of county boards are 
``elected,'' and to replace ``Tribal Chairmen'' and ``Alaska Native 
Leaders'' with ``elected government officials of Indian tribes.'' 
Instead, the final rule replaces existing language with a more general 
statement to notify ``Federal agencies, State and local governments, 
and Indian tribes.''
    A few comments noted that the proposed changes to replace ``Tribal 
Chairmen or Alaska Native Leaders''

[[Page 89618]]

with ``elected government officials of Indian tribes'' would 
effectively exclude Alaska Native Corporations from the required 
notice. The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. 
Section 1610.3-2 applies to coordination with other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes, consistent with FLPMA 
(43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). This section does not apply to Alaska Native 
Corporations, which are not a governmental entity. The BLM will, 
however continue to notify any Alaska Native Corporations that have 
requested to be notified or that the responsible official believes may 
be interested in a resource management plan. The BLM intends no change 
from current practice; rather, this change is intended to clarify that 
Sec.  1610.3-2 applies to coordination as described in FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 
1712(c)(9)). It is also important to note that the final rule does not 
affect implementation of ``Department of the Interior Policy on 
Consultation with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) 
Corporations'' (2012). BLM remains committed to meaningful consultation 
with Alaska Native Corporations during the planning process.
    We also rephrase the end of this sentence in final Sec.  1610.3-
2(c)(3), stating that the BLM shall notify Federal agencies, State and 
local governments, and Indian tribes that the responsible official has 
reason to believe would be ``interested in'' the resource management 
plan or plan amendment instead of ``concerned with'' the resource 
management plan or plan amendment. This revised language encompasses 
the existing requirement to notify those ``concerned with'' a resource 
management plan or plan amendment while broadening the requirement to 
also include those ``interested in'' a resource management plan or plan 
amendment. This is consistent with current BLM practice and reflects 
the fact that the BLM believes that any interest in the resource 
management plan or amendment, not just concern, warrants notification.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(4) of this section adopts the first 
sentence of proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(c)(3), and specifies that State 
procedures for coordination with Federal agencies will be followed, 
``if such procedures exist.'' The BLM intends no change in practice or 
policy from this added language; rather, we wish to clarify that such 
procedures can only be followed if they exist.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(c)(4), with some 
revisions. This section is redesignated as final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(5).
    Final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(5) contains the provisions of existing 
Sec.  1610.3-1(f). The final rule adopts the proposed change to replace 
``resource management plan proposals'' with ``resource management plans 
and plan amendments'' to clarify that this paragraph refers to all of 
the opportunities for public involvement described in Sec.  1610.2, and 
not just the ``proposed'' resource management plan. The BLM intends no 
change from current practice or policy.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to revise and move the final 
sentence of existing Sec.  1610.3-1(f) to final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(3) 
(proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(3)). The existing language refers to 
consistency requirements and is therefore more appropriately addressed 
in the consistency section of the final rule, final Sec.  1610.3-3.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(d), with some 
revisions. This section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-2(d) in the 
final rule and the final rule replaces the existing word ``will'' with 
``shall'' for the reasons previously described. Final Sec.  1610.3-2(d) 
contains the provisions of existing Sec.  1610.3-1(g). The final rule 
adopts the proposal to include introductory language indicating that 
this section describes requirements related to ``resource advisory 
councils.'' In response to public comments, the final rule replaces the 
existing word ``BLM'' with ``responsible official'' to specify that the 
responsible official is the BLM employee responsible for ensuring that 
this requirement is fulfilled. No substantive changes are intended 
other than to specify which BLM employee is responsible for ensuring 
that resource advisory councils are informed and their views considered 
during the planning process.
Section 1610.3-3 Consistency Requirements
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-2, with revisions; 
however, this section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-3 in the final 
rule. Unless otherwise noted, the final rule adopts the proposal to 
replace references to ``Field Manager(s)'' with ``responsible 
official(s)'' and references to ``State Director(s)'' with ``deciding 
official(s)'' throughout this section to reflect these individuals' 
roles or responsibilities.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(a) revises existing Sec.  1610.3-2(a) to read 
as follows: ``Resource management plans shall be consistent with 
officially approved or adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments and Indian tribes to the maximum extent the BLM 
finds consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other Federal law and 
regulations applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies and 
programs implementing such laws and regulations.'' The final language 
reflects FLPMA requirements for consistency with the plans of other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes (see 
43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)) while retaining several existing requirements 
regarding the extent to which such consistency may be achieved.
    In response to public comment, the final rule removes the words 
``practical and'' from the phrase ``to the maximum extent the BLM finds 
practical and consistent . . .'' in final Sec.  1610.3-3(a). FLPMA 
states that ``the Secretary shall . . . assist in resolving, to the 
extent practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal 
Government plans,'' (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)); however, this language 
is already described under the objectives of coordination (see final 
Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(3)) and is therefore unnecessary in this section. 
Through coordination, the BLM will assist in resolving, to the extent 
practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal Government 
plans.
    Final Sec.  1610.3.3(a) retains the existing requirement that the 
plans of other Federal agencies, State and local governments and Indian 
tribes must be ``officially approved and adopted,'' but does not adopt 
the proposal to specify that these must be ``land use plans.'' For more 
information on this change throughout the final rule, please see the 
discussion on ``officially approved and adopted plans'' at the preamble 
for Sec.  1601.0-5. The final rule also corrects an inconsistency in 
the use of terminology in the existing and proposed rule by replacing 
``officially approved or adopted'' with ``officially approved and 
adopted'' as used elsewhere throughout this final rule.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(a) also retains the existing requirement that 
consistency with officially approved and adopted plans will be achieved 
to the extent consistent with the purposes of Federal laws and 
regulations applicable to public lands and the ``purposes, policies and 
programs'' implementing Federal laws and regulations. Changes between 
the proposed and final rule clarify that these purposes, policies and 
programs ``implement'' Federal laws and regulations.
    The BLM received public comments in opposition to this existing 
requirement, noting that under FLPMA the obligation for consistency 
with local plans does not hinge on whether or not they are consistent 
with Federal purposes, policies and programs, only whether they do not 
contradict Federal

[[Page 89619]]

Laws. The BLM disagrees with these comments. The BLM does not interpret 
FLPMA to require resource management plans to be consistent with the 
described non-BLM plans if those plans are simply lawful under Federal 
law and FLPMA. Rather, and particularly given 1712(c)(9)'s explicit 
reference to the purposes of FLPMA, and BLM's and the Secretary's 
ultimate responsibility as the manager of the public lands, BLM 
interprets FLPMA to authorize it to evaluate whether those non-BLM 
plans are consistent with the policies underlying BLM management of the 
public lands. Inclusion of language stating that plan consistency shall 
only be achieved to the extent consistent with the purposes of Federal 
laws and regulations and the policies and programs implementing such 
laws and regulations is necessary in order for the Secretary of the 
Interior to fulfill his or her responsibilities under FLPMA. Through 
FLPMA, the Secretary of the Interior is provided the authority to 
administer the public lands (through the BLM) and the responsibility to 
implement the statutory direction provided in public land statutes, 
including FLPMA. In order to implement public land statutes and 
administer the public lands, the Secretary considers the purposes of 
the statutes and develops regulations, policies, and management 
programs to implement the statutes. These regulations, policies, and 
management programs are an important component of implementing public 
lands statutes. Consistent with FLPMA, the existing regulations include 
a requirement that acknowledges the need for BLM to comply with and 
follow the direction provided through regulations, policies, and 
programs developed to implement public lands statutes, and the final 
rule retains this requirement in the final rule.
    Changes adopted in Sec.  1610.3-3(a) of the final rule represent, 
in part, a change from current regulations, but will be consistent with 
the statutory direction provided by FLPMA. The BLM believes these 
changes clarify the BLM's plan consistency requirements and will assist 
other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes 
in engaging in the consistency process by providing those entities 
additional information on the BLM's process.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove existing Sec.  1610.3-
2(b). The existing section exceeds the statutory requirements of FLPMA 
(see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)) by providing that in the absence of 
officially approved and adopted plans, resource management plans should 
be consistent with ``policies and programs'' of other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes.
    FLPMA provides that resource management plans ``shall be consistent 
with State and local plans to the maximum extent [the Secretary] finds 
consistent with Federal law and the purposes of this Act.'' This FLPMA 
requirement is reflected in final Sec.  1610.3-3(a) and applies to 
``State and local plans,'' which constitute a formal decision regarding 
resource management, but does not apply to ``policies and programs,'' 
which do not constitute a formal decision regarding resource 
management; rather, policies and programs are tools for implementing 
laws and regulations and developing formal decisions.
    FLPMA limits consistency requirements to ``State and local plans'' 
while the broader coordination requirements of FLPMA include the 
consideration of policies and management programs. In response to 
public comments, the final rule aligns with FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 
1712(c)(9)) by requiring that the BLM coordinate with other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes on all types 
of plans, policies, and management programs that are germane to the 
development of resource management plans in order to assure that 
consideration is given to all of these documents during the preparation 
of resource management plans (see final Sec.  1610.3-2(a)).
    The BLM believes that coordination on and consideration of plans, 
policies, and management programs is important to a successful planning 
effort and this coordination is appropriately addressed in Sec.  
1610.3-2 of the final rule. The consistency requirements of final Sec.  
1610.3-3, however, only apply to ``officially approved and adopted 
plans'' as these plans constitute a formal decision regarding resource 
management. The BLM believes that such an approach more closely aligns 
with the statutory requirements of FLPMA. The final rule also removes 
references to consistency with ``policies and programs'' throughout 
Sec.  1610.3-2. These changes represent a change from the existing 
regulations.
    By removing existing Sec.  1610.3-2(b) from the regulations, the 
final rule removes the reference to ``Federal and State pollution 
control laws,'' which are listed as an example of Federal laws that BLM 
resource management plans and guidance must be consistent with. 
Resource management plans must comply with Federal and State pollution 
control laws as implemented by applicable Federal and State air, water, 
noise, and other pollution standards or implementation plans. It is 
unnecessary to identify all relevant laws the BLM must abide by in the 
regulations, as the BLM is required to comply with all applicable laws 
and regulations. The BLM does not intend any change in policy or 
practice with this change.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(1) with only minor 
revisions. This section is redesignated as final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(1). 
The final rule removes the term ``land use'' from ``officially approved 
and adopted [land use] plans.'' For more information on the removal of 
``land use'' please see the discussion on the definition of 
``officially approved and adopted plans'' at the preamble for Sec.  
1601.0-5. The final rule also includes the plans of ``other Federal 
agencies'' in this section for consistency with paragraph (a) of this 
section.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(1) contains the first sentence of existing 
section 1610.3-2(c). The first two references to ``State Directors and 
Field Managers'' in the first sentence are replaced with ``the BLM,'' 
because the requirement to keep apprised of State and local 
governmental and Indian tribal policies, plans, and programs is 
attributed to the BLM, rather than specific employees. The final rule 
also replaces ``practicable'' with ``practical'' for consistency with 
section of FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)) and final Sec.  1610.3-
2(a)(3). Several public comments noted that this represents a 
substantive change from existing regulations, as ``practicable'' and 
``practical'' are not exact synonyms, and suggested that the proposed 
rule did not adequately address this subtle distinction. The BLM 
disagrees this is a substantive change, however acknowledges the subtle 
distinction in the meaning of these terms. We believe this change is 
appropriate for consistency with FLPMA, as this is the term used in 
FLMPA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)).
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(1) specifies that the ``BLM shall, to the 
extent practical, keep apprised of the officially approved and adopted 
plans of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and 
Indian tribes and give consideration to those plans that are germane in 
the development of resource management plans.'' The final rule removes 
the words ``policies'' and ``programs'' from the existing phrase 
``policies, plans, and programs'' in existing Sec.  1610.3-2(c) (for 
more information, see the discussion on consistency at the preamble for 
existing Sec.  1610.3-2(b)) and adds language requiring that BLM 
consider those plans that are germane to the resource management plan. 
It would place an

[[Page 89620]]

unnecessary and inappropriate burden on the BLM to give consideration 
to plans that are not germane to the planning effort, thereby 
diminishing efficiency without adding value to the planning effort. 
These changes are consistent with FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). 
This change reflects existing policy and procedure, as the BLM 
currently does not consider plans that are not germane to the planning 
effort. Therefore, this change provides clarity to other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes about the 
types of plans the BLM will consider.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(2) (final Sec.  
1610.3-3(a)(2)), with minor revisions. The final rule includes the 
phrase ``Federal agencies'' for consistency with paragraphs (a) and 
(a)(1) of this section. This section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-
3(a)(2) in the final rule.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(2) contains the second sentence of existing 
Sec.  1610.3-2(c). The final rule replaces ``accountable for ensuring 
consistency'' with ``required to address the consistency requirements 
of this section.'' The BLM cannot ``ensure'' consistency, but seeks to 
achieve consistency to the maximum extent consistent with the purposes 
of FLPMA and other Federal law and regulations applicable to public 
lands, and the policies and programs implementing such laws and 
regulations. For example, if a State, local, or tribal plan is not 
consistent with a Federal law or regulation, the BLM will not be able 
to ensure consistency with the State, local, or tribal plan.
    The final rule also replaces the reference to State Directors and 
Field Managers (``they'') with ``responsible official,'' thereby 
providing that the BLM will not be accountable for addressing the 
consistency requirements of final Sec.  1610.3-3 if the ``responsible 
official'' has not received written notice of an apparent inconsistency 
from other Federal agencies, State and local governments, or Indian 
tribes, rather than ``State Directors and Field Managers.'' Because the 
responsible official is the BLM employee who is delegated the authority 
to prepare a resource management plan or plan amendment, it is 
important that the responsible official receives written notice of an 
apparent inconsistency so that it can be considered during the planning 
process. The BLM cannot ensure that notice sent to someone other than 
the responsible official will be redirected and delivered in a 
reasonable time-frame, although we will attempt to do so to the best of 
our ability.
    This change provides clarity to other Federal agencies, State and 
local government officials, and Indian tribes of the appropriate BLM 
official to notify of inconsistencies; however, it also reduces the 
number of individuals that could be notified under the existing 
regulations from two individuals (the State Director and Field Manager) 
to one individual in the final rule (the responsible official). The BLM 
believes that this change will improve the BLM's ability to consider 
potential inconsistencies at the earliest time possible, thereby 
promoting efficiency in the planning process.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(3), with 
revisions. This section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(3) in the 
final rule and contains the provisions of existing Sec.  1610.3-1(f). 
The final rule removes the term ``land use'' from ``officially approved 
and adopted [land use] plans.'' For more information on the removal of 
``land use'' please see the discussion on the definition of 
``officially approved and adopted plans'' at the preamble for Sec.  
1601.0-5.
    Some public comments requested that the final rule provide a 
clearly-defined process for resolution of inconsistencies with local 
plans. In response to public comments, final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(3) is 
revised to clarify an important step in this process, stating that if 
the BLM is notified of specific inconsistencies between the BLM draft 
resource management plan and officially approved and adopted plans, the 
proposed resource management plan shall show how these inconsistencies 
were addressed and, if possible, resolved.
    Changes between the proposed and final rule specify that 
inconsistencies should be identified in writing regarding the BLM's 
``draft'' resource management plan. The BLM believes that this is the 
appropriate stage to formally identify inconsistencies as this 
represents the first formal review of and comment on the resource 
management plan. Prior to the publication of the draft resource 
management plan, the BLM will coordinate with governmental entities and 
collaborate with cooperating agencies to identify and resolve potential 
inconsistencies, subject to the qualifications of Sec.  1610.3. Upon 
publication of the draft resource management plan, the BLM will notify 
governmental entities of its availability (see Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(3)) 
for review and comment (see Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(5) and 1610.2-2(c)). 
During this public comment period, governmental entities may identify 
inconsistencies, in addition to any other comments they may have on the 
draft resource management plan.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(3) is also revised to replace ``the 
resource management documentation'' with ``the proposed resource 
management plan.'' This change provides transparency to governmental 
entities and to the public on where they can look for information on 
how the identified inconsistencies were addressed and, if possible, 
resolved; it also ensures governmental entities and the public will 
have access to this information during the protest period (see Sec.  
1610.6-2). This is important because it provides them the opportunity 
to protest should they believe an inconsistency, or the resolution of 
an inconsistency, does not comply with Federal laws or regulations, or 
is inconsistent with the purposes, policies, and programs implementing 
such laws and regulations.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(4), with minor 
revisions. This section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(4) in the 
final rule and contains the provisions of existing Sec.  1610.3-2(d). 
This paragraph states that where officially approved and adopted plans 
of State and local governments differ from each other, those of the 
higher authority will normally be followed. There are no substantive 
changes to this section from the existing requirements; the only 
revisions are to use active voice and consistent terminology for 
improved readability. The final rule removes the term ``land use'' from 
``officially approved and adopted [land use] plans.'' For more 
information on the removal of ``land use'' please see the discussion on 
the definition of ``officially approved and adopted plans'' at the 
preamble for Sec.  1601.0-5.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(b), with revisions. 
This section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.3-3(b) in the final rule. 
The final rule also removes the words ``land use'' from ``officially 
approved and adopted [land use] plans'' throughout this section (please 
see the discussion on the definition of ``officially approved and 
adopted plans'' at the preamble for Sec.  1601.0-5).
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b) contains the provisions of existing Sec.  
1610.3-2(e) and describes the Governor's consistency review process. 
Several public comments stated that these provisions improperly bypass 
local governments by attempting to satisfy consistency requirements 
through Governors. In response to public comments, we wish to clarify 
that the Governor's consistency review is a unique step in the planning 
process that affords the

[[Page 89621]]

Governor, as the elected representative of the State, a final 
opportunity to identify, discuss, and provide recommendations to remedy 
any relevant inconsistencies between a BLM resource management plan or 
amendment and State and local plans. The Governor may consider various 
State and local plans during the review. The BLM does not define a 
process for the Governor to consider those plans because creating a 
uniform process to apply to all Governors would be inappropriate. The 
Governor's consistency review, however, does not represent the only 
opportunity to identify, discuss, and remedy inconsistencies. A key 
objective of coordination, as described in final Sec.  1610.3-2, is for 
the BLM to work with representatives from State and local governments 
to avoid or resolve inconsistencies with State and local plans. As 
outlined in final Sec.  1610.3-2, the BLM will seek to coordinate 
during every stage of the planning process, including during the 
planning assessment (Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3)(i) and 1610.4(b)); the 
identification of planning issues (Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3)(ii) and 
1610.5-1(b)); the review of the preliminary alternatives (Sec. Sec.  
1610.3-2(b)(3)(iii) and 1610.5-2(c)); the preparation of, and comment 
period on, the draft resource management plans (Sec. Sec.  1610.3-
2(b)(3)(v) and 1610.5-4(c)); preparation of the proposed resource 
management plan (Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3)(vi) and 1610.5-5); and the 
protest period on the proposed resource management plan (Sec.  1610.6-
2(a)). Further, representatives from State and local governments are 
invited to participate as cooperating agencies, and therefore have the 
opportunity to partner with the BLM, and in doing so, identify and 
resolve inconsistencies during the development of key planning 
documents. The Governor's consistency review is not intended to replace 
early coordination, and the BLM intends that in most situations, 
inconsistencies will be avoided or resolved through early coordination.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b) is revised for consistency with edits made 
throughout final Sec.  1610.3-3. This section is also revised in 
response to public comments, and in order to provide clarity and align 
with other sections of these regulations and with FLPMA. The final rule 
breaks the provisions of the Governor's consistency review into 
multiple paragraphs to improve readability. In the following 
paragraphs, we describe the changes from the existing regulations that 
are adopted in the final rule.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to replace references to ``State 
Director'' with ``deciding official,'' consistent with the new terms 
used throughout the final rule. There is no change in practice or 
policy, other than those changes described in the discussion on 
responsibilities in the preamble for Sec.  1601.0-4.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to specify that the document 
submitted to the Governor by the deciding official shall identify 
``relevant'' known inconsistencies with ``officially approved and 
adopted plans of State and local governments.'' This revision limits 
the inconsistencies that the deciding official must identify to those 
that are relevant. It also requires the deciding official to identify 
only inconsistencies with officially approved and adopted plans, not 
with ``State or local plans, policies or programs'' (see existing Sec.  
1610.3-2(b)), consistent with Sec. Sec.  1601.0-5 and 1610.3-3(a) in 
the final rule.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(1) states that within 60 days after 
receiving a proposed resource management plan or plan amendment, the 
Governor(s) may submit a written document to the deciding official 
identifying inconsistencies with the officially approved and adopted 
plans of State and local governments and provide recommendations to 
remedy them.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(1)(i) clarifies that the Governor's 
recommendations should address identified inconsistencies with State 
and local plans, rather than other aspects of a resource management 
plan. This language reflects the fact that the Governor's consistency 
review is not intended to replace early coordination with State and 
local governments; rather, this unique step affords the Governor a 
final opportunity to discuss and remedy inconsistencies. These changes 
do not preclude the BLM from considering or responding to a Governor's 
recommendations on other subjects, but it underscores that the BLM's 
focus at this late stage of the planning process is on consistency with 
State or local plans. There is no change in meaning or practice 
associated with the change other than focusing the Governor's 
consistency review on consistency with officially approved and adopted 
State and local plans.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this 
section, which introduces a new provision that allows the Governor to 
waive or shorten the 60-day consistency review period in writing. This 
provision facilitates a more efficient planning process by reducing the 
length of the review period in situations where the Governor has no 
comments to submit. For example, if representatives from the Governor's 
Office participated as cooperators and found the plan to be adequately 
consistent with officially approved and adopted State and local plans, 
then the Governor may have no further comments and wish to expedite the 
review period. This change is consistent with current practice under 
the existing regulations, as the Governor is not precluded from waiving 
or shortening the consistency review period under the existing 
regulations. The addition of this language, however, provides more 
transparency to the public on the Governor's consistency review process 
and affirms the availability of this option for the Governor.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(2) of this section, 
with no changes. This section retains existing language that the plan 
or amendment is presumed to be consistent if the Governor(s) does not 
respond to the BLM within the 60-day period, but is revised from the 
existing regulations to improve readability. There is no change in 
practice or meaning associated with these changes.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(3) is revised to clarify existing language 
and reflect terms used in this rule. This paragraph provides that 
``[i]f the document submitted by the Governor(s) recommends substantive 
changes that were not considered during the public involvement process, 
the BLM shall notify the public and provide opportunity for public 
comment on these changes.'' This clarifies that the public must be 
provided an opportunity to comment on any substantive changes 
recommended by the Governor to remedy inconsistencies between the BLM's 
proposed resource management plan and officially approved and adopted 
plans that were not previously raised or considered during the public 
involvement process, and this opportunity must be provided before the 
Director renders a decision. While this is not a change from BLM 
practice under existing regulations, these clarifications provide a 
more precise description of the public's opportunity to comment on the 
Governor's recommended changes to remedy inconsistencies.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(4) of this section 
with only minor revisions. This section provides that the deciding 
official (revised from the State Director) shall notify the Governor(s) 
in writing of his or her decision regarding the Governor(s)' 
recommendations. The final rule adopts the proposed new requirements 
that the notification include the deciding official's reason for the 
decision and that the notification be

[[Page 89622]]

mandatory, replacing the existing requirement to notify the Governor 
only if their recommendations are not accepted. These changes are not a 
change in practice or policy, other than ensuring that the Governor is 
notified of any decision related to the Governor's recommendations.
    Final paragraph (b)(4)(i) of this section maintains the existing 
process by which the Governor(s) may submit a written appeal to the BLM 
Director within 30 days after receiving the deciding official's 
decision.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(4)(ii) of this 
section, with revisions. The final rule removes existing language 
requiring the BLM Director to accept the recommendations of the 
Governor(s) if the BLM Director determines that the recommendations 
``provide for a reasonable balance between the national interest and 
the State's interest.'' This existing language does not reflect the 
broader range of considerations that need apply. For example, the 
Director must consider whether the recommendations of the Governor are 
consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other Federal laws and 
regulations, as well as the purposes, policies, and programs 
implementing such laws and regulations, as described in final Sec.  
1610.3-3(a). The Director must also consider whether the 
recommendations of the Governor are consistent with the purpose and 
need statement for the resource management plan revision or amendment, 
whether they were encompassed by the range of alternatives and analyzed 
in the effects analysis, as well as the environmental effects of the 
recommendations. We proposed to replace the existing language, instead 
stating that the BLM Director will consider the Governor(s)' comments 
in rendering a final decision. Several public comments opposed this 
proposed change, stating that the Congressional intent of FLPMA is to 
reach a reasonable balance between the national interests and the State 
or local interests without undue impacts to either the State or local 
governments. In response to public comments, final paragraph (b)(4)(i) 
of this section is revised to replace ``comments'' with ``appeal'' and 
to include additional language requiring that the Director also 
consider the consistency requirements of this section. In particular, 
this reference points the Director to the standard reflected in Sec.  
1610.3-3(a) that resource management plans shall be consistent with 
officially approved and adopted State and local plans to the maximum 
extent the BLM finds consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other 
Federal law and regulations applicable to public lands, and the 
purposes, policies, and programs implementing such laws and 
regulations. The Director will review the Governor's appeal and 
determine whether the proposed resource management plan meets this 
standard, which encompasses the broader range of considerations 
described above.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(4)(ii) retains the existing requirement, 
with clarifying edits, that the BLM Director will notify the 
Governor(s) in writing of his or her decision regarding the appeal. 
Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(4)(ii) also replaces the existing requirement 
to publish the reasons for the BLM's decision in the Federal Register 
with commitments to notify the public of the decision and to make the 
written decision available to the public. The BLM will instead provide 
this notification on the BLM Web site, by posting a notice at BLM 
offices within the planning area, by sending an email to the mailing 
list, or by other means as appropriate.
    The BLM received several public comments that expressed concern 
over the removal of the existing requirements to publish Federal 
Register notices. The BLM believes that it is appropriate to move away 
from relying on Federal Register notices at this step, given that 
Internet communications are both readily available and widely used. 
Further, at this late stage of the planning process, individuals or 
organizations interested in the planning effort will have had many 
opportunities to request to be added to the mailing list (see Sec.  
1610.2-1(d)) to receive notifications related to the planning effort. 
In locations where Internet is not readily available, the responsible 
official will identify additional forms of notification to reach local 
communities within the planning area (see Sec.  1610.2-1(c)). Removal 
of the unnecessary requirement to publish a notice in the Federal 
Register provides for a more efficient planning process.
    In the proposed rule, the BLM requested public comments on whether 
to adjust the timeline or appeal process for the Governor's consistency 
review. Although some comments expressed support for shortening the 
timeline to 30 days and requested the BLM eliminate the appeal process, 
the BLM received many comments expressing concern over any changes that 
would reduce opportunities for coordination or achievement of 
consistency. In light of these comments, the final rule does not adjust 
the timeline or appeal process.
Section 1610.4 Planning Assessment
    Existing Sec.  1610.4 consists only of the section heading 
``Resource management planning process.'' This section is revised in 
the final rule as follows.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.4, ``Planning 
assessment,'' with revisions. This section combines and revises the 
existing sections for inventory data and information collection 
(existing Sec.  1610.4-3) and the analysis of the management situation 
(AMS) (existing Sec.  1610.4-4) into a new planning assessment section. 
The planning assessment will occur before the BLM initiates the 
preparation of a resource management plan and will be consistent with 
the nature, scope, scale, and timing of the planning effort. The 
combination of those points in the planning process into this early 
planning assessment will result in a more informed scoping process; 
however, several existing provisions are removed because they will no 
longer be relevant at this early stage. These changes are described in 
detail at each corresponding section of the planning assessment 
provisions in this rule.
    The planning assessment includes new opportunities for public 
involvement, coordination with other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes, and collaboration with cooperating 
agencies. The BLM anticipates that greater coordination, collaboration 
and public involvement, particularly early in the planning process, 
will result in efficiencies by ensuring that the BLM considers a wide 
range of relevant policies, information, and perspectives even before 
scoping.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ See OMB and President's CEQ Memorandum on Environmental 
Collaboration and Conflict Resolution (Sept. 7, 2012), 4.b., p. 3 
(``Given possible cost savings through improved outcomes, fewer 
appeals and less litigation, department and agency leadership should 
identify and support upfront investments in collaborative processes 
and conflict resolution . . .'') and 5, p. 4 (Federal departments 
and agencies should prioritize integrating collaboration and 
conflict resolution objectives and ``a focus on up-front 
collaboration as a key principle in agency mission statements and 
strategic plans''), available at: https://ceq.doe.gov/ceq_regulations/OMB_CEQ_Env_Collab_Conflict_Resolution_20120907.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The planning assessment is intended to help the BLM better 
understand resource, environmental, ecological, social, and economic 
conditions, and identify public views and resource management 
priorities for the planning area. The planning assessment will occur 
early in the process, before the formal initiation of a planning effort 
and before the steps that the BLM traditionally has taken first--
namely, the identification of issues and the

[[Page 89623]]

development of planning criteria. The BLM believes that conducting an 
upfront assessment will provide useful baseline information to inform 
subsequent steps, such as the preparation of a preliminary purpose and 
need statement, the identification of planning issues, and the 
formulation of resource management alternatives. The planning 
assessment will include new opportunities for collaboration and public 
involvement and measures that will increase transparency. Further, the 
planning assessment is similar to the assessment procedures in the U.S. 
Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule (see 36 CFR 219.6(a)), and therefore 
create a new opportunity for inter-agency coordination.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.4, which serves as an 
introduction and provides that the planning assessment shall be 
required before the BLM initiates the preparation of a resource 
management plan.
    In response to public comment, the final rule adds new Sec.  
1610.4(a), which addresses the determination of a planning area. 
Several public comments suggested that the planning regulations would 
benefit from more direction on how the BLM will determine future 
planning areas. Some comments requested that the BLM clarify how the 
planning assessment informs and helps to establish the planning area 
boundary. Other comments recommended that planning areas be based on 
common management concerns. This new paragraph requires that the BLM 
identify a preliminary planning area for use as the basis for the 
planning assessment.
    Paragraph (a)(1) and paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (a)(1)(v) of this 
section describe the factors that the BLM will consider when 
identifying a preliminary planning area. First, the BLM will consider 
relevant management concerns identified through monitoring and 
evaluation. These management concerns will be available to the public 
through the summary report of the plan evaluation (see Sec.  1610.6-4). 
Next the BLM will consider any relevant landscapes associated with 
these management concerns. (See final Sec.  1601.0-5). For example, if 
the plan evaluation indicates that the existing resource management 
plan does not adequately address the impacts of new resource uses on 
sensitive plant species, then the BLM would take into consideration the 
area of land where these new resource uses are relevant as well as the 
extent of the sensitive plant species. This does not mean that the 
planning area must encompass the full geographic extent of the resource 
use and sensitive plant species; rather, it means that the BLM must 
consider the geographic extent of this interaction when determining an 
appropriate planning area and the potential consequences for the 
species as a result of this interaction. The BLM also must consider any 
relevant guidance provided by the deciding official or the BLM 
Director, as well as the officially approved and adopted plans of other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes, as 
well as other relevant information, as appropriate. For example, if a 
State wildlife action plan identifies a management area for an 
important wildlife species, then the BLM will take that into 
consideration when developing a preliminary planning area.
    Several public comments raised concern that under the proposed 
rule, there would be no opportunity for public involvement in the 
determination of a planning area. In response to public comments, this 
section also includes a new requirement (final Sec.  1610.6-4(b)) that 
the responsible official shall make the description and a rationale for 
the preliminary planning area available for public review prior to the 
publication of the NOI in the Federal Register. The BLM intends that 
this description and rationale will normally be made available at the 
onset of the planning assessment, which will take place before an NOI 
is published. The planning area will be revised, as necessary, based on 
any feedback provided by other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, Indian tribes, or the public during the planning 
assessment. For example, the BLM intends to host public meetings during 
the planning assessment to assist in identifying public views (see 
Sec.  1610.4(b)(4)). During these public meetings, the BLM will also 
discuss the preliminary planning area with participants and consider 
any input received. The BLM will also coordinate with other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes to receive 
feedback on the preliminary planning area. A planning area will be 
identified in the NOI (see Sec.  1610.2-1(f)(2)(ii)) and will be 
informed by the input received during the planning assessment. For more 
information on the determination of a planning area, please see the 
discussion of Sec.  1601.0-4 in this preamble.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.4(a), with revisions. 
This section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.4(b) in the final rule. This 
section addresses ``information gathering'' and replaces and enhances 
the existing inventory data and information collection requirements 
(see existing Sec.  1610.4-3), providing that the responsible official 
will follow the four requirements described in paragraphs (b)(1) 
through (b)(4) of this section.
    Under paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the responsible official 
will arrange for relevant resource, environmental, ecological, social, 
economic, and institutional data or information to be gathered, or 
assembled if it is already available, including the identification of 
potential ACECs. This replaces language in existing Sec.  1610.4-3 that 
requires the BLM to ``arrange for resource, environmental, social, 
economic and institutional data and information to be collected or 
assembled if already available.'' The final rule replaces the word 
``collected'' with ``gathered'' to avoid potential confusion with the 
information collection requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act 
of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35). The final rule includes ``the 
identification of potential ACECs'' in this step to specify when 
potential ACECs should be identified (see Sec.  1610.8-2). It is 
important to note that as planning proceeds the BLM may identify the 
need for additional information gathering or new information may become 
available. The BLM will consider this new information, such as the 
identification of a potential ACEC.
    Paragraph (b)(1) of this section encompasses the BLM's statutory 
obligation for inventory of ``public lands and their resource and other 
values,'' as described in FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1711(a)), and also 
provides for the gathering and consideration of the best available 
scientific information, or other types of high quality information, 
provided by sources outside of the BLM.
    The final rule does not carry forward language from existing Sec.  
1610.4-3 requiring that ``new information and inventory data . . . 
emphasize significant issues and decisions with the greatest potential 
impact.'' At this early stage in the planning process, the BLM 
recognizes that all significant issues may not yet be known and without 
conducting a broad assessment, the BLM may not be able to reasonably 
identify all of the significant issues. At the same time, the BLM must 
make every effort to conduct a planning assessment relevant to the 
issues and concerns associated with the incipient planning process 
recognizing existing budgets and timeframes. The BLM intends that 
``relevant'' data and information will include inventory of the land 
and resources (see 43 U.S.C. 1711(a)) and any other available high 
quality information, including the best available scientific 
information, relevant

[[Page 89624]]

to the planning process and necessary to address the applicable factors 
described in proposed Sec.  1610.4(d).
    The final rule adopts the proposal to include a provision in final 
Sec.  1610.4(b)(1) to avoid unnecessary data-gathering, similar to the 
existing provision in the development of planning criteria regulations 
(see existing Sec.  1610.4-2(a)(2)), however, in response to public 
comment, this sentence is revised in the final rule to incorporate a 
new provision. Several public comments stated that the planning rule 
does not adequately address the FLPMA requirement for the BLM to 
``coordinate the land use inventory'' (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). In 
response to public comments, this sentence is revised to provide that 
``to the extent consistent with the laws governing the administration 
of the public lands and as appropriate, inventory data and information 
shall be gathered or assembled in coordination with the land use 
planning and management programs of other Federal agencies, State and 
local governments, and Indian tribes within which the lands are 
located, and in a manner that aids the planning process and avoids 
unnecessary data-gathering.'' This language aligns with FLPMA (see 43 
U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)) and reflects the importance of early coordination 
with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian 
tribes on inventory and information gathering.
    In addition, the BLM intends to emphasize that inventory data and 
information gathered for the planning assessment should be responsive 
to the relevant issues and geared to inform the overall planning 
process, including subsequent monitoring and implementation of the 
resource management plan. The responsible official will determine what 
information is relevant to the planning process based on available 
resources and existing requirements, such as inventory of the land and 
resources, the previous results of monitoring and evaluation, or 
existing assessments or strategies that overlay the planning area.
    In paragraph (b)(2) of this section, the final rule adopts the new 
regulatory requirement, consistent with current practice, that the 
responsible official ``[i]dentify relevant national, regional, State, 
tribal or local laws, regulations, policies, guidance, strategies or 
plans for consideration in the planning assessment.'' In response to 
public comments, the final rule adds ``State'' and ``tribal'' to this 
list, as well as ``laws'' and ``regulations.'' This expands the 
relevant laws, regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, and plans 
for consideration, and better helps the BLM meet its consistency 
requirements by conducting this assessment early in the process. 
Examples identified in the final rule include Executive Orders issued 
by the President, Secretarial Orders issued by the Secretary of the 
Interior, DOI or BLM policy, BLM Director or deciding official 
guidance, mitigation strategies, interagency initiatives, State, multi-
State, tribal, or local resource plans. In response to public comments, 
the final rule includes ``tribal'' and ``local'' resource plans as 
examples. Recent examples might include: Secretarial Order 3336--
Rangeland Fire Prevention, Management and Restoration (Jan. 5, 2015); 
the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Apr. 2014) 
(http://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/strategy); a State wildlife action 
plan such as the Nevada Wildlife Action Plan which was prepared by the 
Nevada Department of Wildlife and approved by the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (http://www.ndow.org/Nevada_Wildlife/Conservation/Nevada_Wildlife_Action_Plan/); or a community wildfire protection plan 
(http://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/communities/cwpp.shtml).
    Identifying policies and strategies up front is important because 
successful planning needs to be informed by policies and strategies 
that cross traditional administrative boundaries. This step also 
enables the BLM Director and the deciding official to consider input 
during the planning assessment process, including information from 
other Federal and State agencies engaged in planning in the same or 
similar geographic area. Further, this step ensures that the BLM keeps 
apprised of the plans, policies, and management programs of other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes and 
considers those plans, policies, and management programs that are 
germane in the development of resource management plans for public 
lands (see Sec.  1610.3-2(a)).
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(3) of this section, 
with edits. The final rule adopts the proposal to add a new regulatory 
requirement that the responsible official provide opportunities for 
other Federal agencies, State and local governments, Indian tribes and 
the public to provide existing data and information or suggest other 
laws, regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, or plans for the BLM 
to consider in the planning assessment. For example, a State wildlife 
agency might ask the BLM to consider a conservation plan for a 
sensitive species; a member of the public might ask the BLM to consider 
the results of a peer-reviewed study relevant to the planning area; or 
a recreation user group might ask the BLM to consider data identifying 
areas of high recreation use in the planning area. This opportunity 
will be provided through a general request for information from the 
public. In addition to accepting written input, the BLM may provide 
opportunities through in-person meetings or workshops, webinars, 
collaborative Web sites, or other information gathering techniques. In 
response to public comments, and for consistency with revisions to 
paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the final rule includes relevant 
``laws'' and ``regulations'' in this section. These could include 
Federal, State, or tribal laws and regulations, such as the California 
Environmental Quality Act.
    The adoption of this new requirement in the final Sec.  
1610.4(b)(3) establishes a new public involvement opportunity during 
the planning assessment, which supports the Planning 2.0 goal to 
provide new and enhanced opportunities for collaborative planning. It 
will also help the BLM consider relevant data and information in the 
planning assessment.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b)(4) of this section, 
with no edits, which requires that the BLM identify relevant public 
views concerning resource, environmental, ecological, social, or 
economic conditions of the planning area. The BLM intends that these 
views will be identified through a public ``envisioning process.'' This 
process will generally include public meetings, although the BLM may 
also use other techniques, such as a collaborative Web site, for 
example. Final Sec.  1610.4(b)(4) will help the Bureau to better 
understand public views in relation to the planning area, including 
what is important to the public, where important areas are located, and 
why these areas are important to members of the public. Under current 
practice, the BLM identifies public views during the identification of 
planning issues. By providing this opportunity during the planning 
assessment, the BLM will be able to summarize public views in the 
planning assessment report (see Sec.  1610.4(e)). This will provide 
increased transparency, will help to inform the preparation of a 
preliminary purpose and need statement, and will help inform the 
identification of planning issues.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.4(b) with revisions. This 
section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.4(c) in the final rule. This new 
section addresses

[[Page 89625]]

``information quality'' for the planning assessment. The responsible 
official will evaluate the data and information gathered or provided to 
the BLM to ensure the use of high quality information in the planning 
assessment and to identify any data gaps or further information 
needs.'' In this new step, the responsible official must evaluate the 
information that has been gathered to ensure the use of high quality 
information in the planning assessment (for more information on high 
quality information, please see the discussions for Sec. Sec.  1601.0-5 
and 1610.1-1(c) in this preamble). Including this new requirement in 
the planning regulations is important because it clearly communicates 
to the public that any information submitted to the BLM must be high 
quality information to be considered further in the planning 
assessment. After evaluating information, the responsible official, in 
collaboration with any cooperating agencies, will use the high quality 
information to assess the resource, environmental, ecological, social, 
and economic conditions of the planning area.
    Several public comments requested that the responsible official 
document his or her evaluations of information quality, including a 
rationale for any information excluded from use in the planning 
assessment, and make this information available to the public. The 
evaluation of high quality information will be documented in the 
administrative file for the planning effort and the BLM expects the 
evaluation will be summarized in the planning assessment report in most 
cases (see Sec.  1610.4(e)). The forthcoming revision of the Land Use 
Planning Handbook will provide more detailed guidance on these steps.
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.4(c) with revisions. This 
section is redesignated as Sec.  1610.4(d) in the final rule. This 
section describes the factors that the responsible official must 
consider when assessing the resource, environmental, ecological, 
social, and economic conditions of the planning area for the planning 
assessment. The responsible official will consider and document these 
factors whenever they are applicable, however, the responsible official 
will not be limited to the proposed factors.
    These factors contain elements from the nine factors in Sec.  
1610.4-4(a) through (i) of the existing planning regulations, which 
outline the AMS. The planning assessment also includes some factors 
that were not included in the existing regulations regarding the AMS 
(see existing Sec.  1610.4-4). These new factors are intended to help 
inform the planning process and include types of information the BLM 
already may consider under the existing regulations. The inclusion of 
these factors in the regulations provides the public with a better 
understanding of the types of information that will be considered 
during the preparation of a resource management plan. The BLM 
anticipates no direct impacts to the public from these proposed 
additions. The following paragraphs highlight the changes and 
rationales.
    Paragraph (d)(1) of this section ((c)(1) in the proposed rule) 
revises existing Sec.  1610.4-4(a), providing that the BLM consider 
``the types of resource management authorized by FLPMA and other 
relevant authorities'' during the planning assessment. The final rule 
replaces Federal Land Policy and Management Act with the acronym FLPMA 
and replaces ``legislation'' with ``authorities.'' The proposed rule 
would have replaced ``resource use and protection'' with ``resource 
management.'' Several public comments suggested that the proposed 
change could be interpreted to mean that the BLM would no longer 
consider resource uses authorized by FLPMA. In response to public 
comment, the final rule maintains the term ``use'' from the existing 
regulations to clarify and affirm that resource use is considered in 
the assessment. There is no change in meaning or practice associated 
with these edits, as the term ``resource management'' encompasses 
``resource use and protection'' as well as other types of management 
such as restoration.
    The final rule adopts paragraph (d)(2) of this section ((c)(2) in 
the proposed rule) with revisions. The final rule includes ``land 
status and ownership . . . infrastructure, and access patterns in the 
planning area,'' consistent with the proposed rule. The final rule 
changes ``existing resource uses'' to ``existing resource management'' 
because existing resource uses are covered by other factors in this 
section (including, but not limited to Sec.  1610.4(d)(7)), but 
existing resource management (as described in the existing land use 
plan) is not. Further, it is important to identify existing management 
direction that allows for a use, such as a known valid existing right, 
even if that use is not yet applied in the area. The final rule also 
adds ``including any known valid existing rights'' for the reasons 
discussed in the preamble to Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2). This factor, 
although often included in the AMS under current practice, is not 
identified in the current regulations and will provide important 
baseline information on current uses within the planning area to inform 
the identification of planning issues and the formulation of 
alternatives.
    The final rule adopts paragraph (d)(3) of this section ((c)(3) in 
the proposed rule) without revisions. This paragraph refers to current 
resource, environmental, ecological, social, and economic conditions, 
and any known trends related to these conditions. This information is 
typically included in the AMS under current practice, but is not 
identified in the current regulations. It is important that current 
conditions serve as a starting point for the planning assessment. This 
information provides the basis for the affected environment and assists 
in the identification of planning issues and formulation of a 
reasonable range of alternatives for analysis. Trends in resource or 
other conditions, such as economic trends, wildlife population trends, 
or recreation use trends, could also provide useful information for the 
planning process. If this information is available, the BLM will 
consider it during the planning assessment.
    The final rule adopts paragraph (d)(4) of this section ((c)(4) in 
the proposed rule) with revisions. This paragraph refers to ``known 
resource constraints or limitations.'' The final rule removes the term 
``thresholds'' because it is unnecessary and duplicative of the terms 
``constraints or limitations.''
    Paragraph (d)(4) of this section modifies and expands on existing 
Sec.  1610.4-4(i), which refers to ``critical threshold levels which 
should be considered in the formulation of planned alternatives.'' 
Known resource constraints or limitations will be identified based on 
the best available scientific information. For instance, a known 
limitation might include a minimum viable population number for an 
endangered species as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
or a minimum area of critical habitat, such as breeding grounds or 
winter range, as determined by peer-reviewed scientific research. The 
BLM believes this concept is important to the planning process because 
it informs the development of plan components in the resource 
management plan, including disturbance limits, mitigation standards, or 
decision points for applying adaptive management. For example, a land 
use plan could establish an objective to support viable populations for 
a sensitive species by protecting important habitat. If a known minimum 
viable population for the species was identified in the planning 
assessment, this information could be used to

[[Page 89626]]

establish a decision point to consider a plan amendment if the 
population numbers dropped near or below the minimum.
    Under this new provision, the BLM will identify any known 
constraints or limitations to resource management that should be 
considered in order to effectively manage resources consistent with its 
multiple use and sustained yield mandate, including any known and 
potential conflicts between multiple uses. For example, the BLM may 
identify uses that are known to be incompatible with important habitat 
for a sensitive species based on the best available scientific 
information in order to provide for the long-term sustainability of the 
species.
    The BLM will also identify any related or indirect constraints to 
resource management. For example, wildfire propensity in an area might 
provide a constraint to future allowed uses, because in addition to use 
disturbance, the protection of habitat for a sensitive species could 
also be affected by natural disturbance. Or rights-of-way corridors 
might be constrained by natural features in certain areas, limiting 
where a transmission corridor could be located on the landscape. The 
BLM does not anticipate that all resource limitations will be 
identified at this stage of planning; many will be identified later 
through the formulation of alternatives and the estimation of their 
effects. At this early stage in planning, the BLM will identify known 
limitations based on best available scientific information, such as 
peer-reviewed research. This information will be useful to inform the 
identification of planning issues and resource management alternatives, 
and will promote a transparent and efficient planning process.
    Paragraph (d)(5) of this section ((c)(5) in the proposed rule) 
refers to areas of potential importance within the planning area and is 
adopted in the final rule with revisions. This information is typically 
included in the AMS under current practice, but is not identified in 
the current regulations. The identification of these areas will inform 
the identification of planning issues and the formulation of 
alternatives. The following paragraphs describe the different types of 
``areas of importance'' that are included.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(i) of this section ((c)(5)(i) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule without revisions. This paragraph 
refers to areas of tribal, traditional, or cultural importance. These 
could include areas important for subsistence use, important cultural 
sites, traditional cultural properties, or a cultural landscape. 
Although the BLM will identify these areas during the planning 
assessment, sensitive or confidential areas may not be made available 
to the public or included in the planning assessment report.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(ii) of this section ((c)(5)(ii) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule with one revision. This paragraph 
refers to habitat for special status species, including state or 
federally listed threatened or endangered species. The final rule 
changes ``and/or'' to ``or'' because the ``and'' is unnecessary. No 
change in meaning is intended.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(iii) of this section ((c)(5)(iii) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule without revisions. This paragraph 
refers to other areas of key fish and wildlife habitat such as big game 
wintering and summer areas, bird nesting and feeding areas, habitat 
connectivity or wildlife migration corridors, and areas of large and 
intact habitat. The identification of these areas is important at the 
onset of planning because fish and wildlife habitat often crosses 
jurisdictional boundaries and conservation of such habitat will often 
require landscape-scale management approaches.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(iv) of this section ((c)(5)(iv) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule without revisions. This paragraph 
refers to areas of ecological importance, such as areas that increase 
the ability of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the planning 
area to adapt to, resist, or recover from change. For example, areas of 
ecological importance might include refugia or migratory corridors 
identified to help sensitive species respond to the effects of climate 
change or wetlands that help to buffer the effects of weather 
fluctuations by storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow 
during dry periods.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(v) of this section ((c)(5)(v) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule with revisions. This paragraph 
refers to lands with wilderness characteristics, wild and scenic study 
rivers, or areas of significant scenic value. A comment stated that the 
term ``candidate wild and scenic rivers'' is unclear, and suggested the 
final rule replace ``candidate'' with ``eligible'' and adopt the 
Department of Interior's definition for eligible wild and scenic rivers 
as its definition for candidate wild and scenic rivers. In response to 
public comments, the final rule instead replaces ``candidate wild and 
scenic rivers'' with ``wild and scenic study rivers.'' This term is 
defined in BLM Manual 6400 and is therefore consistent with current BLM 
practice and policy.
    A few comments requested the planning assessment include specific 
consideration of areas of scientific value. The comments stated that 
scientific value is listed in FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(8)), but the 
proposed rule does not account for it. In response to public comments, 
final paragraph (d)(5)(v) of this section is revised to include areas 
of significant ``scientific'' value, consistent with FLPMA (see 43 
U.S.C. 1701(a)(8), 1702(c)).
    Paragraph (d)(5)(vi) of this section ((c)(5)(vi) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule without revisions. This paragraph 
refers to areas of significant historical value, including 
paleontological sites. A comment urged the BLM to include 
archaeological sites to the list of areas of potential importance, 
among others. Archeological sites are encompassed by ``areas of 
significant historical value'' and may also be identified under this 
paragraph, subject to any requirement that the BLM keep the location of 
archeological sites confidential.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(vii) of this section ((c)(5)(vii) in the proposed 
rule) is adopted in the final rule without revisions. This paragraph 
refers to existing designations in the planning area, such as 
wilderness, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, national 
scenic or historic trails, or existing ACECs.
    Paragraph (d)(5)(viii) of this section ((c)(5)(viii) in the 
proposed rule) is adopted in the final rule without revisions. This 
paragraph refers to areas with potential for renewable or non-renewable 
energy development or energy transmission.
    The BLM received comments requesting that areas with mineral 
potential, as well as timber, be included in the planning assessment. 
In response to comments, the final rule includes new paragraphs 
(d)(5)(ix) and (d)(5)(x), which refer to areas with known mineral 
potential and areas with known potential for producing forest products, 
including timber. This information is typically identified in the 
affected environment section of a draft resource management plan and 
draft EIS under current practice, but is not identified in the current 
regulations. Identification of these areas at the outset of the 
planning process is important because minerals and forest products are 
among the resources that BLM manages under FLPMA's multiple use 
standard and other statutory mandates.
    Paragraph (c)(5)(ix) of this section in the proposed rule is 
redesignated as paragraph (d)(5)(xi) in the final rule, but

[[Page 89627]]

otherwise is adopted without revisions. This paragraph refers to areas 
of importance for recreation activities or access. These might include 
high use recreation sites or areas with limited access points.
    Paragraph (c)(5)(x) of this section in the proposed rule is 
redesignated as paragraph (d)(5) (xii) in the final rule, but otherwise 
is adopted without revisions. This paragraph refers to areas of 
importance for public health and safety, such as abandoned mine lands 
or natural hazards.
    Paragraph (d)(6) of this section ((c)(6) in the proposed rule) is 
adopted in the final rule without revisions. This paragraph refers to 
dominant ecological processes, disturbance regimes, and stressors, such 
as drought, wildland fire, invasive species, and climate change. This 
information is not identified in the current regulations, but will be 
useful to inform the formulation of alternatives and assess the need 
for adaptive management approaches or cross-boundary collaboration with 
other land managers. For example, halting the spread of invasive 
species may require collaboration between adjacent landowners such as 
the BLM, the United States Forest Service, or willing private 
landowners.
    Paragraph (c)(7) of this section in the proposed rule is adopted as 
paragraph (d)(7) in the final rule with revisions. We adapted this 
paragraph from the beginning of existing Sec.  1610.4-4(d), which 
directs the BLM to consider the ``estimated sustained levels of the 
various goods, services and uses that may be attained.'' The proposed 
rule referred instead to identifying the ``various goods and services, 
including ecological services, that people obtain from the planning 
area.'' The phrase ``goods and services'' includes the many ecological 
services (i.e., ecosystem services) that are provided by the public 
lands, in addition to the ``principal or major uses'' described in 
FLPMA (see 43 U.S.C. 1702(l)), and other multiple uses. ``Ecosystem 
goods and services include a range of human benefits resulting from 
appropriate ecosystem structure and function, such as flood control 
from intact wetlands and carbon sequestration from healthy forests.''
    Several public comments expressed concern that, as a whole, the 
factors identified in proposed paragraph (c) (final paragraph (d)) of 
this section would not adequately address resource uses. In response to 
public comments, the final rule uses the phrase ``goods, services, and 
uses'' instead of the proposed language ``goods and services'' in final 
Sec. Sec.  1610.4-7(d)(7) and (d)(7)(i) through (d)(7)(iii). Resource 
uses result in the production of ``goods and services;'' therefore, the 
inclusion of this word does not represent a substantive change in 
meaning. The inclusion of this word is intended to provide clarity that 
this provision applies to resource uses. This paragraph is also revised 
to refer expressly to those principal or major uses described in FLPMA, 
which include domestic livestock grazing, fish and wildlife development 
and utilization, mineral exploration and production, rights-of-way, 
outdoor recreation, and timber production.
    ``Uses,'' in this context, means existing or potential resource 
uses, but does not mean resource use determinations, which are also 
referred to as ``allowable uses'' in the existing Land Use Planning 
Handbook. At this early stage in the planning process, the BLM believes 
it is appropriate to identify the goods and services, including 
resource uses that people obtain from the planning area, but it is not 
yet appropriate to establish allowable uses (resource use 
determinations in the final rule).
    Paragraph (c)(7)(i) of the proposed rule is redesignated as 
paragraph (d)(7)(i) in the final rule, but otherwise is adopted with 
only minor revisions for consistency with final Sec.  1610.4(d)(7). 
This paragraph incorporates language from existing Sec.  1610.4(g), 
which directs the BLM to consider the ``degree of local dependence on 
resources from public lands.'' The BLM will instead consider the degree 
of local, regional, national, or international importance of these 
goods and services. ``Resources'' is replaced with ``goods, services, 
and uses'' to provide a more precise explanation of what the BLM 
considers in regards to those resources. For example, the BLM could 
identify the degree of local dependence on potable water from 
groundwater recharge in the planning area (i.e., local dependence on a 
service associated with water resources). The BLM believes that use of 
more precise terminology in the regulations improves understanding of 
this provision; no change in meaning is intended by this proposed word 
change.
    In addition to the degree of local importance of goods and 
services, the BLM may also consider the degree of regional, national, 
or international importance of goods and services. This is particularly 
important when planning across traditional administrative boundaries 
and implementing landscape-scale management approaches. Examples of 
regional or national importance include goals for renewable energy 
generation on Federal lands under the President's Climate Action Plan 
(June 2013), (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf), and the Nation's reliance on the 
BLM-administered Federal Helium Reserve (http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/energy/helium_program.html).
    Paragraph (c)(7)(ii) is redesignated as paragraph (d)(7)(ii) in the 
final rule, but otherwise is adopted with only minor revisions for 
consistency with final Sec.  1610.4(d)(7). This paragraph incorporates 
language from existing Sec.  1610.4-4(c) and refers to ``available 
forecasts and analyses related to the supply and demand for these goods 
and services.'' The final rule broadens this provision to include both 
supply and demand and to apply to ``goods, services, and uses'' 
including ecological services, instead of ``resource demands.''
    Paragraph (c)(7)(iii) is redesignated as paragraph (d)(7)(iii), but 
otherwise is adopted with only minor revisions for consistency with 
final Sec.  1610.4(d)(7). This paragraph refers to ``the estimated 
sustained levels of the various goods and services that may be produced 
based on a sustained yield basis.'' For example, the BLM commonly 
estimates the sustainable levels of timber production. This factor is 
adapted from existing Sec.  1610.4-4(d), which links estimated 
sustained levels to those that may be attained ``under existing 
biological and physical conditions and under differing management 
practices and degrees of management intensity which are economically 
viable under benefit cost or cost effectiveness standards prescribed in 
national or State Director [deciding official] guidance.'' The final 
rule simplifies the language in this factor for improved readability 
and understanding. At this early stage in the planning process, the BLM 
believes that the planning assessment should focus on the capability of 
resources to provide goods and services on a sustained yield basis. 
This information is important for the development of resource 
management plans based on the principles of multiple use and sustained 
yield and will assist the BLM in developing a range of alternatives 
that is consistent with FLPMA.
    In addition to the foregoing changes, we removed some of the 
factors that are described in existing Sec.  1610.4-4 regarding the AMS 
and will not include them in the planning assessment. The planning 
assessment will not include ``specific requirements and constraints to 
achieve consistency with policies, plans and programs of other Federal 
agencies, State and local government agencies and Indian tribes'' (see 
existing Sec.  1610.4-4(e)). At this early stage in the planning 
process, the BLM will identify

[[Page 89628]]

these plans, but will not have sufficient information to identify 
``requirements and constraints'' related to consistency, as the BLM 
will not yet be developing resource management alternatives. This step 
is more appropriately considered when developing the draft resource 
management plan.
    Paragraph (d) of this section also does not include 
``[o]pportunities to meet goals and objectives defined in national and 
State Director guidance'' (see existing Sec.  1610.4-4(b)). This 
language is no longer necessary, because final Sec.  1610.4(b)(2) 
directs the responsible official to identify BLM guidance that is 
relevant to the planning assessment. That paragraph requires the 
responsible official to consider BLM guidance.
    Another factor not included in the planning assessment section of 
the final rule is ``Opportunities to resolve public issues and 
management concerns'' (see existing Sec.  1610.4-4(f)). The planning 
assessment will typically be conducted before the identification of 
planning issues (see Sec.  1610.5-1), and the BLM may not yet have the 
information necessary to resolve public issues and management concerns. 
The BLM will instead identify these opportunities during the 
formulation of alternatives (see final Sec.  1610.5-2). We believe that 
this is the appropriate step to consider these opportunities because it 
allows the BLM to consider more than one opportunity and compare their 
impacts through the effects analysis (see final Sec.  1610.5-3). This 
is consistent with current practice and policy, as the AMS is currently 
prepared after the identification of planning issues.
    The final rule also removes ``the extent of coal lands which may be 
further considered under provisions of Sec.  3420.2-3(a) of this 
title'' from the existing regulations (see existing Sec.  1610.4-4(h)) 
because it references a regulation that does not currently exist (Sec.  
3420.2-3(a)). Removing Sec.  1610.4-4(h) will help reduce confusion, 
avoid redundancy with existing requirements in the coal regulations, 
and keep coal-specific requirements in the coal regulations where they 
are more appropriate. This does not change practice or policy.
    Proposed Sec.  1610.4(d) is redesignated as final Sec.  1610.4(e) 
and adopted with revisions. This paragraph states that the responsible 
official will document the planning assessment in a report made 
available for public review and this report will include the 
identification and rationale for potential ACECs. The responsible 
official will post the report on the BLM Web site and make copies 
available at BLM offices within the planning area and other locations, 
as appropriate. This provision introduces a new requirement for the 
BLM, as the current regulations do not require the AMS to be made 
available to the public. In the final rule, we clarify that the 
responsible official must make the report available to the public 
before the NOI is published. The planning assessment report will be 
made available before scoping so that it can inform the scoping process 
and help in the identification of planning issues. The BLM intends that 
the planning assessment will inform stakeholders' input throughout the 
development of the resource management plan and provide increased 
transparency to the planning process.
    This section also establishes that, to the extent practical, the 
BLM should make non-sensitive geospatial information used in the 
planning assessment available to the public on the BLM's Web site. This 
change provides for public transparency and supports meaningful public 
involvement in the planning process.
    Finally, proposed Sec.  1610.4(e) is redesignated as final Sec.  
1610.4(f) and adopted with revisions. This paragraph requires that the 
BLM conduct a planning assessment before initiating the preparation of 
an EIS-level amendment. The planning assessment only applies to the 
geographic area being considered for amendment, and the content of the 
planning assessment only includes information relevant to the plan 
amendment. For example, if the BLM were considering an amendment solely 
to a visual resource class, the planning assessment will only consider 
information relevant to a potential change in visual resource class 
within the geographic area of the potential amendment. In the final 
rule we clarified that the planning assessment is to be completed 
consistent with the requirements of final Sec.  1610.4.
    Proposed Sec.  1610.4(e) would have provided the deciding official 
the discretion to waive the requirements of Sec.  1610.4 for minor 
amendments or if he or she determined that an existing planning 
assessment was adequate (see proposed Sec.  1610.4(e)). Several 
comments expressed that such discretion was too open-ended. In response 
to public comments, the final rule does not adopt the proposed language 
allowing for a ``waiver'' if an existing planning assessment is 
determined to be adequate. In the case when an existing assessment 
provides the needed information to inform the planning process, the 
responsible official will identify those parts of the existing 
assessment that are pertinent to the geographic area being identified 
and the issues to be addressed. This information, along with any new 
information, will be incorporated into the planning assessment for the 
plan amendment and made available for public review, consistent with 
final paragraph (e) of this section. The final rule retains the 
deciding official's discretion to waive the requirements of this 
paragraph for minor amendments, however, because the BLM believes there 
are situations for minor amendments where a planning assessment would 
not add value to the planning process and these situations need to be 
considered on a case-by-case basis.
    Several public comments expressed confusion over the meaning of the 
term ``minor amendment.'' In this context, this term is intended to 
address amendments that are either small in scope or scale and the BLM 
prepares an EIS to inform the amendment. The most common type of minor 
amendments for which the BLM prepares an EIS are project-specific 
amendments, such as a solar energy development project, in which the 
amendment only addresses a small portion of a resource management plan 
or a single plan component, but the project itself requires the 
preparation of an EIS. In these situations, a planning assessment may 
not add value to the amendment process and could unnecessarily delay 
the amendment process; the responsible official will have the 
discretion to assess whether the preparation of a planning assessment 
is necessary in these situations. Although less common, the BLM 
recognizes that there are other types of EIS-level plan amendments that 
are also small in scope or scale, and therefore the planning rule 
provides the discretion to identify these situations on a case-by-case 
basis.
Section 1610.5 Preparation of a Resource Management Plan
    This section serves as an introduction to final Sec. Sec.  1610.5-1 
through 1610.5-5, which outline the process the BLM must follow when 
preparing a resource management plan, or an EIS-level plan amendment. 
These sections are based on existing Sec.  1610.4 ``Resource management 
planning process.'' Other revisions from the existing regulations are 
discussed in the appropriate sections of this preamble.
    The final rule removes existing Sec.  1610.4-2 ``Development of 
Planning Criteria,'' consistent with the proposed rule. This section is 
no longer necessary under the final rule. Existing paragraph (a)(1) of 
this section is incorporated into final Sec.  1610.5-2(b). Existing 
paragraph

[[Page 89629]]

(a)(2) of this section is incorporated into Sec. Sec.  1610.4(b)(1) and 
1610.5-3(a) of the final rule. For more information, see the discussion 
in the preamble for Sec. Sec.  1610.4(b)(1), 1610.5-2(b), and 1610.5-
3(a)). The final rule also removes existing Sec. Sec.  1610.4-3 
``Inventory data and information collection'' and 1610.4-4 ``Analysis 
of the management situation'' and combines many of the provisions into 
final Sec.  1610.4 ``Planning assessment,'' consistent with the 
proposed rule. Finally, the final rule removes existing Sec.  1610.4-9 
``Monitoring and evaluation'' and incorporates many of the provisions 
from this section into Sec.  1610.6-4 of the final rule.
    The final rule removes the words ``federally recognized'' before 
Indian tribes throughout these sections for consistent use in 
terminology. These references will no longer be necessary with the 
inclusion of the definition for Indian tribes in Sec.  1601.0-5 of the 
final rule. The final rule removes the phrase ``in collaboration with 
any cooperating agencies'' from throughout these sections. These 
references will be consolidated and moved to final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3) 
(for more on ``cooperating agencies,'' see the preamble discussion of 
Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(3)).
Section 1610.5-1 Identification of Planning Issues
    Final Sec.  1610.5-1 is based on existing Sec.  1610.4-1, with 
revisions to clarify existing text, ensure consistency with other 
changes in this rule, and to require the preparation of a preliminary 
purpose and need statement.
    Paragraph (a) of this section establishes a new requirement for the 
BLM to prepare a preliminary statement of purpose and need and to make 
this statement available for public review when initiating the 
identification of planning issues, consistent with the proposed rule. 
The preliminary statement of purpose and need will be informed by 
Director and deciding official guidance, preliminary public views, the 
planning assessment, the results of previous monitoring and evaluation, 
and Federal laws and regulations, and the purposes, policies, and 
programs implementing such laws and regulations. The latter language 
was revised consistent with the revisions to Sec.  1610.3-3, discussed 
above.
    Preparation of a statement of purpose and need is currently 
required under the DOI NEPA regulations (see 43 CFR 46.415(a) and 
46.420(a)(1)). Final Sec.  1610.5-1(a) adopts a new requirement that 
the preliminary statement of purpose and need be made available to the 
public when initiating the identification of planning issues, 
consistent with the proposed rule. The change provides transparency to 
the public and support the Planning 2.0 goal to provide earlier 
opportunities for public involvement.
    Making the document available for public review does not constitute 
a formal request for public comment on the preliminary statement of 
purpose and need; however, the public is welcome to provide feedback on 
it, and, in particular, the BLM expects that the preliminary statement 
of purpose and need could be updated based on the issues identified 
during the scoping process (see Sec.  1610.5-1(b)). This opportunity 
for public review is important because the statement of purpose and 
need informs the development of all subsequent steps in the preparation 
of a resource management plan. For example, the BLM does not typically 
formulate or analyze a resource management action alternative (see 
final Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2 and 1610.5-3) to the no action unless it is 
consistent with the statement of purpose and need.
    Final paragraph (b) of this section is based on existing Sec.  
1610.4-1. The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the existing 
language ``[a]t the outset of the planning process,'' due to the new 
planning assessment and the preparation of a preliminary statement of 
purpose and need, both of which will occur prior to the identification 
of planning issues. An upfront planning assessment will result in more 
information on resource, environmental, ecological, social and economic 
conditions for the planning area being available to the public and the 
BLM during the identification of planning issues. There will be no 
impact from this change, other than the availability of more 
information at this point in the process.
    The final rule adopts the proposed language to include ``concerns, 
needs, opportunities, conflicts, or constraints related to resource 
management'' as types of suggestions the public can provide during the 
identification of planning issues step. The final rule removes 
``resource use, development, and protection opportunities'' as these 
are encompassed by the final language and are therefore unnecessary. 
There will be no change from current practice.
    Based on public comment, the final rule adds clarification to the 
first sentence of final paragraph (b) of this section. Proposed 
paragraph (b) of this section provided that the public, other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes would be given 
an opportunity to suggest concerns, needs, opportunities, conflicts, or 
constraints related to resource management for consideration in the 
preparation of the resource management plan. Final paragraph (b) of 
this section is revised to include concerns, needs, opportunities, 
conflicts, or constraints, ``including those respecting officially 
approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes.'' This change is consistent with the 
purpose of identifying planning issues and responds to public comment. 
Several public comments requested that the final rule incorporate 
existing Sec.  1610.4-4(e) into the planning assessment. This existing 
provision states that a factor which may be included in the existing 
AMS step is ``specific requirements and constraints to achieve 
consistency with policies, plans and programs of other Federal 
agencies, State and local government agencies and Indian tribes.'' The 
BLM believes that this existing optional provision is more 
appropriately incorporated into Sec.  1610.5-1(b), which includes the 
identification of ``constraints.'' The word ``requirements'' is not 
necessary, as the word ``constraints'' encompasses ``requirements.''
    The final rule adopts the last sentence of proposed paragraph (b) 
of this section stating that the identification of planning issues 
``should be integrated'' with the scoping process required by 
regulations implementing the NEPA. The final language does not 
represent a change in practice or policy, rather the final rule 
clarifies that although the identification of planning issues should be 
integrated with the NEPA scoping process, these are two distinct steps 
with distinct regulatory requirements that the BLM must comply with 
during the planning process.
    Final paragraph (b) of this section also adopts proposed changes 
which reflect new terms used throughout the proposed and final rule. 
The term ``Field Manager'' is replaced with ``responsible official'' to 
maintain consistency with other proposed changes. The term ``planning 
issue'' replaces ``issues'' for consistency with the newly added 
definition for planning issues (see Sec.  1601.0-5) and to clarify what 
type of ``issues'' are intended. The term ``information'' is added, to 
clarify that the BLM analyzes data and information when we determine 
planning issues, consistent with current BLM practice. ``Planning 
assessment,'' replaces the existing examples of other available data. 
The planning assessment includes the existing examples, thus the

[[Page 89630]]

change is consistent with new terminology introduced in the final rule 
(see final Sec.  1610.4), but does not represent a change from current 
practice in the types of available data and information that the BLM 
analyzes.
    Here, and throughout the final rule, the term ``information'' is 
used consistent with the definition of information provided in the OMB 
``Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, 
Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal 
Agencies'' (67 FR 8452). ``Information'' means any communication or 
representation of knowledge such as facts or data, in any medium or 
form, including textual, numerical, graphic, cartographic, narrative, 
or audiovisual forms.'' As discussed in the preamble for Sec.  1610.1-
1(c), the BLM uses ``high quality'' information, which is includes the 
best available scientific information, to inform the resource 
management planning process.
    The BLM intends no change in practice with the changes to final 
Sec.  1610.5-1, other than to provide increased transparency by making 
a preliminary statement of purpose and need available to the public.
Section 1610.5-2 Formulation of Resource Management Alternatives
    Final Sec.  1610.5-2 is based on existing Sec.  1610.4-5. The final 
rule revises the heading of this section to read ``[f]ormulation of 
resource management alternatives,'' consistent with the proposed rule. 
The words ``resource management'' are added to the heading to more 
precisely describe the ``alternatives'' and for consistent use in 
terminology. No change in practice or policy is intended by the change.
    Paragraph (a) of this section describes the requirements for 
developing resource management alternatives. The first sentence in 
final paragraph (a) of this section includes the proposed introductory 
language indicating that this section describes ``[a]lternatives 
development,'' for improved readability. The final rule also adopts the 
proposed change to remove the phrase, ``At the direction of the Field 
Manager,'' because it is the obligation of the BLM, not of any 
individual, to consider all reasonable resource management alternatives 
and develop several for detailed study. The final rule adopts the 
proposal to add the abbreviation ``alternatives'' for ``resource 
management alternatives'' and remove the word ``[n]onetheless'' for 
improved readability in the final rule. No change in practice or policy 
is intended by these changes.
    Final paragraph (a)(1) of this section adopts the proposed 
requirement that the alternatives developed be informed by Director or 
deciding official guidance, the planning assessment, and the planning 
issues and removes the existing requirement that alternatives ``reflect 
the variety of issues and guidance applicable to resource uses.'' This 
language is consistent with other changes and more accurately describes 
the information that informs the development of alternatives.
    A public comment suggested that the final rule include language 
stating that all alternatives must be developed with the intent to 
achieve the purpose and need for the planning process. In response to 
this public comment, the final rule includes a new requirement that the 
alternatives developed shall also be informed by the statement of 
purpose and need (see Sec.  1610.5-1). This change is consistent with 
the BLM's current practice and policy for the compliance with NEPA 
requirements, and also reflects the fact that the ``no action'' 
alternative must be included in the range of alternatives (see 43 CFR 
1502.14) regardless of whether it would achieve the statement of 
purpose and need, as suggested in the public comment. There will be no 
substantive change from current practice or policy, other than the 
availability of the planning assessment to inform the development of 
alternatives.
    Several public comments raised concerns that the BLM would not 
consider citizen-proposed alternatives under the proposed rule. Under 
the final rule, the BLM will continue to comply with NEPA requirements 
for alternatives, including the requirement that the BLM analyze all 
reasonable alternatives, and discuss the reasons for alternatives 
eliminated from detailed study (40 CFR 1502.14). This requirement 
applies to citizen-proposed alternatives. The final rule adopts 
proposed paragraph (a)(2) with no revisions. Final paragraph (a)(2) of 
this section is based on the fourth sentence of existing Sec.  1610.4-
5, and states that ``[i]n order to limit the total number of 
alternatives analyzed in detail to a manageable number for presentation 
and analysis, reasonable variations may be treated as sub-
alternatives.'' The final rule replaces the phrase ``all reasonable 
variations shall be treated as subalternatives'' with ``reasonable 
variations may be treated as subalternatives.'' The change provides the 
BLM flexibility to develop subalternatives when appropriate, but will 
not explicitly require the use of subalternatives. In some instances, 
it may be appropriate to develop a new alternative, rather than a 
subalternative. In other situations, a subalternative may not be 
necessary because it is already covered under the full spectrum of 
examples in existing alternatives. The final changes are consistent 
with CEQ guidance that ``when there are a very large number of 
alternatives, only a reasonable number of examples, covering the full 
spectrum of examples, must be analyzed.'' \15\ The BLM intends no 
change from current practice or policy from this change.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ ``Forty Most Asked Questions Concerning CEQ's National 
Environmental Policy Act Regulations.'' 46 FR 18026. http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/G-CEQ-40Questions.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Final paragraph (a)(3) of this section is based on the fifth 
sentence of existing Sec.  1610.4-5 and requires the inclusion of a no 
action alternative. The final rule adopts the proposal to replace 
``resource use'' with ``resource management'' because the no-action 
alternative applies to resource management in general, and not just 
resource use. There is no change in practice or policy from this 
change.
    Final paragraph (a)(4) of this section is based on the sixth 
sentence of existing Sec.  1610.4-5 and requires that the BLM note in 
the resource management plan any alternatives that are eliminated from 
detailed study, along with the rationale for their elimination. No 
substantive changes are made to this sentence.
    Final paragraph (b) of this section establishes a new requirement 
that the BLM describe the rationale for the differences between 
alternatives, consistent with the proposed rule. This requirement 
incorporates and expands on the requirements of existing Sec.  1610.4-
2(a)(1) that the resource management plan be ``tailored to the issues 
previously identified.'' The proposed rationale for alternatives 
includes: A description of how each alternative addresses the planning 
issues, consistent with the principles of multiple use and sustained 
yield, unless otherwise specified by law; a description of management 
direction that is common to all alternatives; and a description of how 
management direction varies across alternatives to address the planning 
issues. The BLM believes that the rationale for alternatives will 
provide transparency to the public on the reasons for the formulation 
of alternatives and will ensure that the resource management plan is 
``tailored to the issues previously identified.''
    With regards to the rationale for the differences between 
alternatives, final paragraph (b)(1) modifies the proposed

[[Page 89631]]

phrase ``consistent with the principles of multiple use and sustained 
yield, or other applicable law'' to state ``consistent with the 
principles of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise 
specified by law.'' This change between the proposed and final rule is 
made for consistency with the changes to Sec.  1601.0-1 and throughout 
these regulations. For more information, please see the discussion to 
Sec.  1601.0-1 for this preamble.
    Final paragraph (c) of this section adopts the proposal to add a 
new public involvement opportunity. The responsible official must make 
the preliminary resource management alternatives and the preliminary 
rationale for these alternatives available for public review prior to 
the publication of the draft resource management plan and draft EIS. 
The BLM intends that the preliminary alternatives and rationale for 
alternatives ordinarily will be made available for public review prior 
to the estimation of effects of alternatives.
    This public review is intended to serve as a ``check'' of the 
preliminary alternatives and affords the public an opportunity to bring 
to the BLM's attention any possible alternatives that may have been 
overlooked before the BLM conducts the environmental impact analysis 
and prepares a draft resource management plan and draft EIS. The BLM 
anticipates that this review will increase efficiency by avoiding the 
need to re-do or supplement NEPA analyses if alternatives are 
identified during the public comment period on the draft resource 
management plan and draft EIS. Accordingly, the BLM will build time for 
this public review of preliminary alternatives and rationale for 
alternatives into their planning schedules. This public review also 
increases transparency in the BLM's planning process.
    As previously discussed, the BLM does not request written comments 
when making documents available for public review. However, the public 
is welcome to contact the BLM with any appropriate concerns. For more 
information, please see the discussion at Sec.  1610.2 for this 
preamble.
    The preliminary alternatives and rationale for alternatives will be 
posted on the BLM's Web site and made available at BLM offices within 
the planning area. The BLM may consider hosting public meetings to 
discuss the alternatives and the forthcoming revision of the Land Use 
Planning Handbook will describe situations in which the BLM might hold 
public meetings.
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, the BLM requested public 
comment on whether the requirements in paragraph (c) should apply to 
draft plan amendments. The BLM received some comments indicating that 
these requirements should apply to plan amendments as well as other 
comments suggesting that while in general this step should occur, the 
BLM should have the ability to skip this step on a case-by-case basis, 
when appropriate. In response to public comment, the final rule 
includes new language requiring the responsible official to make 
preliminary alternatives and preliminary rationale for alternatives 
available for public review, as appropriate, for draft EIS-level plan 
amendments. The BLM intends that in general this step will occur during 
draft plan amendments. In some situations, such as project-specific or 
other minor amendments, the public review of preliminary alternatives 
and rationale for alternatives may not be appropriate or necessary.
    Final paragraph (d) of this section adopts proposed language 
stating that the BLM may change the preliminary alternatives and the 
preliminary rationale for alternatives as planning proceeds, if it 
determines that public suggestions or other new information make such 
changes necessary. The final language supports BLM's intent to consider 
public input on the preliminary alternatives and make changes 
accordingly. Further, a primary purpose of making preliminary documents 
available to the public is for the BLM to receive feedback and revise 
these documents, prior to issuing a formal draft. Therefore, the BLM 
expects that in most situations, the preliminary alternatives will be 
revised during the preparation of the draft resource management plan.
    Several public comments suggested that the BLM should disclose 
changes made to the preliminary alternatives and the preliminary 
rationale for alternatives. In response to public comment, final 
paragraph (d) adds a requirement that a description of changes made to 
the preliminary alternatives and preliminary rationale for alternatives 
shall be made available to the public in the draft resource management 
plan (see Sec.  1610.5-4). This description is not intended to identify 
each and every change made to these preliminary documents; rather it 
will summarize how the public involvement activities or other new 
information informed the development of the draft resource management 
plan. For example, a citizen-proposed alternative might be incorporated 
into the draft resource management plan as a result of public 
involvement activities associated with the review of the preliminary 
alternatives. In this situation, the draft resource management plan 
would describe the origin and purpose of the citizen-proposed 
alternative.
Section 1610.5-3 Estimation of Effects of Alternatives
    Final Sec.  1610.5-3 is based on existing Sec.  1610.4-6 and 
incorporates elements of existing Sec.  1610.4-2(a)(2).
    Final paragraph (a) of this section establishes a new requirement 
that the responsible official identify the procedures, assumptions, and 
indicators that will be used to estimate the environmental, ecological, 
social, and economic effects of the alternatives considered in detail, 
consistent with the proposed rule. These procedures, assumptions, and 
indicators are referred to as the ``basis for analysis.'' Although this 
is a new requirement in the planning regulations, there are existing 
examples where the BLM has developed a ``basis for analysis,'' or 
similar document, before conducting an effects analysis. For example, 
in the preparation of the Western Oregon Resource Management Plans 
finalized in 2016, the BLM described the analytical methodology the BLM 
intended to use to estimate the effects of alternatives and made this 
available to the public.
    Final paragraph (a)(1) of this section requires that the 
responsible official make the preliminary basis for analysis available 
for public review prior to the publication of the draft resource 
management plan and draft EIS, consistent with the proposed rule. The 
BLM expects that in most situations this information will be made 
available to the public concurrently with the preliminary alternatives 
and rationale for alternatives and prior to conducting the effects 
analysis. As previously discussed, the BLM does not request written 
comments when making documents available for public review (see the 
discussion at Sec.  1610.2 for this preamble). However, the public is 
welcome to contact the BLM with any appropriate concerns.
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, the BLM requested public 
comment on whether the requirements in paragraph (a)(1) should apply to 
draft plan amendments. The BLM received some comments indicating that 
these requirements should apply to plan amendments as well as other 
comments suggesting that while in general this step should occur, the 
BLM should have the ability to skip this step on a case-by-case basis 
when appropriate. In response to public comments, the final

[[Page 89632]]

rule will add a requirement to this paragraph requiring the responsible 
official to make preliminary alternatives and preliminary rationale for 
alternatives available for public review, as appropriate, for draft 
EIS-level plan amendments. The BLM intends that in general this step 
will occur for these amendments. In some situations, such as project-
specific or other minor amendments, the public review of the basis for 
analysis may not be appropriate.
    This paragraph is adapted from an existing requirement of Sec.  
1610.4-2(a)(2) that the ``BLM avoids unnecessary . . . analyses.'' The 
BLM believes that identifying the basis for analysis and making that 
information available to the public will provide a more precise 
description in the regulations of how to avoid unnecessary analyses 
than existing language. The final change also supports the Planning 2.0 
goal to provide early opportunities for meaningful public involvement.
    Final paragraph (a)(2) of this section adopts proposed language 
explaining that the BLM could change the preliminary basis for analysis 
as planning proceeds to respond to new information, including public 
suggestions. The final language supports BLM's intent to consider 
public input on the basis for analysis and make changes accordingly. A 
few public comments expressed concern that the proposed rule did not 
explain how the BLM will notify the public when the basis for analysis 
changes during planning process. In response to public comment, final 
paragraph (a)(2) adds a requirement that a description of changes made 
to the basis for analysis shall be made available to the public in the 
draft resource management plan (see Sec.  1610.5-4). This description 
is not intended to identify each and every change made to basis for 
analysis; rather it will summarize how the public involvement 
activities or other new information informed the development of the 
draft resource management plan, including the basis for analysis.
    Final paragraph (b) of this section is adapted from existing Sec.  
1610.4-6 and adopts the proposed introductory phrase ``[e]ffects 
analysis'' for improved readability. The term ``Field Manager'' is 
replaced with ``responsible official'' for the reasons previously 
explained.
    The first sentence of final paragraph (b) of this section adopts 
the proposed change to replace the phrase ``physical, biological, 
economic, and social effects'' with ``environmental, ecological, 
economic, and social effects'' for consistent use in terminology. The 
final language encompasses the existing terminology. The BLM intends no 
change in practice or policy from this change in terminology.
    In the second sentence of paragraph (b) of this section, the final 
rule adopts the proposal to replace the ``planning criteria'' with the 
``basis for analysis'' and to add the ``planning assessment.'' Final 
paragraph (b) states ``the estimation of effects must be guided by the 
basis for analysis, the planning assessment, and procedures 
implementing NEPA.'' Changes to this section incorporate new 
terminology and reflect the fact that planning criteria are no longer 
required under the final rule. The planning assessment and the basis 
for analysis will provide the appropriate information to guide the 
effects analysis. No substantive changes were made to paragraph (b) of 
this section between the proposed and final rule.
Section 1610.5-4 Preparation of the Draft Resource Management Plan and 
Selection of Preferred Alternatives
    This section is based on existing Sec.  1610.4-7. This final 
section replaces references to ``Field Manager'' with ``responsible 
official,'' references to ``State Director'' with ``deciding 
official,'' and makes grammatical edits. The heading of the section is 
revised to include the new provision in paragraph (a) of this section 
regarding the preparation of the draft resource management plan.
    Final paragraph (a) of this section states that the responsible 
official shall prepare a draft resource management plan based on 
Director and deciding official guidance, the planning assessment, the 
planning issues, and the estimation of the effects of alternatives, 
consistent with the proposed rule. This language highlights the unique 
step in the BLM land use planning process of preparing a draft resource 
management plan, consistent with current practice, and it will 
facilitate public understanding of the planning process outlined in 
Sec.  1610.5. There is no change from existing requirements associated 
with this final language, other than to reflect new terminology in this 
final rule and more broadly describe the information the BLM uses to 
prepare the draft resource management plan and draft EIS.
    The final rule separates proposed paragraph (a) of this section 
into several subparagraphs for improved readability. No change in 
meaning is intended by this revision.
    In response to public comment, final paragraph (a)(1) of this 
section includes a new requirement that the draft resource management 
plan and draft EIS shall ``describe any changes made to the preliminary 
alternatives and preliminary procedures, assumptions, and indicators.'' 
This description is not intended to identify each and every change 
made; rather it will summarize how the public involvement activities or 
other new information informed the development of the draft resource 
management plan. This revision is consistent with the revisions made to 
final Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2(d) and 1610.5-3(a)(2).
    Final paragraph (a)(2) of this section adopts the existing 
requirement that the draft resource management plan and draft EIS shall 
``evaluate the alternatives,'' consistent with the proposed rule and 
removes the existing language requiring the BLM to ``estimate their 
effects according to the planning criteria'' because planning criteria 
will no longer be prepared under the proposed rule and the estimation 
of effects of alternatives is already addressed in proposed Sec.  
1610.5-4.
    Final paragraph (a)(3) of this section requires that the draft 
resource management plan and draft EIS ``identify one or more preferred 
alternatives, if one or more exist.'' This represents a change from 
existing regulations which direct the field manager to ``identify a 
preferred alternative.'' The proposed rule would have broadened this 
requirement to allow the responsible official to select ``one or more'' 
preferred alternatives and in the preamble to the proposed rule, the 
BLM requested public comments on whether the final regulations should 
require a single preferred alternative, allow for multiple preferred 
alternatives, or allow for no preferred alternative if one does not 
exist. Several comments expressed that identifying multiple preferred 
alternatives could create confusion and uncertainty, making it more 
difficult for the public to provide meaningful comments. A few comments 
stated that it would increase the time needed for critical evaluation 
of the preferred alternative, and be time consuming and burdensome for 
the public. Other comments expressed support for the three options, 
noting that there may be instances where it is not possible to select 
only one preferred alternative, or alternatively any preferred 
alternative, and as such, it is appropriate to provide regulatory 
provisions addressing those instances.
    The BLM considered these comments and has revised the proposed 
language to include the option of identifying no preferred alternative, 
if no preferred alternative exists. Under this change to existing 
regulations, the BLM might select a single preferred alternative,

[[Page 89633]]

multiple preferred alternatives, or no preferred alternative. The BLM 
expects that in most situations a single preferred alternative will be 
identified, consistent with current practice; however, there may be 
instances in which either several may be identified, or where none of 
the alternatives are preferred. The latter instances, in particular, 
are rare, and usually occur when a plan amendment is being initiated in 
conjunction with decision-making regarding a site-specific proposal, 
and it is unclear which of possibly several project alternatives, each 
designed to reduce adverse environmental consequences, might be 
preferred. The BLM also sought public comment on whether to include a 
specific regulatory provision addressing these circumstances, to 
clarify that these are the only kinds of instances in which a preferred 
alternative need not be identified. The BLM will not include this 
provision in the final rule. The BLM did not receive comments 
suggesting specific circumstances, and the BLM believes that these 
circumstances are more appropriately identified on a case-by-case 
basis. The final rule provides such flexibility. This change also makes 
the planning regulations more consistent with the DOI NEPA regulations 
(43 CFR 46.425(a)), which were promulgated after the BLM planning 
regulations were last amended. The forthcoming revision of the Land Use 
Planning Handbook will provide more detailed guidance on the selection 
of preferred alternatives.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to replace the existing 
requirement to select a preferred alternative that ``best meets 
Director and State Director guidance'' with a requirement to explain 
the rationale for the preferred alternative(s) in final paragraph 
(a)(3) of this section. There are many factors that might influence the 
selection of a preferred alternative, in addition to Director or 
deciding official guidance, such as assessment findings, public 
involvement, local planning priorities, and identified planning issues. 
The preferred alternative(s) must be consistent with Federal laws, 
regulation, and policy guidance, and will represent the alternative 
that the deciding official believes is most responsive to the planning 
issues and the planning assessment, which includes Director and 
deciding official guidance. The final rule states that the BLM will 
identify one or more preferred alternatives, ``if one or more exist,'' 
and will explain the rationale for the preference ``or absence of a 
preference.'' The added language reflects the new option where a 
preferred alternative may not exist and requires the BLM to provide a 
rationale for the absence of a preference.
    Final paragraph (a)(3) of this section further states that ``[t]he 
identification of one or more preferred alternatives remains the 
exclusive responsibility of the BLM.'' The final rule replaces the 
phrase ``the decision to select'' with the phrase ``the identification 
of'' to improve readability, clarify meaning, and for consistent use in 
terminology. The BLM intends no change in meaning from existing 
regulations. The final rule also specifies that this applies to the 
identification of ``one or more'' preferred alternatives, for 
consistency with changes made earlier in paragraph (a)(3) of this 
section.
    Final paragraph (b) of this section adopts the last sentence of 
proposed paragraph (a). This change to create a new subparagraph is to 
improve readability. There is no substantive change to this provision, 
which provides that the draft resource management plan and EIS will be 
forwarded to the deciding official for publication and filing with the 
EPA.
    Final paragraph (c) of this section is based on existing Sec.  
1610.4-7 and adopts the language from proposed Sec.  1610.5-4(b), with 
revisions. The final rule adopts the proposal to replace ``draft plan 
and [EIS]'' with ``draft resource management plan and draft [EIS],'' 
for improved readability, and also adopts the proposal to pluralize the 
word ``Governor'' to acknowledge that a resource management plan may 
cross State boundaries and in that situation the draft resource 
management plan should be provided to the Governors of all States 
involved.
    In response to public comment, the final rule is revised to include 
language requiring the BLM to provide a copy of the draft resource 
management plan and draft EIS to officials of other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes ``that have requested to 
be notified of opportunities for public involvement'' in addition to 
the proposed requirement to provide a copy to those officials that the 
deciding official has reason to believe would be interested. These 
changes are to address concerns expressed in public comments that the 
deciding official might exclude government officials if the deciding 
official has reason to believe an agency or unit may lack interest. 
This change is consistent with final Sec.  1610.3-2(c)(3). The final 
rule adopts the proposal to replace the word ``concerned'' with 
``interested'' because any type of interest from a government official, 
including concern, is sufficient reason for the BLM to provide such 
official with a copy of the draft resource management plan and EIS for 
review.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to add a reference to Sec.  
1610.3-2(c) to improve readability of the regulations text. There is no 
change in practice or policy from this change.
Section 1610.5-5 Selection of the Proposed Resource Management Plan
    Final Sec.  1610.5-5 is based on existing Sec.  1610.4-8. The final 
rule does not adopt the proposal to include ``preparation of 
implementation strategies'' in the heading to this section because the 
concept of implementation strategies was not adopted in the final rule 
(see the discussion to proposed Sec.  1610.1-3 in this preamble).
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a) of this section. 
Changes to this section replace the existing reference to the ``Field 
Manager'' with ``responsible official'' stating that the ``responsible 
official'' shall evaluate the comments received after publication of 
the draft resource management plan and draft EIS and will prepare the 
proposed resource management plan and final EIS.
    The final rule does not adopt proposed paragraph (b) of this 
section which would have provided that the responsible official prepare 
implementation strategies for the proposed resource management plan, as 
appropriate. This paragraph is no longer relevant because the concept 
of implementation strategies was not adopted in the final rule (see the 
discussion to proposed Sec.  1610.1-3 in this preamble).
    The final rule redesignates proposed paragraph (c) of this section 
as final paragraph (b) of this section. Final paragraph (b) requires 
that the deciding official publish the proposed resource management 
plan and file the final EIS with the EPA, consistent with current 
practice and policy. The final rule will no longer detail the BLM's 
internal review process. The final rule adopts the proposal to remove 
references to internal steps such as ``supervisory review'' because 
these internal review processes are better established through BLM 
policy. The BLM intends no change to existing policy or practice, but 
the final rule will provide the BLM discretion on how to conduct its 
internal review process, which is addressed through BLM policy.
Section 1610.6 Resource Management Plan Approval, Implementation and 
Modification
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6, with revisions. Final 
Sec.  1610.6 is adapted from existing Sec.  1610.5. This

[[Page 89634]]

section heading provides an introduction to final Sec. Sec.  1610.6-1 
through 1610.6-8. The final rule adopts the proposed change to replace 
the word ``use'' with ``implementation'' in the heading to final Sec.  
1610.6 to more accurately describe the provisions of these sections.
Section 1610.6-1 Resource Management Plan Approval and Implementation
    Section 1610.6-1 is adapted from existing Sec.  1610.5-1. There are 
no substantive revisions to Sec.  1610.6-1 between the proposed and 
final rule.
    The final rule replaces ``and administrative review'' with ``and 
implementation'' in the heading of this section to focus this section 
on resource management plan approval and implementation. Similarly, the 
final rule deletes the existing first paragraph, which refers to 
internal procedures such as ``supervisory review and approval.'' The 
BLM's internal review procedures are better established through BLM 
policy. The BLM intends no change in practice or policy from these 
changes.
    Final paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section contain the 
provisions of existing Sec.  1610.5-1. The final rule adopts edits to 
this section to improve understanding of existing requirements, but 
does not anticipate any change in implementation from existing 
regulations.
    Under final paragraph (a) of this section, the deciding official 
will approve a resource management plan, or EIS-level amendment, no 
earlier than 30 days after the EPA publishes a Federal Register notice 
of the filing of the final EIS. This is an existing part of the process 
and regulations, but the final rule uses ``deciding official'' instead 
of the State Director, to maintain consistency with other changes (see 
Sec.  1601.0-4(b)). The final rule removes the provision that approval 
depends on ``final action on any protest that may be filed'' as this 
requirement is already addressed in 1610.6-1(b) and in the protest 
procedures at Sec.  1610.6-2(b). This revision is not a change in 
practice or policy.
    Final Sec.  1610.6-1(b) contains some language from existing Sec.  
1610.5-1 (b), with clarifying edits. In addition to existing provisions 
stating that plan approval will be withheld until after protests have 
been resolved, paragraph (b) of this final section also clarifies an 
existing requirement to provide public notice and opportunity for 
public comment if the BLM intends to select a different alternative, or 
portion of an alternative, than the proposed resource management plan 
or plan amendment. Such a change may result from the BLM's decision on 
a protest or from the BLM's consideration of inconsistencies identified 
by a Governor. The final rule revises this sentence to explain that 
``if, after publication of a proposed resource management plan or plan 
amendment, the BLM intends to select an alternative that is within the 
spectrum of alternatives in the final [EIS] or [EA] but is 
substantially different than the proposed resource management plan or 
plan amendment, the BLM shall notify the public and request written 
comments on the change before the resource management plan or plan 
amendment is approved.'' The final language will more precisely 
describe what is meant by the existing phrase ``any significant change 
made to the proposed plan.'' The final rule uses ``within the spectrum 
of'' instead of ``encompassed by'' for consistency with CEQ 
terminology.\16\ The BLM intends no change from current practice or 
policy; rather this provision will provide a more precise description 
of existing requirements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ NEPA's Forty Most Asked Questions, Question 29B. https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa/regs/40/40p3.htm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Final Sec.  1610.6-1(c) contains language from the last sentence of 
existing Sec.  1610.5-1(b) and provides that the approval of a resource 
management plan or a plan amendment for which an EIS is prepared must 
be documented in a concise public ROD, consistent with NEPA 
requirements (40 CFR 1505.2). Current language refers to ``the 
approval,'' and this change will specify that a ROD will be prepared 
for approval of a resource management plan or EIS-level amendment. 
Approvals of EA-level amendments need not be documented in a ROD; 
however, current BLM policy requires the preparation of a decision 
record to document these decisions (see BLM NEPA Handbook, H-1790-1).
Section 1610.6-2 Protest Procedures
    Final Sec.  1610.6-2 contains the protest procedures found at 
existing Sec.  1610.5-2. The final rule revises this existing section 
to update the procedures for the public's submission and the BLM's 
action on protests of a resource management plan or plan amendment.
    Under the introductory text in final paragraph (a) of this section, 
the final rule clarifies that a member of the public who participated 
in the preparation of the resource management plan or plan amendment 
and has an interest which ``may be adversely affected'' by the approval 
of a proposed resource management plan or plan amendment may protest 
such approval. The final rule adopts the proposed change to replace 
``planning process'' with ``the preparation of the resource management 
plan or plan amendment'' to more precisely describe what steps of the 
``planning process'' apply to paragraph (a) and for consistency with 
other changes. Under current practice, the BLM generally considers the 
``planning process'' to mean the preparation of a resource management 
plan or plan amendment. The final rule clarifies that the preparation 
of a resource management plan is just one step of the planning process. 
Other steps include the planning assessment, the approval of the 
resource management plan, the implementation of the resource management 
plan, monitoring and evaluation, and future modification of the 
resource management plan through plan maintenance, amendment, or 
revision. A member of the public may only submit a protest, however, if 
they participated in the preparation of the resource management plan or 
plan amendment. This change is consistent with current practice and 
policy. Final Sec.  1610.6-2(a) is revised to remove reference to Sec.  
1610.4, which was incorrect. The planning assessment is not considered 
a step in the preparation of a resource management plan; rather, it 
precedes the initiation of the preparation of a resource management 
plan. In order to be eligible to submit a protest, a member of the 
public must participate in the preparation of the resource management 
plan or plan amendment, and not just the planning assessment.
    In response to public comment, final paragraph (a) of this section 
replaces the existing phrase ``[a]ny person'' with ``[a]ny member of 
the public.'' Some public comments suggested that the phrase ``any 
person'' should be revised to include cooperating agencies. The BLM 
currently interprets the phrase ``any person'' to include cooperating 
agencies. The term ``public,'' however, is defined at final Sec.  
1610.0-5 and therefore provides a more precise description of who may 
submit a protest, including cooperating agencies or other government 
officials. This change is consistent with current practice and policy 
under existing regulations, and is made for clarification and improved 
readability only. The BLM intends no change in the meaning of this 
provision.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove language in paragraph 
(a) of this section stating that any person who has an interest which 
``is or may be'' adversely affected by the approval or amendment of a 
resource management plan may protest such approval or

[[Page 89635]]

amendment. Instead, the final rule states that any member of the public 
who has an interest which ``may be'' adversely affected by the approval 
of a proposed resource management plan or plan amendment may protest 
such approval. The final rule replaces the phrase ``is or may be'' with 
``may be'' to eliminate duplicative and unnecessary language. An 
interest that ``may be adversely affected'' includes an already 
affected interest. This final change is made to improve readability 
only; the BLM intends no change to the meaning of this provision.
    Final paragraph (a) of this section is revised to include new 
language stating that a protest may raise only those issues which were 
submitted for the record during the preparation of the resource 
management plan or plan amendment ``unless the protest concerns an 
issue that arose after the close of the opportunity for public comment 
on the draft resource management plan.'' This change in the final rule 
is made throughout the subparagraphs of Sec.  1610.6-2(a) and clarifies 
that if an issue arises after the close of the formal public comment 
period on a draft resource management plan, the public may submit a 
protest regarding that issue. This exclusion only applies to issues 
that did not exist when the draft resource management plan was 
available for public comment, and therefore the public could not 
comment on the issue. For example, the issue may arise due to a change 
that was made to the draft resource management plan or due to new 
information that was not previously available. This revision is 
consistent with current practice and policy and is made for 
clarification purposes only.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to split existing Sec.  1610.5-
2(a)(1) into paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of final Sec.  1610.6-2. The 
final rule adopts proposed paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) with only minor 
revisions. These paragraphs contain the requirements for filing 
protests, including new provisions for electronic submission.
    Final paragraph (a)(1) of this section adopts the proposed 
introductory text ``Submission,'' and describes the procedures for 
submitting a protest. The final rule adopts the new provision which 
states that the protest may be filed as a hard-copy or electronically 
and that the responsible official will specify protest filing 
procedures for a resource management plan or plan amendment (beyond 
these general requirements in the planning regulations), including the 
method the public may use to submit a protest electronically. Under the 
existing regulations, a protest must be filed as a hard-copy. Although 
the BLM will continue to accept hard-copy protest submissions, 
providing an additional option for electronic submission will reduce 
the burden on the public by reducing the expense associated with 
mailing a hard-copy. An electronic format will also streamline the 
processing of protests, since the protest will already be digitized, 
thereby eliminating a step from the process. Further, a protest sent by 
mail may take many days to arrive at the appropriate BLM office and 
delay the start of the BLM's protest resolution process. Electronic 
means for protest submission are more readily available to the public 
today and electronic options will promote a more efficient protest 
resolution process. The final rule provides flexibility for how 
protests will be submitted electronically to the BLM to accommodate 
future advances in electronic technology. The BLM expects to provide an 
electronic submission option either through email submission or through 
the BLM Web site.
    Although the BLM believes that electronic submission promotes 
efficiency, it is also important to note that providing an electronic 
option for protest submission could also lead to an increased burden on 
the agency by increasing the number of protest submissions, such as 
form letters. In this situation, it will take additional time to 
process protests. Under current practice, the BLM summarizes protest 
issues and provides a single response to each issue; regardless of how 
many times the issue was raised. We intend to continue this practice, 
thus a possible increase in form letters will not lead to an increase 
in the number of responses or the complexity of the final protest 
resolution report.
    Final paragraph (a)(2) of this section adopts the proposed 
introductory text ``Timing.'' The final rule also adopts the proposal 
to maintain the existing time periods for submitting a protest and to 
make edits for improved readability and understanding. There are no 
changes to existing requirements. For resource management plans and 
EIS-level amendments, protests must be filed within 30 days after the 
date the EPA publishes a NOA of the final EIS in the Federal Register. 
For EA-level amendments, protests must be filed within 30 days after 
the date the BLM notifies the public of the availability of the 
proposed plan amendment.
    Final Sec.  1610.6-2(a)(3) adopts the proposed introductory text 
``Content Requirements,'' and describes the required content of a 
protest.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(3)(i) of this section 
with no revisions. This paragraph includes a new provision that 
protesting parties include their email address (if available) in 
addition to other identifying information in the protest letter in 
order to facilitate BLM communications with protesting parties in the 
event of a question regarding a protest or its filing. It often is 
easier to communicate by email than by telephone and this requirement 
is in line with the BLM's acceptance of protests electronically under 
final Sec.  1610.6-2(a)(1). This provision includes the statement ``if 
available'' because the BLM recognizes that not all members of the 
public have easy access to the Internet, and the lack of an email 
address will not preclude a member of the public from submitting a 
protest. There is no change in practice or policy, other than to 
clarify that an email address, if available, should be included.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section 
with no revisions. Final paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section requires 
a statement of how the protestor participated in the preparation of the 
resource management plan. This is a change from existing language that 
requires a statement of the issue or issues being protested, which is 
instead included in final paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section. 
Although existing paragraph (a) states that only a person who 
participated in the preparation of a resource management plan may 
submit a protest, final paragraph (a)(3)(ii) places the burden on the 
protestor to demonstrate their eligibility for submitting a protest. 
This requirement is a more efficient method for the BLM to determine 
eligibility to protest and will help the BLM to more efficiently 
respond to all protests in a timely manner.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (a)(3)(iii) of this 
section with only minor revisions. Final paragraph (a)(3)(iii) replaces 
the requirement to provide a ``statement of the part or parts of the 
plan or amendment being protested'' with a new requirement to identify 
the plan component(s) believed to be inconsistent with Federal laws or 
regulations applicable to public lands, or the purposes, policies and 
programs implementing such laws and regulations. The change is 
consistent with other changes made in this final rule (see final Sec.  
1610.1-2). Plan components provide planning-level management direction. 
The final decision to approve a resource management plan or plan 
amendment represents the final decision to approve the planning level 
management

[[Page 89636]]

direction, which will guide all subsequent management decisions. The 
final rule replaces the proposed phrase ``purposes, policies, and 
programs of such laws and regulations'' with ``purposes, policies and 
programs implementing such laws and regulations'' for consistency with 
changes made throughout these regulations (see Sec.  1610.3-3, for 
example). No change in meaning is intended by this revision; rather, 
this change improves readability and clarifies that purposes, policies, 
and programs are developed to ``implement'' laws and regulations. This 
revision is also made in paragraph (a)(3)(iv) of this section.
    Final paragraph (a)(3)(iv) of this section requires the protest to 
include a concise explanation of why the plan component(s) is believed 
to be inconsistent with Federal laws or regulations applicable to 
public lands, or the purposes, policies and programs implementing such 
laws and regulations, and identification of the associated issue(s) 
raised during the planning process. This provision replaces existing 
paragraph (a)(1)(ii) and the final sentence of existing paragraph 
(a)(1)(iv) of this section. The final rule requires that protests 
include more specific grounds for challenging a plan component than the 
existing regulations, which require only ``(a) concise statement 
explaining why the State Director's decision is believed to be wrong.'' 
The identification of more specific grounds for protests will help the 
BLM to identify, understand, and respond thoughtfully to valid protest 
issues, such as inconsistencies with Federal laws or regulations.
    This final change also provides a more clear distinction between 
the protest process and the earlier public comment period on a draft 
resource management plan and draft EIS. The earlier public comment 
period offers an opportunity to comment on a wide variety of matters 
relating to a draft plan. The protest procedures, in contrast, are 
intended to focus the BLM Director's attention on aspects of a proposed 
resource management plan that may be inconsistent with legal 
requirements or policies. These changes are not a change from existing 
practice or policy; rather they provide clarification to the public on 
how the BLM interprets and implements the regulations. The BLM believes 
that the change will more effectively communicate to the public what 
the BLM considers when addressing protests.
    Final paragraph (a)(3)(iv) adopts the proposed requirement that a 
protest identify the associated issue or issues raised during the 
preparation of the resource management plan or plan amendment; however 
this section is revised to clarify that this requirement is not 
necessary if the protest concerns an issue that arose after the close 
of the opportunity for public comment on the draft resource management 
plan. This exclusion would only apply to issues that did not exist when 
the draft resource management plan was available for public comment, 
and therefore the public could not comment on the issue. For example, 
the issue may arise due to a change that was made to the draft resource 
management plan or due to new information that was not previously 
available. These changes do not represent a change from current 
practice or policy; rather they provide clarification to the public on 
existing requirements.
    Final paragraph (a)(3)(v) of this section retains the existing 
requirement that protests include a copy of all documents addressing 
the issue(s) raised that the protesting party submitted during the 
planning process or an indication of the date the issue(s) were 
discussed for the record. These documents or dates will assist the BLM 
in responding to protests. The final rule clarifies that this 
requirement is not necessary if the protest concerns an issue that 
arose after the close of the opportunity for public comment on the 
draft resource management plan and the public has not had an 
opportunity to raise the issue, for consistency with changes made 
throughout this section.
    Final paragraph (a)(4) of this section adopts the proposed 
introductory text ``availability'' and establishes a new requirement 
that protests will be made available to the public upon request and 
this is independent of existing requirements under the Freedom of 
Information Act. This commitment demonstrates the value the BLM places 
on public involvement in resource management planning. The BLM intends 
for this commitment to promote transparency and consistency in 
practice. The BLM is exploring how to make protests available in a 
timely and efficient manner, including by posting all protest 
submissions to the BLM Web site. In response to public comment, final 
paragraph (a)(4) includes an additional provision that in making the 
protests available to the public, the Director shall withhold any 
protected information that is exempt from disclosure under applicable 
laws or regulation. Several public comments noted that sometimes it is 
necessary for a member of the public to include protected information 
as part of a protest, and the BLM may not make this information 
available to the general public. Comments provided as an example that 
release of commercial or financial information may violate the Trade 
Secrets Act. This change is consistent with current practice and 
policy.
    Final paragraph (b) of this section includes the existing 
requirements at existing Sec.  1610.6-1(b) that the BLM Director render 
a decision on all protests. The final rule adopts the proposal to 
remove ``promptly'' from this requirement, as the term is vague and 
does not account for the many variables that affect timelines for 
protest resolution, including the magnitude and complexity of protest 
issues, as well as available budgets and competing workloads. This edit 
clarifies that the timeline to resolve the protest varies extensively 
across planning efforts. This is not a change in practice or policy; 
the BLM will continue to resolve protests as quickly as possible.
    Final paragraph (b) further provides that the BLM notify protesting 
parties of the decision and make both the decision and the reasons for 
the decision on the protest available to the public. The BLM expects 
that these typically will be posted on the BLM Web site and the BLM 
will notify individuals or groups that have requested notification in 
conjunction with the preparation or amendment of a resource management 
plan. The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the requirement that 
the BLM send its decision on a protest to the protesting parties by 
certified mail, return receipt requested. The BLM believes that the 
wide availability and ease of use of the Internet and electronic 
communications make these means of notifying the public well-suited for 
sharing protest decisions with the public. Electronic communications 
allow the BLM flexibility to make protest decisions available to a 
potentially large number of protesting parties or members of the public 
without an overly burdensome workload. These means are also consistent 
with BLM policy promoting the use of electronic communications in the 
land use planning process.\17\

[[Page 89637]]

Nonetheless, where Internet access is limited or protesting parties or 
members of the public express concerns about electronic communications, 
the BLM will provide notice by other means, as necessary.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ BLM, Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-144, ``Transitioning 
from Printing Hard Copies of National Environmental Policy Act and 
Planning Documents to Providing Documents in Electronic Formats'' 
(June 21, 2013), http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2013/IM_2013-144.html); DOI Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, 
Environmental Statement Memorandum No. 13-7, ``Publication and 
Distribution of DOI NEPA Compliance Documents via Electronic 
Methods'' (Jan. 7, 2013), http://www.doi.gov/pmb/oepc/upload/ESM13-7.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The second sentence of final paragraph (b) reflects existing Sec.  
1610.5-2(b) and explains that the BLM Director's decision is the final 
decision of the Department of the Interior. This decision may be 
subject to judicial review. The final rule adopts the proposal to 
change ``shall be'' to ``is,'' to comply with more recent style 
conventions and improve readability. There is no change in meaning from 
this style change.
    In response to public comment, paragraph (b) of this section is 
revised to incorporate language from final Sec.  1610.6-1(b), stating 
that ``[a]pproval will be withheld on any portion of a resource 
management plan or plan amendment until final action has been completed 
on such protest.'' This does not represent a change in practice or 
policy, as this is an existing requirement. In conjunction with this 
revision, the first sentence of paragraph (b) is revised for 
consistency and readability; however, there are no changes in the 
meaning of this provision.
    Final paragraph (c) of this section adopts the proposal to add a 
new provision stating that the BLM Director may dismiss any protest 
that does not meet the requirements of this section. For example, the 
BLM may dismiss protests where protestors lack standing or protests 
that are incomplete or untimely. The final text does not represent a 
change in requirements or in existing practice. The BLM Director may 
currently dismiss protests that do not meet the regulatory 
requirements. The BLM believes that adding this text will more 
effectively communicate to potential protestors that their protest may 
be dismissed if it does not meet the requirements for submission. In 
response to public comment, the final rule adds a new sentence to the 
end of paragraph (c) of this section stating that the Director shall 
notify protesting parties of the dismissal and provide the reasons for 
the dismissal. The Director will provide this notification either 
through written or electronic means, depending on available contact 
information. This revision provides transparency to a member of the 
public should their protest be dismissed. In a situation where the BLM 
is not provided contact information from a protesting party, we will 
not be able to provide such notification. The BLM intends that 
dismissals will also be described in a protest resolution report, 
consistent with current practice. These reports are generally posted to 
the BLM Web site; therefore protesting parties and any other members of 
the public could still find this information.
Section 1610.6-3 Conformity and Implementation
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6-3 with only minor 
revisions. Section 1610.6-3 is based on existing Sec.  1610.5-3. 
Changes to this section are made only for improved readability or 
improved understanding of existing practice or policy.
    In paragraph (a) of this section, the final rule removes the phrase 
``as well as budget or other action proposals to higher levels in the 
Bureau of Land Management and Department.'' All future authorizations 
and actions must conform to the approved resource management plan, thus 
this language is confusing and unnecessary. No change from current 
practice is intended by this change. The final rule adds the words 
``plan components,'' stating ``All future resource management 
authorizations and actions . . . must conform to the plan components of 
the approved resource management plan.'' These edits are consistent 
with the definition of ``plan components'' in Sec.  1601.0-5 and the 
requirements of Sec.  1610.1-2 and more precisely describe how the BLM 
will interpret conformance under this final rule.
    In paragraph (b) of this section, the final rule specifies that the 
``plan'' referenced is a ``resource management plan'' and that the 
requirements of this section also apply following the approval of a 
plan amendment. The final rule replaces ``Field Manager'' with the 
``BLM.'' As previously described, replacing the ``Field Manager'' with 
the ``BLM'' acknowledges responsibilities that might be fulfilled by a 
BLM employee other than a Field Manager.
    Changes to paragraph (c) of this section also specify that the 
``plan'' referenced is a ``resource management plan'' and that 
conformance applies to ``plan components'' for consistency with changes 
made elsewhere in these regulations. The final rule further specifies 
that the ``deciding official'' is responsible for the determination 
that an action warrants further consideration before a plan revision is 
scheduled. These changes are intended to provide clarity, but do not 
represent a change in policy or practice.
    There are no substantive changes made to paragraph (d) of this 
section, only grammatical edits made throughout this part.
Section 1610.6-4 Monitoring and Evaluation
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6-4 with revisions. This 
section addresses monitoring and evaluation of resource management 
plans following their approval. It incorporates much of the language 
from existing Sec.  1610.4-9 with edits for consistency with other 
changes to the regulations. Revisions to this section split the 
existing provision into subparagraphs for improved readability.
    Under the final rule, the BLM will monitor and evaluate the 
resource management plan in accordance with the monitoring and 
evaluation standards (see final Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(3)). The final rule 
does not include the proposed reference to ``monitoring procedures'' 
because the final rule does not adopt proposed Sec.  1610.1-3 or the 
concepts described in that section, including implementation strategies 
(for more information please see the discussion on proposed Sec.  
1610.1-3 for this preamble to the final rule).
    The final rule is also revised to include language from final Sec.  
1610.1-2(b)(3) for improved readability and understanding of these 
regulations. Final paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of this section 
incorporate provisions from Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(3) which specify that, 
through monitoring and evaluation, the BLM will determine whether the 
resource management plan objectives are being met and whether there is 
relevant new information or other sufficient cause to warrant 
consideration of amendment or revision of the resource management plan. 
For more information regarding this language, please see the discussion 
at Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(3) for this preamble. Revisions to this section 
improve readability and understanding of the relationship between this 
section and final Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(3).
    Final paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of this section replace existing 
language that the BLM ``shall provide for evaluation to determine 
whether mitigation measures are satisfactory, whether there has been 
significant change in the related plans of other Federal agencies, 
State or local governments, or Indian tribes, or whether there is new 
data of significance to the plan.'' The evaluation of specific 
mitigation measures generally occurs during the implementation phase of 
a project or activity, not during an evaluation of a resource 
management plan. The effect of mitigation on the achievement of plan 
objectives is evaluated under paragraph (a)(1) of this section. 
``Significant

[[Page 89638]]

changes in the plans of other Federal agencies, State or local 
governments, or Indian tribes,'' and ``new data of significance'' are 
encompassed by the phrase ``relevant new information'' and are 
evaluated under paragraph (a)(2) of this section. The BLM intends no 
change in practice or policy by the removal of this existing language.
    The last sentence of proposed Sec.  1610.6-4 is redesignated as 
final Sec.  1610.6-4(b) and adopts the proposal to establish a new 
requirement that the BLM document the evaluation of the resource 
management plan in a report made available for public review. The BLM 
believes that sharing this information with the public will provide 
transparency during the implementation of a resource management plan. 
The final rule is revised to specify that this report shall be made 
available for public review on the BLM's Web site. This change is 
intended to provide clarity and transparency to the public on where to 
find the evaluation report.
Section 1610.6-5 Maintenance
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6-5 with only minor 
revisions. This section is based on existing Sec.  1610.5-4. It 
explains the reasons for updating RMPs through plan maintenance and 
identifies the parameters for plan maintenance. Under the existing 
regulations and the final regulations, maintenance includes minor 
changes and updates to an RMP that do not change any fundamental 
aspects of the plan. Maintenance does not change a plan component 
except to correct typographical or mapping errors or to reflect minor 
changes in mapping or data.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to delete ``and supporting 
components'' from the first sentence of this section in the existing 
regulations to avoid confusion. The existing regulations are unclear on 
what is meant by ``supporting components'' in this provision. 
Supporting information, such as a visual resources inventory or a model 
predicting wildfire propensity, can be updated at any point in time; 
such a change is not considered plan maintenance as it does not 
constitute a change to the resource management plan itself. Further, 
the BLM does not consider supporting information such as the planning 
assessment to be a component of the approved resource management plan, 
because it does not provide planning-level management direction. 
Rather, the planning assessment provides baseline information to inform 
the preparation of a resource management plan. That type of support 
information can be updated at any point in time, and such a change is 
not considered plan maintenance because it does not constitute a change 
to the resource management plan itself.
    The final rule also adopts the proposal to replace ``shall be 
maintained'' in the first sentence of the existing regulations with 
``may be maintained.'' The BLM intends to maintain its resource 
management plans to ensure that they are current and reflect existing 
resource conditions and land and resource uses to the fullest extent 
permitted by available funds and staffing, but those constraints could 
affect BLM's ability to fully achieve this goal.
    The final rule also adopts the proposal to expand existing language 
stating that plans are maintained as necessary to ``reflect minor 
changes in data'' with language stating that the plans will be 
maintained as necessary ``to correct typographical or mapping errors or 
to reflect minor changes in mapping or data.'' The new language 
provides a more precise and accurate description of changes that are 
made using plan maintenance. This change does not represent a 
substantive change from existing regulations as ``mapping errors'' or 
``changes in mapping'' are currently considered as a type of minor 
change in data, and typographical errors do not represent a substantive 
change to a resource management plan. These changes are intended to 
provide clarification and improved understanding of changes that may be 
made through plan maintenance.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove existing language that 
limited maintenance ``to further refining or documenting a previously 
approved decision incorporated in the plan'' as well as language that 
indicated that ``maintenance must not result in the expansion in the 
scope of resource uses or restrictions, or change the terms, 
conditions, and decisions of the approved plan.'' Instead, the final 
rule states that maintenance must not change a plan component of the 
approved resource management plan except to correct typographical or 
mapping errors or to reflect minor changes in data. This change makes 
the maintenance provisions consistent with other changes to the 
regulations. The plan components encompass the ``scope of resource uses 
or restrictions'' and the ``terms, conditions, and decisions'' of the 
approved resource management plan (see Sec.  1610.1-2). Therefore there 
is no substantive change from current policy.
    The final rule retains existing language which indicates that 
maintenance is not considered a plan amendment and therefore does not 
require the same public involvement, interagency coordination, or NEPA 
analysis as plan amendments. This language is still relevant and 
applicable because plan components (i.e., the management-level 
direction of the approved plan) may not be changed through plan 
maintenance other than to correct typographical or mapping errors or 
reflect minor changes in mapping or data.
    The final rule does not adopt the proposal to replace the words 
``shall not'' with ``does not'' where the existing regulations state 
that maintenance ``shall not'' require the formal public involvement 
and interagency coordination process described in Sec. Sec.  1610.2 and 
1610.3.
    Finally, the final rule removes the existing requirement that 
maintenance be documented in plans and supporting records. Instead, the 
final rule adopts a new requirement for the BLM to notify the public 
when changes are made to an approved resource management plan through 
plan maintenance and, through notice to the public at least 30 days 
prior to their implementation, document the proposed changes. We 
anticipate that changes will be posted on the BLM Web site and made 
available at BLM offices within the planning area, with direct notice 
sent to those individuals and groups that have requested such notice. 
The forthcoming revision of the Land Use Planning Handbook will provide 
more detailed guidance on how the BLM will make different types of plan 
maintenance available to the public.
Section 1610.6-6 Amendment
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6-6 with minor revisions. 
This section is based on Sec.  1610.5-5 in the existing regulations and 
explains how the BLM amends its resource management plans. Changes 
update existing language to be consistent with other changes in this 
final rule.
    Paragraph (a) of this section revises the undesignated introductory 
text in existing Sec.  1610.5-5 to explain that a ``plan component'' 
may be changed through amendment, consistent with the proposed rule. 
This represents a change from the existing regulations, which provide 
that a ``resource management plan'' may be changed by amendment. The 
change is necessary for consistency with changes to Sec.  1610.1, which 
describes plan components. As explained in the preamble for Sec.  
1610.1-2, plan components represent planning-level management direction 
and may only be changed through amendment or revision.

[[Page 89639]]

    Paragraph (a) of this section adopts the proposal to specify that 
an amendment ``may'' be initiated when the BLM determines that 
monitoring and evaluation findings, new high quality information, 
including best available scientific information, new or revised policy, 
a proposed action, ``or other relevant changes in circumstances'' 
warrant a change to one or more plan components of the approved plan. 
The final rule replaces ``shall be initiated'' with ``may be 
initiated'' reflecting the fact that the BLM must ensure that the 
public is aware that monitoring and evaluation findings, new high 
quality information, including best available scientific information, 
new or revised policy, a proposed action, ``or other relevant changes 
in circumstances'' warrant a change to one or more plan components of 
the approved plan but may be limited by available budgets and competing 
workload priorities when making the determination to initiate a plan 
amendment. The BLM intends no change in practice or policy from this 
final change as the BLM currently is limited by available budgets and 
competing workload priorities when making the determination to initiate 
a plan amendment.
    Paragraph (a) of this section adopts the proposal to clarify that 
an amendment must be made ``in conjunction'' with an EA or EIS. The 
final rule replaces the word ``through'' with ``in conjunction'' 
because the EA or EIS informs the amendment, but is not the mechanism 
through which the amendment is made. The final rule clarifies that the 
procedures for plan amendments include public involvement (see final 
Sec.  1610.2), interagency coordination, tribal consultation, and 
consistency review (see final Sec.  1610.3), and protest procedures 
(see final Sec.  1610.6-2). The final rule is revised from the proposed 
rule to include ``tribal consultation'' for consistency with 
modifications made to final Sec.  1610.3 and to clarify that the 
initiation of tribal consultation is required during a plan amendment. 
This does not represent a change in practice or policy, as the BLM 
currently must initiate tribal consultation during a plan amendment. 
The final rule is also revised to replace ``consistency'' with 
``consistency review.'' This change is made to improve readability only 
and for consistency with final Sec.  1610.3.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to replace the existing 
requirement to evaluate the effect of the amendment on ``the plan'' 
with a requirement to evaluate the effect of the amendment on ``other 
plan components.'' This change is made for consistency with final Sec.  
1610.1-2 which describes plan components, and reflects the fact a plan 
amendment could potentially have an effect on other plan components 
that are not being considered for amendment and it is important that 
the BLM understand these potential effects before rendering a decision 
to ensure that plan amendments do not introduce inconsistencies between 
plan components in a resource management plan.
    The final sentence of paragraph (a) of this section retains the 
existing provision that if the amendment under consideration is in 
response to a specific proposal, the requisite analysis for the 
proposal and the amendment may occur simultaneously. This is consistent 
with NEPA regulations encouraging Federal agencies to integrate NEPA 
with other planning processes (see 40 CFR 1500.2(c) and 1500.4(k)).
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (b) with only minor 
revisions. Paragraph (b) describes the requirements for a plan 
amendment when an EA is prepared and does not disclose significant 
impacts. The final rule replaces existing references to the ``Field 
Manager'' with the ``responsible official'' or the ``BLM'' and replaces 
a reference to the ``State Director'' with the ``deciding official.'' 
These changes are consistent with new terms used throughout this new 
rule. This section also provides that, upon approval of a plan 
amendment, the BLM will issue a public notice of the action taken, and 
that an amendment may be implemented 30 days after such notice. There 
is no substantive change to this paragraph or the BLM's implementation 
of it.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the existing 
requirement in existing Sec.  1610.5-5(b) that if a decision is made to 
prepare an environmental impact statement, the amending process shall 
follow the same procedure required for the preparation and approval of 
a resource management plan. Instead, in the relevant sections, the 
final rule identifies where EIS-level amendments must follow the same 
procedures as those required for preparing and approving a resource 
management plan.
    The final rule also adopts the proposal to remove the existing 
requirement in existing Sec.  1610.5-5(b) that consideration for an 
EIS-level amendment is limited to ``that portion of the plan being 
amended.'' This existing language contradicts the requirement in 
paragraph (a) that the ``effect of the amendment on other plan 
components must be evaluated.'' For example, if an amendment will 
preclude the BLM from achieving other goals and objectives of the 
approved RMP that are not explicitly addressed in the amendment, this 
is important information of which BLM and the public should be aware.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraph (c) of this section with 
only minor revisions. Paragraph (c) of this section is adapted from the 
existing provision of Sec.  1610.5-5(b) that ``if several plans are 
being amended simultaneously, a single [EIS] may be prepared to cover 
all amendments.'' For improved readability, this provision is revised 
to state that ``if the BLM amends several resource management plans 
simultaneously, a single programmatic [EIS] or [EA] may be prepared to 
address all amendments.''
Section 1610.6-7 Revision
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6-7 with only minor 
revisions. Section 1610.6-7 is based on existing Sec.  1610.5-6 in the 
existing regulations. Changes to this section are made to improve 
readability and explain more clearly when the BLM will prepare a plan 
revision.
    In the first sentence, the clause ``a resource management plan 
shall be revised'' is replaced with ``the BLM may revise a resource 
management plan.'' The final rule uses the active voice to indicate 
that the BLM will be revising the plan. The final rule adopts the 
proposal to change the mandatory term ``shall'' to the discretionary 
term ``may.'' In both the existing regulations and this final rule, 
revisions occur ``as necessary.'' The change from ``shall'' to ``may'' 
reflects the fact that the BLM must consider many factors including 
available budgets, competing workload priorities, and development of 
new policy when making the determination to revise a resource 
management plan. The BLM currently must take these factors into account 
when determining when to revise a resource management plan, so there 
will be no change in practice or policy.
    The existing rule states that ``monitoring and evaluation findings 
. . . new data, new or revised policy and changes in circumstances'' 
that affect an entire plan or major portions of a plan require a plan 
revision. The final rule clarifies that ``other relevant changes in 
circumstances'' may justify a plan revision. This does not represent a 
change in practice. For example, the need to provide habitat protection 
for a wide-ranging species that is considered for listing as threatened 
or endangered in an area could result in a plan revision if the BLM 
believed that a plan revision

[[Page 89640]]

was necessary to address adequately this concern and consider impacts 
at a regional-scale. This section maintains the existing requirement 
that revisions must comply with all of the requirements of the planning 
regulations for preparing and approving a resource management plan, 
with minor edits to improve readability.
Section 1610.6-8 Situations Where Action Can Be Taken Based on Another 
Agency's Planning Documents
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.6-8 with revisions. This 
section is based on existing Sec.  1610.5-7. The final rule replaces 
the ``Bureau of Land Management'' with the ``BLM'' and replaces a 
reference to the ``Field Manager'' with ``the BLM,'' as the action 
described applies more to the agency than any particular individual. In 
response to public comment, the final rule revises the existing 
introductory text in this section stating that the BLM ``may use the 
plans or land use analysis of other agencies'' to instead read that the 
BLM may ``rely on'' those plans or analysis. This revised text more 
accurately describes BLM practice and is consistent with the language 
of paragraph (a) of this section in the proposed and final rule. The 
final rule replaces ``there are situations of mixed ownership'' in the 
existing regulations with ``including mixed ownership'' in the first 
sentence for improved readability. No changes in practice or policy are 
intended by these changes.
    The final rule revises the existing and proposed language in this 
section by replacing the reference to other agencies' plans or land use 
analyses to other agencies' ``planning documents.'' The new term better 
encompasses the types of documents referred to in the following 
paragraphs of this section, including the added provision for resource 
assessments (see paragraph (c) of this section).
    The final rule revises paragraph (a) of this section, which lists 
those other agency plans that may be relied on as the basis for a BLM 
action to include a reference to tribal plans. The final rule replaces 
``public participation'' with ``public involvement,'' consistent with 
FLPMA and other changes throughout this rule.
    Final Sec. Sec.  1610.6-8(a) and (b) are revised from the proposed 
rule to clarify that for the BLM to rely on or adopt another agency's 
plan, that plan must be consistent with Federal laws and regulations 
applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies and programs 
implementing such laws and regulations. For example, the other agency's 
plan must comply with NEPA. These changes are consistent with current 
practice and policy. For consistency with other revisions made to the 
proposed rule (for example, see Sec.  1610.3-3(a)), the final rule 
clarifies that the ``purposes, policies and programs'' to which 
paragraphs (a) and (b) refer are those that implement Federal laws and 
regulations.
    Final Sec.  1610.6-8 (b) removes the existing phrase ``to comply 
with law and policy applicable to public lands'' because that language 
is no longer necessary with the added text.
    Public comments suggested that the BLM should have the discretion 
to rely on other agencies' resource assessments. In response to public 
comment, the final rule includes a new paragraph (c) in this section 
which provides that another agency's resource assessment may be relied 
on if it is comprehensive, meaning that it is consistent with the 
nature, scope, and scale of the issues of concern relevant to the 
planning area, and has considered the resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, and economic conditions in a way comparable to the 
manner in which these conditions would have been considered in a 
planning assessment, including the opportunity for public involvement. 
If the agency's resource assessment process did not provide public 
involvement, the BLM could choose to provide such opportunities in 
order to rely on the other agencies resource assessment. For example, 
the BLM could rely on an assessment developed by the United States 
Forest Service during the development of a land and resource management 
plan, which provides opportunities for public involvement.
    Paragraph 1610.8-6(c) of the proposed rule is redesignated as 
paragraph (d) in the final rule. The final rule removes the final 
sentence of Sec.  1610.5-7 in the existing regulations, which provides 
that ``[t]he decision to approve the land use analysis and to lease 
coal is made by the Departmental official who has been delegated the 
authority to issue coal leases.'' This language is unnecessary in the 
planning regulations. The final rule is revised to replace ``public 
participation'' with ``public involvement'' for consistency with 
changes made throughout this part.
    Finally, the reference to Sec.  1610.5-2 is updated to reflect 
other changes to this rule. No change in meaning is intended by 
updating this reference.
Section 1610.7 Management Decision Review by Congress
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.7 with only minor 
revisions.
    This section is based on existing Sec.  1610.6 with minor 
revisions. The final rule replaces the ``Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act'' with ``FLPMA,'' and the ``Bureau of Land Management'' 
with the ``BLM.'' In the second sentence of this section, the final 
rule replaces ``[t]his report shall not be required'' to ``[t]his 
report is not required'' for improved readability and ease of 
understanding. The final rule clarifies that this report is not 
required prior to approval of a RMP which, if fully or partially 
implemented, will result in elimination ``of use(s).'' No change in 
meaning is intended with these changes.
Section 1610.8 Designation of Areas
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.8 with only minor 
revisions.
Section 1610.8-1 Designation of Areas Unsuitable for Surface Mining
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.8-1 without revision. 
This section is based on existing Sec.  1610.7-1. The final rule 
replaces references to the ``Field Manager'' and the ``Bureau of Land 
Management'' with the ``BLM'' in this section. The Field Manager 
commitments described in this section are those of the BLM, not any one 
individual.
Section 1610.8-2 Designation and Protection of Areas of Critical 
Environmental Concern
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.8-2 with revisions. This 
section is based on existing Sec.  1610.7-2. In response to public 
comment, the heading for this section is revised to include designation 
``and protection'' of ACECs. This new language is consistent with the 
statutory requirement to ``give priority to the designation and 
protection of areas of critical environmental concern'' (see 43 U.S.C. 
1712(c)(3)) and provides improved clarity and understanding that the 
BLM gives priority to the designation and protection of ACECs as 
required by FLPMA through the procedures outlined in this section.
    The final rule adopts proposed paragraphs (a), (a)(1), and (a)(2). 
Paragraph (a) of this section contains the undesignated introductory 
language in existing Sec.  1610.7-2. The final rule replaces ``areas of 
critical environmental concern'' with the abbreviation ``ACEC'' for 
improved readability. The existing language stating that potential 
ACECs are identified and considered throughout the resource management 
planning process is removed. Instead the final rule states that ``Areas 
having potential for ACEC designation and protection management will be

[[Page 89641]]

identified through inventory of public lands and during the planning 
assessment, and considered during the preparation or amendment of a 
resource management plan.'' This change reflects the fact that FLPMA 
directs the BLM to identify potential ACECs through the inventory of 
public lands (see section 201(a) of FLPMA) and to prioritize their 
consideration for designation through land use planning (see section 
202(c)(3) of FLPMA). When the BLM prepares a resource management plan 
or an EIS-level amendment, potential ACECs will be identified during 
the planning assessment stage (see Sec.  1610.4(b)(1)). Potential ACECs 
may also be identified when the BLM conducts inventories at times not 
associated with the preparation or amendment of a resource management 
plan. The identification of potential ACECs will be given priority 
consistent with FLPMA and initially identified during the planning 
assessment, a new step in the planning process.
    Final Sec. Sec.  1610.8-2(a)(1) and (a)(2) include language from 
existing 1610.7-2(a) that describes the criteria for identifying a 
potential ACEC.
    The final rule maintains the existing descriptions of the 
``relevance'' and ``importance'' criteria in paragraphs (a)(1) and 
(a)(2) of this section, except that ``shall'' is replaced with ``must'' 
for improved readability and the phrase ``more than local 
significance'' is removed from the description of importance. This 
phrase is vague and unnecessary in the regulations. There are many 
existing examples where an area of local significance has been 
determined to meet the ``importance'' criteria. This change is 
consistent with FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1702(a)) and improves the 
understanding that the importance criteria is based on the degree of 
significance (i.e., substantial significance and values); a local 
value, resource, system, process, or natural hazard could have 
``substantial'' significance.
    Paragraph (b) of this section addresses the designation of ACECs 
and provides that the process for considering whether potential ACECs 
should be designated as ACECs is during the preparation or amendment of 
a resource management plan. This replaces language in existing Sec.  
1610.7-2 stating that ACECs are ``considered throughout the resource 
management planning process.'' In response to public comment, the final 
rule is revised to include the phrase ``consistent with the priority 
established by FLPMA.'' This new language references the statutory 
requirement to ``give priority to the designation and protection of 
areas of critical environmental concern'' (see 43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(3)). 
The language references this statutory requirement for improved clarity 
and understanding that the BLM gives priority to the designation and 
protection of ACECs as required by FLPMA through the procedures 
outlined in this section.
    Paragraph (b) of this section also contains the provision that 
``[t]he identification of a potential ACEC shall not, of itself, change 
or prevent change of the management or use of public lands,'' which is 
moved from the definition of ``Areas of Critical Environmental Concern 
or ACEC'' in existing Sec.  1601.0-5(a) to this section. This provision 
belongs with the ACEC provisions, and this placement avoids including 
substantive regulatory provisions in the definitions. Changes between 
the proposed and final rule replace the phrase ``in of itself'' with 
``of itself'' for grammatical clarity and to reflect the phrasing used 
in FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1711(a)).
    The final rule includes new language at the end of paragraph (b) 
providing that ``ACECs require special management attention (when such 
areas are developed or used or no development is required) to protect 
and prevent irreparable damage to the important historic, cultural, or 
scenic values, fish and wildlife resources or other natural system or 
process, or to protect life and safety from natural hazards.'' That 
language is consistent with FLPMA (see section 103(a)) and will provide 
useful information in regard to designating ACECs. The BLM intends no 
change in practice or policy from adding this language; rather, the 
planning regulations reflect existing statutory direction.
    The proposed rule would have referred to ``potential'' ACECs at the 
end of paragraph (b), however public comments noted that FLPMA defines 
ACECs ``as areas within the public lands where special management is 
required . . .'' but contains no language regarding ``potential'' ACECs 
or their management. In response to public comments, the final rule is 
revised to remove the word ``potential'' from this sentence because 
FLPMA does not require ``special management attention'' for potential 
ACECs; rather, a potential ACEC which requires special management 
attention may be formally designated as an ACEC.
    The final rule splits existing Sec.  1610.7-2(b) into two 
paragraphs (final Sec. Sec.  1610.8-2(b)(1) and (2)) to distinguish 
more clearly between the BLM's notice of potential ACECs and the formal 
designation of ACECs in the approved plan.
    Paragraph 1610.8-2(b)(1) maintains the existing requirement, with 
clarifying edits, that upon release of a draft resource management plan 
or plan amendment involving a potential ACEC, the BLM will notify the 
public. The proposed rule would have eliminated the requirement from 
the existing regulations (see existing Sec.  1610.7-2(b)) that the BLM 
publish notice and provide a 60-day public comment period on potential 
ACEC designations. Several public comments expressed that notification 
and public comment on potential ACECs is essential and these existing 
provisions should be retained in the final rule. In response to 
comments, the final rule retains the existing requirement that the BLM 
publish notice in the Federal Register and replaces the existing 
requirement for a 60-day public comment period with a requirement to 
``request written comments.''
    The final rule further specifies that notice and comment on 
potential ACECs may be integrated with notice and comment on the draft 
RMP or plan amendment. The planning process provides an opportunity to 
consider impacts to potential ACECs through the development of a range 
of alternatives and to assess effectively whether special management 
attention is needed. The planning process also provides substantial 
opportunity for public involvement. We believe that consistency between 
ACEC requirements and the other steps of the planning process will be 
less confusing and will more effectively integrate ACEC consideration 
into the planning process.
    The final rule does not specify any particular length for the 
public comment period in this section, because it is not necessary. The 
BLM is required to provide a minimum of 30 days when requesting public 
comments (see Sec.  1610.2-2(a)). The BLM intends that this comment 
period will generally be integrated with the public comment period on 
the draft resources management plan or plan amendment. The length of 
these public comment periods are provided appropriate to the level of 
BLM action under final Sec.  1610.2-2.
    The BLM will notify the public of each potential ACEC by posting a 
notice on the BLM Web site and at the BLM office where the plan is 
being prepared (see Sec.  1610.2-1(c)), and through written or email 
correspondence to those individuals or groups who have requested to 
receive updates throughout the planning process (see Sec.  1610.2-
1(d)). For the preparation of a RMP, the BLM will provide a 100-day 
comment period;

[[Page 89642]]

for EIS-level amendments, the BLM will provide a 60-day comment period; 
and for EA-level amendments when an ACEC is involved, the BLM will 
provide a 30-day comment period (see Sec.  1610.2-2).
    Paragraph 1610.8-2(b)(1) also maintains the existing requirement 
that any draft RMP or plan amendment involving potential ACECs include 
a list of each potential ACEC and any special management attention 
which will follow a formal designation. For clarity and readability, 
the final rule replaces ``Upon release of a'' with ``Any.'' This does 
not change existing practice or policy. The final rule also replaces 
the term ``proposed ACEC'' in the existing rule with ``potential ACEC'' 
in order to avoid confusion with the proposed resource management plan. 
The BLM provides notice of potential ACECs upon release of a draft 
resource management plan or plan amendment, rather than upon release of 
a proposed resource management plan or plan amendment. The BLM intends 
no change in practice or policy from this word change. The final rule 
also replaces ``resource use limitations'' with ``special management 
attention.'' That language is based on the definition of an ACEC 
provided in FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1702 (a)) and reflects the fact that 
special management attention is not restricted to resource use 
limitations. For example, special management attention might include 
objectives related to plant species composition to maintain habitat for 
a wildlife resource.
    Paragraph (b)(2) of this section maintains the existing provision 
with edits clarifying that the approval of a resource management plan 
or plan amendment that contains an ACEC constitutes formal designation 
of an ACEC. The final rule removes the phrase ``plan revision'' as this 
is included in the definition of a resource management plan (see Sec.  
1601.0-5). This paragraph also replaces the existing requirement for 
the approved plan to include ``general management practices and uses, 
including mitigation measures'' with a new requirement to include ``any 
special management attention'' identified to protect the designated 
ACEC. We believe that the new requirement for plan objectives to be 
measurable (see Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(2)) provides a more effective method 
to apply special management attention because it allows the BLM to 
track progress toward the achievement of the objective while 
incorporating new science and information when implementing specific 
management measures. This change also reflects the definition of an 
ACEC provided in FLPMA (section 103(a)). Under the final rule, the BLM 
will provide ``special management attention,'' as required by FLPMA, 
through the development of plan components. For example, special 
management attention could include goals, measurable objectives, 
mitigation standards (as part of a measurable objective), or resource 
use determinations, among others. In response to public comment, the 
final rule includes the example ``such as resource use determinations'' 
(see final Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2)) for improved clarity.
Section 1610.9 Transition Period
    The final rule adopts proposed Sec.  1610.9 with revisions. This 
section contains the provisions of existing Sec.  1610.8, amended as 
follows. The existing regulations address the transition from 
management framework plans, the land use plans the BLM prepared 
beginning in 1969 under authorities predating FLPMA, to resource 
management plans, which the BLM has prepared and approved under FLPMA 
and the planning regulations first adopted in 1979. The final rule 
revises existing Sec.  1610.8(a) and (b) to refer to ``public 
involvement'' instead of ``public participation'' and to the 
``responsible official'' instead of the ``Field Manager,'' consistent 
with changes made throughout this rule.
    In the proposed rule, we would have revised paragraph (a)(1) by 
specifying that management framework plans may be the basis for 
considering a proposed action if the management framework plan is in 
compliance with the principle of multiple use and sustained yield ``or 
other applicable law.'' In the final rule, we employ the phrase 
``unless otherwise specified by law'' for consistency with changes made 
to other sections (for example, see Sec.  1610.0-1). We believe this 
language better fulfills the purpose of recognizing that in some 
situations the BLM must be in compliance with other legal authorities. 
For instance, BLM management of national monuments established under 
the Antiquities Act of 1906 (16 U.S.C. 431-433) must comply with the 
terms in the Proclamation establishing the specific national monument.
    The final rule removes existing Sec.  1610.8(a)(2), because it is 
no longer necessary. The BLM will rely instead on Sec.  1610.9(a)(2) 
when considering proposed actions under a management framework plan.
    Final Sec.  1610.9(b)(1) and (b)(2) are adopted from existing Sec.  
1610.8(b)(1) and (b)(2) with only minor revisions for improved 
readability or to fix grammatical or reference mistakes.
    New paragraphs 1610.9(c) and (d) address the transition from 
resource management plans approved under the existing regulations, 
which first became effective on September 6, 1979 (44 FR 46386) and 
which were updated with revisions that became effective on July 5, 1983 
(48 FR 20364) and April 22, 2005 (55 FR 14561), to resource management 
plans that will be prepared, revised, or amended under the final rule.
    In considering the transition provisions, it is important to 
remember that this final rule changes the procedures the BLM uses to 
prepare, revise, or amend RMPs and provides more detailed guidance in 
areas where the current regulations are vague, unclear, or silent. This 
final rule does not change the nature of a RMP itself (i.e., a document 
developed to guide future management activities on the public lands). 
Additionally, although the final rule includes new terms for the 
contents of a plan (e.g., plan components), the contents of a plan 
promulgated under this final rule will not differ substantially from 
the contents of existing plans. For instance, plan objectives developed 
under this final rule will likely be more specific and measurable than 
many plan objectives developed under the existing regulations. 
Nonetheless, plan objectives developed under the new rule and the 
previous regulations will guide the BLM's management of the public 
lands across varied programs.
    Accordingly, Sec.  1610.9(c)(1) discusses how the BLM will evaluate 
whether a proposed action, such as an oil and gas lease sale, is in 
conformance with a resource management plan once these regulations 
become effective. The BLM will use an existing resource management plan 
(i.e., one approved by the BLM before these regulations become 
effective) until it is superseded by a resource management plan or 
amended by a plan amendment prepared under these regulations when they 
are final. In such circumstances where the plan has not been developed 
or amended under these regulations, the proposed action must either be 
specifically provided for in the plan or clearly consistent with the 
terms, conditions, and decisions of the approved plan. RMPs prepared 
under the existing regulations do not identify plan components, thus an 
evaluation for whether a proposed action is in conformance with the 
plan must use the terminology that was in place when the plan was 
approved.
    Paragraph 1610.9(c)(2) addresses how to evaluate whether an action 
is in conformance with a resource

[[Page 89643]]

management plan issued under existing regulations after the resource 
management plan has been amended under this final rule. In such 
circumstances, the amended portions of the plan will use new 
terminology and identify plan components, whereas the remainder of the 
plan not amended will not use new terminology. A proposed action must 
therefore be consistent with the plan components (proposed new 
terminology) of the provisions of the resource management plan amended 
under the final rule and the terms, conditions, and decisions of the 
provisions of the resource management plan not amended under the final 
rule (existing terminology). In response to public comment, the final 
rule is revised to specify that the proposed action must be ``clearly'' 
consistent with the plan components. This revision brings this 
provision into line with the definition of ``conformity or 
conformance'' in Sec.  1601.0-5.
    The BLM received comments stating that proposed Sec.  1610.9(c)(2) 
was confusing. In response to these comments, the final rule is revised 
to clarify that future proposed action must be clearly consistent with 
the provisions of the resource management plan amended under the final 
rule, which will have plan components, as well as the provisions of the 
resource management plan not amended under the final rule, which will 
still have terms, conditions, and decisions, consistent with the 
existing regulations.
    Paragraph 1610.9(d) addresses resource management plans that are 
currently being prepared, revised, or amended when this final rule is 
published. If the preparation, revision, or amendment of a resource 
management plan was or is formally initiated by publication of a NOI in 
the Federal Register before these regulations become effective (on 
January 11, 2017), the BLM may complete the RMP or plan amendment under 
the planning regulations promulgated in 1979 (44 FR 46386) and amended 
in 1983 (48 FR 20364) and 2005 (55 FR 14561). This approach allows BLM 
offices that have initiated planning to continue with their efforts 
without the need to re-start or re-do steps in the planning process. 
This will avoid duplicative efforts, and it respects the time that the 
BLM, other agencies, stakeholders, and members of the public have 
invested in planning that will be in-progress when these regulations 
become effective. It also provides the BLM flexibility to incorporate 
provisions of the final rule into a planning process that is underway 
when the new regulations are final.

III. Response to Public Comments

    The BLM received 3,354 comments on the proposed rule, which are 
available for viewing on the Federal e-rulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov). The BLM has reviewed all public comments, and has 
made changes, as appropriate, to the final rule based on those 
comments. Those changes are noted in the section-by-section discussion.
    The following is a summary of significant issues raised in comments 
the BLM received on the proposed rule and responses to these comments. 
The comments highlighted in the following paragraphs fell into several 
categories: Comments related to sections of the proposed rule; comments 
related to the goals of the Planning 2.0 initiative; and comments on 
the rulemaking process.
    A comprehensive account of public comments and detailed responses 
to these comments is available to the public on the BLM Web site 
(www.blm.gov/plan2) and is included as a supporting document in the 
docket for this rulemaking on regulations.gov.

Objective of Resource Management Planning

    Several comments raised concern that the proposed removal of the 
existing phrase ``maximize resource values for the public'' in Sec.  
1601.0-2 represents a change in the BLM's management of the public 
lands and is an effort to bias the planning process against resource 
extraction. Some comments similarly raised concern that proposed new 
language in Sec.  1601.0-2 represents a shift in public policy by 
departing from FLPMA and redefining the concept of multiple use, or is 
weaker than the statutory language that mandates multiple-use.
    The final rule does not retain existing language to ``maximize 
resource values'' and adopts proposed new language regarding the manner 
by which the public lands are to be managed (see Sec.  1601.0-2). These 
changes do not reflect a departure from FLPMA and multiple-use 
management, nor do they represent a shift in public policy or an effort 
to bias the planning process.
    The final rule adopts the proposal to remove the phrase ``maximize 
resource values'' to remove vague language and for consistency with 
FLPMA. FLPMA defines multiple use, in part, as ``the management of the 
public lands and their various resource values so that they are 
utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future 
needs of the American people'' as well as ``harmonious and coordinated 
management of the various resources without permanent impairment of the 
productivity of the land and the quality of the environment with 
consideration being given to the relative values of the resources and 
not necessarily to the combination of uses that will give the greatest 
economic return or the greatest unit output'' (43 U.S.C. 1702(c)). The 
existing rule does not define the meaning of the phrase ``maximize 
resource values'' or describe how it is to be achieved in accordance 
with multiple use and sustained yield, as defined in FLPMA. FLPMA's 
language provides the best expression of how the BLM should consider 
resource values in the planning process in order to manage on the basis 
of multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise specified by law. 
In response to public comment, the final rule is revised to include 
language directly from FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)) to ``manage on the 
basis of multiple use and sustained yield'' to provide clarity on the 
BLM's mandate.
    The final rule also adopts the proposed new language describing the 
manner by which the public lands are to be managed (see Sec.  1601.0-
2). This language is from FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(8) and (a)(12)). 
Resource management plans describe how the public lands will be managed 
within a geographic area; therefore it is appropriate that an objective 
of resource management planning is to develop management direction that 
is consistent with statutory direction describing the manner by which 
public lands are to be managed. Several comments noted that the 
language added to this section in the proposed rule (43 U.S.C. 
1701(a)(12)) omitted the reference to the Mining and Minerals Policy 
Act. Other comments requested this section identify additional 
resources or resource uses and raised concern that the proposed 
language would prioritize some resource values over others. The final 
rule does not include a reference to the Mining and Minerals Policy Act 
or identify additional resources or resource uses, as suggested by the 
comments. The objective section provides the objective for resource 
management planning on BLM-managed lands. The final rule includes 
language from FLPMA in Sec.  1601.0-2 to provide context. In revising 
Sec.  1601.0-2, we endeavored to find a balance between including those 
statutory provisions that provide useful context, while also 
maintaining concise regulations that are easy to read and understand. 
It is not necessary to list the Mining and Minerals Policy Act or other 
applicable laws in the planning regulations as the BLM must comply with 
these laws even if they are not

[[Page 89644]]

referenced in these regulations. Neither is it necessary to list all 
resources under BLM management in the objective section. The list of 
resources provided at Sec.  1601.0-2 is not intended to be exclusive 
and does not preclude consideration of other resources, nor does it 
prioritize any single resource over other resources, including those 
not identified in Sec.  1601.0-2. To the contrary, FLPMA and final 
Sec.  1601.0-2 require that management be on the basis of multiple use 
and sustained yield; the concept of multiple use encompasses all 
resource values and uses applicable to the public lands. In response to 
public comments, the final rule is revised to include language that 
public lands are to be managed in a manner that recognizes that 
Nation's need for ``renewable and non-renewable resources'' to reflect 
the fact that all relevant resources are considered during resource 
management planning.

Responsibilities and Determination of Planning Areas

    The existing planning regulations establish the BLM field office as 
the default boundary for resource management plans and delegate the 
responsibility for preparing resource management plans to BLM Field 
Managers and approval of plans to BLM State Directors. Under the BLM's 
interpretation and implementation of the existing regulations, these 
responsibilities can be carried out by an official at a higher level in 
the BLM and the BLM may select a different boundary.
    The proposed planning rule would have removed the default planning 
area boundary and replaced references to State Directors with 
``deciding official'' and Field Manager with ``responsible official.'' 
Many public comments supported these changes, but some opposed the 
changes for various reasons, including the concern that the public 
would not know who the default deciding official is if it is not 
addressed in the regulations. In response to these comments, the final 
rule adopts the proposed changes to ``responsible official'' and 
``deciding official,'' but provides that when resource management plans 
do not cross state lines, the default deciding official is the BLM 
State Director. If the resource management plan or plan amendment 
crosses State boundaries, the BLM Director will determine the deciding 
official (Sec.  1601.0-4(a)). For reasons explained in the section-by-
section analysis of Sec.  1601.0-4, this is not a change from existing 
BLM practice or policy, and in fact clarifies the BLM's existing 
process, and provides the BLM flexibility to determine the appropriate 
deciding officials for planning across State boundaries or for resource 
management plans or plan amendments of national significance, while 
maintaining the State Director's role in the process.
    The proposed planning rule also would have removed the default 
planning area boundary and provided that the BLM Director would 
determine the planning area for all resource management plans. The BLM 
received public comments in opposition to and in support of this 
change. Comments expressed concerns that the BLM Director was too far 
removed from local concerns and management issues, and that 
``landscape-scale'' planning areas would not respond to local concerns. 
Other comments supported this change, stating that the BLM should 
further emphasize that planning area boundaries should be more 
responsive to ecological and social conditions, rather than traditional 
field office and district boundaries.
    In response to comments, the final rule is revised to provide that 
where a resource management plan or plan amendment is wholly within a 
single State's boundaries, the deciding official, by default the BLM 
State Director, determines the planning area. Where the resource 
management plan or plan amendment does cross State boundaries, the BLM 
believes that it is appropriate for the BLM Director to determine the 
planning area boundary and this requirement is adopted in the final 
rule. In some situations the BLM's State, district, or field office 
boundaries may be the most appropriate planning area boundary. The BLM 
intends that this determination will be made in consultation with the 
relevant BLM State Directors, District Managers, and Field Managers.
    The final rule does not prescribe ``landscape-scale'' planning area 
as suggested by public comments. The final rule does not prescribe any 
specific planning area boundary or geographic scale for such a 
boundary. Rather, the final rule provides flexibility to determine the 
appropriate planning area boundary based on relevant landscapes and 
management concerns. This flexibility does not represent a substantive 
change from the existing regulations, as the BLM currently may 
determine any planning area boundary. Under the current planning rule, 
planning areas have been both smaller and larger than field offices, 
including for example, the Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan 
Amendments (2015), West Eugene Wetlands Resource Management Plan 
(2015), and Resource Management Plans for Western Oregon (2016). 
Although not a substantive change in the regulations, the BLM believes 
that the final rule provides increased transparency to the public that 
the BLM intends to develop future planning area boundaries based on the 
relevant management concerns rather than historical administrative 
boundaries.
    Several public comments suggested that the proposed language on the 
determination of a planning area did not provide adequate opportunity 
for public involvement or coordination with governmental entities. In 
response to these comments, the final rule is revised to include 
considerations for determining a preliminary planning area and an 
opportunity for public review of the preliminary planning area. A new 
provision in final Sec.  1610.4(a) requires the identification of a 
preliminary planning area during the planning assessment. The 
preliminary planning area will be made available for public review 
prior to the publication of the NOI in the Federal Register. The final 
rule also retains the existing requirement that the BLM seek the input 
of Governor(s) on the definition of planning areas (see final Sec.  
1610.3-2(c)(1)).
    Public comments also suggested that the proposed language on the 
determination of a planning area did not adequately describe how the 
BLM would make planning area determinations. In response to public 
comments, the final rule is revised to describe considerations for 
determining the preliminary planning area. Under the final rule, the 
BLM will consider scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, 
environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological 
values and management concerns identified through monitoring and 
evaluation, relevant landscapes based on these management concerns, the 
officially approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes, and other relevant 
information, as appropriate. These provisions support the goal of 
applying landscape-scale management approaches by ensuring that the BLM 
considers relevant landscapes when developing a preliminary planning 
area. For more information on the preliminary planning area, please see 
the discussion for Sec.  1610.4(a) in this preamble.

High Quality Information

    The final rule adopts proposed requirements for the BLM to ``use 
high quality information to inform the preparation, amendment, and

[[Page 89645]]

maintenance of resource management plans'' (Sec.  1610.1-1(c)) and 
requires the responsible official to ``evaluate the data and 
information gathered . . . to ensure the use of high quality 
information in the planning assessment'' (Sec.  1610.4(c)). The rule 
also defines the term ``high quality information'' (Sec.  1601.0-5).
    While several comments supported the proposed definition of high 
quality information, many comments asserted that the proposed 
definition is vague or suggested specific edits to the definition. Some 
comments objected to specific elements of the definition, such as the 
phrase ``useful to its intended users.'' Other comments suggested that 
this new standard may allow biased, subjective, unsubstantiated, or 
questionable scientific data or information to inform planning. The 
final rule is not revised in response to these comments. The final rule 
adopts the definition of ``high quality information'' without revisions 
in Sec.  1601.0-5 of the final rule. The definition for high quality 
information is not vague and is consistent with the Information Quality 
Act (or Data Quality Act) and the related ``OMB Guidelines for Ensuring 
and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of 
Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies; Republication,'' (OMB 
Guidelines) (67 FR 8452). The definition specifies high quality 
information is ``accurate, reliable, and unbiased'' and includes the 
``best available scientific information'' and therefore does not allow 
biased, subjective, unsubstantiated, or questionable scientific data or 
information to inform planning. The final rule includes ``useful to its 
intended users'' in the definition of high quality information for 
consistency with the OMB Guidelines. In the guidelines, OMB defines 
``quality'' as the ``encompassing term, of which `utility,' 
`objectivity,' and `integrity' are the constituents.'' The guidelines 
further define ``utility'' as referring to the ``usefulness of the 
information to its intended users, including the public.'' This 
standard allows the BLM to focus on relevant information during 
resource management planning.
    Several comments expressed concern that the high quality 
information standard is a relaxing of current data evaluation 
standards. The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. 
Although this standard is new to the planning rule, the requirement to 
use ``high quality information'' is consistent with the BLM's current 
standards for NEPA analyses as set forth by Federal law and 
regulations.
    The BLM will continue to comply with data standards set forth by 
Federal law and regulations and other relevant policy, such as the 
CEQ's NEPA regulations regarding ``high quality'' information and 
``[a]ccurate scientific analysis'' (40 CFR 1500.1(b)). Where more 
specific Federal standards apply to certain types of information, the 
BLM will conform with those Federal standards as well. For more 
information on the use of high quality information and consistency with 
other Federal information standards, see the discussion for Sec.  
1610.1-1(c) in this preamble.
    Several comments asserted that there is no reason for the BLM to 
create a new standard for data quality because the BLM already must 
adhere to existing data standards and the addition of another standard 
is confusing. The final rule is not revised in response to these 
comments. The BLM believes that a requirement to use ``high quality 
information'' in the planning regulations, as well as a definition for 
this term, provides clarity on the relationship of existing standards 
for information quality to resource management planning. Further, this 
standard affirms the BLM's commitment to science-based decision-making.
    Several comments expressed concern about the BLM making the 
determination as to whether or not data or information meets the high 
quality standard, and suggested that third-party experts, governmental 
entities, or the public should be involved in this determination. Some 
comments suggested that the public should have an opportunity to appeal 
the evaluation of the data they submit. The final rule is not revised 
in response to these comments. It is appropriate for the BLM to make 
the final determination regarding information quality because the BLM 
is responsible for preparing resource management plans and for the 
management of the public lands, and the supporting environmental review 
under NEPA. The BLM recognizes the importance of being transparent and 
providing the public an opportunity for input on the information used 
during the planning process. The final rule provides such transparency 
and opportunity for input. The final rule does not provide 
opportunities for the public to appeal the evaluation of the data they 
submit. The public may, however, provide comments regarding information 
quality on the draft resource management plan and draft EIS, and may 
also submit a protest on the proposed resource management plan should 
they believe a plan component is in violation of Federal laws or 
regulations, or the purposes, policies, and programs implementing such 
laws and regulations, due to information quality. The final rule also 
does not establish a requirement for a third party review of 
information quality. Such an approach would not be practical given the 
magnitude of information used during the preparation of a resource 
management plan. The BLM will evaluate the data and information it 
receives to ensure the use of high quality information. Statutory and 
regulatory requirements, policies, and strategies relating to 
information will guide responsible officials as they evaluate whether 
information is high quality information. This process may vary 
depending on the discipline, and therefore it is more appropriate to 
address through guidance.
    Many comments concerned the statement in the preamble to the 
proposed rule that ``Traditional Ecological Knowledge'' (TEK) may be a 
type of ``high quality information.'' A few comments suggested that the 
intent and definition of the term TEK is not clear. Several comments 
opposed the use of TEK, some comments supported the use of TEK, and 
others asked for specific clarifications to the definition of TEK. The 
final rule is not revised in response to these comments. The proposed 
and final regulations do not include the term TEK. The preamble 
discussion of TEK was provided as an example to help illustrate the 
concept of high quality information; this discussion does not represent 
a regulatory provision regarding TEK. Under the final rule, TEK may be 
considered a type of high quality information so long as it is relevant 
to the planning effort and documented using methodologies designed to 
maintain accuracy and reliability, and to avoid bias, corruption, or 
falsification, such as ethnographic research methods. Through the 
disciplines of anthropology, as well as other social science 
disciplines, accepted scientific methodologies have been established 
for documenting ethnographic information and other types of social 
information. Such methodologies, and the information collected through 
these methodologies, are widely accepted by the scientific community 
and appropriate for consideration during resource management planning. 
The BLM will apply the same standards to TEK as it applies to other 
types of information.
    Several comments expressed concern over the use of citizen science 
during resource management planning. Some comments asserted that 
citizen science falls short of a ``best available science''

[[Page 89646]]

threshold. The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. 
The final rule defines high quality information as ``any representation 
of knowledge such as facts or data, including the best available 
scientific information, which is accurate, reliable, and unbiased, is 
not compromised through corruption or falsification, and is useful to 
its intended users'' (see Sec.  1610.0-5). This standard applies to all 
information used in resource management planning, including citizen 
science. It does not preclude the use of citizen science, so long as 
the information meets this standard. On September 30, 2015, the 
Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a 
memorandum titled ``Addressing Societal and Scientific Challenges 
through Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing.'' This memo outlined 
principles for effective use of citizen science by Federal agencies. In 
addition to standards for high quality information, the BLM will apply 
the principles described in this memorandum, including the concept of 
``fitness for use'' when using citizen science to inform the 
preparation or amendment of a resource management plan.

Plan Components

    Several comments stated that the proposed rule fails to identify 
why the existing planning framework is inadequate and why a change is 
warranted. Comments specifically identified that the removal of 
existing land use plan elements in the existing regulations and their 
replacement with plan components and implementation strategies has the 
potential to dramatically increase agency discretion while 
disenfranchising the public, State and local governments, and 
stakeholders from involvement in important aspects of planning (i.e., 
the development of implementation strategies). Other comments supported 
the proposed framework for plan components and implementation 
strategies. In response to public comments, the final rule adopts the 
concept of plan components (Sec.  1610.1-2), but does not adopt the 
concept of implementation strategies (proposed Sec.  1610.1-3). This 
preamble provides a rationale for the need to revise the planning rule 
in the ``Background'' discussion. The preamble discussion of Sec.  
1610.1-2 also provides a detailed rationale for the removal of existing 
planning elements and the addition of each plan component. The final 
rule does not disenfranchise the public and stakeholders from 
involvement, nor does it dramatically increase or decrease the BLM's 
discretion, as suggested by public comments. Rather, the final rule 
provides for extensive public involvement in the development of plan 
components, as these represent planning level management direction; the 
BLM will also provide for public involvement related to future 
implementation decisions, consistent with NEPA requirements.
    A few comments asserted that the definition of ``goal'' provided at 
Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(1), which includes ``resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, or economic characteristics,'' exceeds the BLM's 
management authority under FLPMA because the BLM's authority is limited 
to goals related to renewable resources on BLM lands. The final rule is 
not revised in response to these comments. The definition of ``goal'' 
is consistent with FLPMA. FLPMA directs the BLM to use and observe the 
principles of multiple use and sustained yield when developing resource 
management plans. Multiple use, as defined in FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 
1702(c)), means, in part, the management of the public lands so they 
are utilized in the combination that best meet the needs of the 
American people; multiple use takes into account the long term needs of 
future generations for renewable and non-renewable resources. The 
``needs of the American people,'' including future generations, are 
reflected in the goals of a resource management plan. These needs may 
address a broad range of desired outcomes related to resource, 
environmental, ecological, social, or economic characteristics.
    A comment requested the BLM add ``cultural'' to the list 
``resource, environmental, ecological, social, or economic 
characteristics'' at Sec. Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(1) and 1610.1-2(a)(2)(ii). 
The final rule is not revised in response to this comment. This change 
is not necessary because cultural characteristics are encompassed by 
the term ``resource characteristics,'' and thus must be considered.
    A few comments raised concerns regarding how the BLM plans to meet 
objectives as defined in the proposed rule at Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(2). 
Comments also asserted that including a requirement for objectives to 
have ``established time-frames'' (Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(2)) would expose 
the BLM to litigation challenging its failure to meet these self-
imposed timelines. The final rule is not revised in response to these 
comments. Objectives are intended to guide progress towards the 
achievement of one or more goals. The inclusion of time-frames in a 
resource management plan is discretionary. In some situations the 
inclusion of time-frames may be appropriate. In other situations, time-
frames may not be relevant or appropriate. The forthcoming revision of 
the Land Use Planning Handbook will include additional guidance on 
setting objectives. The BLM cannot guarantee achievement of the 
objectives, particularly with regard to factors that are outside of the 
agency's control, such as future available budgets and environmental 
factors such as drought or wildfires, but the BLM must make resource 
management decisions that are consistent with the achievement of the 
objectives (see the definition for ``conformance'' at Sec.  1601.0-5). 
The resource management plan objectives describe the desired resource 
conditions that the agency will aim to achieve through future 
implementation decisions.
    Several comments stated support for the identification of 
attributes and indicators as an important way to relate current 
conditions with habitat standards and adaptive management. Comments 
recommend revising the final rule to require and define these 
attributes and indicators. In response to public comment, the final 
rule establishes an additional requirement (final Sec.  1610.1-
2(a)(2)(iii)) that, as appropriate, objectives should identify 
indicators for evaluating progress towards achievement of the 
objective. The purpose of this new provision is to provide clear 
direction in the resource management plan on how the BLM intends to 
measure the objective. The indicators described in the objectives 
should be the same as the indicators described in the monitoring and 
evaluation standards. This approach will ensure that the BLM is able to 
determine if the plan objective is being met through monitoring and 
evaluation. The final rule does not include specific language regarding 
``attributes.'' The BLM believes that this concept is more 
appropriately described through guidance, such as the forthcoming 
revision of the Land Use Planning Handbook.
    The final rule adopts proposed language that objectives should 
identify standards to mitigate undesirable impacts to resource 
conditions (Sec.  1610.1-2(a)(2)(i)). Several comments raised concerns 
regarding these mitigation standards and questioned the BLM's authority 
to require mitigation. Some comments supported the proposed mitigation 
standards and suggested they should always be required and not ``to the 
extent practical.'' Other comments recommended the BLM incorporate 
language in the final rule to state that

[[Page 89647]]

resource management plans would be required to contain applicable 
mitigation strategies or identify mitigation sites.
    The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. The 
planning rule establishes the procedural framework for preparing and 
amending resource management plans, but does not develop comprehensive 
policy related to mitigation, nor does it explicitly require 
mitigation. Rather, it provides a method to establish standards for 
resource conditions that will help guide future mitigation consistent 
with the plan objectives. Mitigation standards will be developed as 
appropriate. Mitigation standards do not prescribe specific mitigation 
practices. Although the final rule does not explicitly require 
mitigation, it is important to note that the BLM has the authority 
under FLPMA to require mitigation for land use authorizations or 
permits. Specific mitigation measures are applied when a land use 
authorization is granted, based on the environmental review of that 
authorization and the statutes and regulations under which that 
authorization is granted.
    Several comments stated support for the inclusion of planning 
designations as plan components. Some comments requested the final rule 
identify specific types of planning designations. Some comments raised 
concerns about the lack of a requirement to explicitly connect 
priorities identified through designations with resource use 
determinations or other steps to ensure that values prioritized through 
designations are in fact protected. Some comments opposed the inclusion 
of planning designations. One comment stated that planning designations 
demonstrate that the proposed planning rule attempts a fundamental 
policy shift away from traditional public land uses identified in 
FLPMA.
    The final rule adopts ``designations'' as a plan component (Sec.  
1610.1-2(b)(1)). The final rule identifies ACECs as an example of a 
planning designation; however, this is not intended to be an exhaustive 
list, rather it provides an example to illustrate the concept. The 
final rule is not revised to list other examples of planning 
designations as it is not necessary or practical to list all planning 
designations. In response to public comments, the final rule adds 
language to Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(1)(i) stating that ``resource use 
determinations shall be consistent with or support the management 
priorities identified through designations.'' This language is intended 
to connect priorities identified through designations with resource use 
determinations. The concept of planning designations is consistent with 
FLPMA, as they are a tool to identify management for areas with 
specific resources or values, and does not represent a policy shift 
away from traditional public land uses identified in FLPMA. In response 
to public comments, Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(1) is revised to clarify that 
designations may identify priority ``resource uses'' in addition to 
resource values.
    Several comments raised concerns that plan components, such as 
resource use determinations, would remove lands from operation of the 
Mining Law of 1872, noting that such an action can only be accomplished 
through withdrawals taken under section 204 of the FLPMA. Several 
comments expressed concern that the proposed rule would allow for the 
development of plan components that would conflict with or restrain the 
exercise of valid existing rights.
    The BLM must comply with all applicable Federal laws in developing 
plan components. The BLM agrees that FLPMA prohibits it from removing 
lands from the operation of the Mining Law of 1872 in the land use 
planning process (43 U.S.C. 1712(e)(3)) and the rule does not and could 
not provide otherwise. The BLM does, however, have the authority 
through land use planning to identify lands as recommended for 
withdrawal from operation of the Mining Law of 1872 where such 
recommendation is determined appropriate to meet plan goals and 
objectives to protect resource values. In response to public comments, 
final Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2) is revised to clarify that resource use 
determinations are subject to valid existing rights. FLPMA requires 
that all plan components and other types of management decisions be 
subject to valid existing rights. Although the final rule cannot change 
this requirement, the BLM decided to include this language specifically 
in Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2) because resource use determinations describe 
exclusions and restrictions to use, which are directly related to valid 
existing rights.
    Several comments suggested that the BLM should integrate 
``designations'' (Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(1)) and ``resource use 
determinations'' (Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2)). Comments stated that this 
would result in a more clearly defined set of criteria for determining 
whether future actions are in conformance with plan components. The 
final rule is not revised to combine designations and resource use 
determinations. After consideration of public comments, the BLM 
believes that the distinction between designations and resource use 
determinations is appropriate. Designations are intended to establish 
priorities, when appropriate. Resource use determinations are intended 
to identify exclusions, restrictions, or allowance of use. Resource use 
determinations must be consistent with the priority established through 
designations, and the final rule is revised to include language 
clarifying this relationship (Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2)).
    Several comments expressed support for monitoring and evaluation 
but were concerned over the BLM's staffing resources, stating that the 
BLM may not have the capacity to implement monitoring and evaluation. 
Some comments requested the final rule require the BLM to provide 
adequate personnel for monitoring and evaluation. Other comments 
suggested the BLM revise the final rule to revise monitoring and 
evaluation standards as tools available to the BLM, but not enforceable 
requirements of resource management plans or plan amendments. The final 
rule is not revised to re-define monitoring and evaluation standards as 
these plan components are necessary to understand whether the plan 
objectives are being met. The final rule is also not revised to address 
staffing concerns or establish personnel requirements; this would not 
be appropriate in regulations as the BLM cannot reasonably predict 
future budgets and staffing availability.
    Several comments noted that the proposed rule suggests that the 
achievement of goals and objectives and implementation of monitoring 
and evaluation could be enforceable commitments under the 
Administrative Procedure Act and recommended the BLM revise the final 
rule to expressly state that goals, objectives, and monitoring measures 
in resource management plans do not commit the BLM to future courses of 
action, and that BLM actions are dependent upon appropriation of 
necessary funds and agency priorities, and are not intended to be 
enforced by third parties through legal remedies. Comments also 
recommend including language to state that these plan components cannot 
be enforced by the general public under 5 U.S.C. 706(1). The comments 
cited several court rulings supporting this statement. The final rule 
does not include the language suggested by these comments. Resource 
management plans provide planning level management direction intended 
to help the BLM prioritize available funds and to guide future 
management decisions, including future proposed actions. Although the 
BLM does not intend that plan components be discrete agency actions

[[Page 89648]]

that BLM is required to take and therefore enforceable under Sec.  
706(1) of the APA, they do bind the BLM to the extent that all future 
actions taken by the BLM must conform to them. Should, through the 
process of monitoring and evaluation, the BLM determine that the goals 
and objectives are not being met, the BLM has the discretion to 
identify appropriate remedies, including the option to revise or amend 
the resource management plan.

Notice Requirements

    The proposed planning rule would have replaced several requirements 
to publish a notice in the Federal Register with a requirement to 
notify the public through other means, including direct email or 
posting a notice to the BLM Web site and at local BLM offices. Many 
comments requested that the BLM retain all existing Federal Register 
notice requirements. In response to these comments, the final rule will 
retain most existing Federal Register notice requirements that were 
proposed to be removed, including the notice of intent for plan 
amendments when an environmental assessment is prepared (final Sec.  
1610.2-1(f)) and notice when a draft plan or plan amendment involves 
possible designation of areas of critical environmental concern (final 
Sec.  1610.8-2(b)(1).
    The BLM does not, however, consider a Federal Register notice to be 
appropriate or necessary for all announcements for public involvement, 
as some comments suggested. Although the Federal Register provides a 
record of notices and a tool for reaching a national audience, it is 
not necessary for every public involvement opportunity nor is it the 
only tool available to reach a national audience. For instance, a 
public meeting in a local community in the planning area to discuss a 
particular, individual planning issue does not need a Federal Register 
notice. Including one would cause unnecessary delays to the planning 
process and costs to the BLM. Additionally, when the BLM announces the 
start of a planning process, through a NOI, this provides the public an 
opportunity to request notification of future public involvement 
opportunities and to be added to the mailing list, as well as learning 
of public involvement opportunities through BLM's Web site, which also 
reaches a national audience. This is consistent with current BLM policy 
and practice.
    Several comments requested that the BLM retain the existing 
requirement for the BLM Director to publish in the Federal Register the 
reasons for his or her determination regarding a Governor's appeal on a 
State Director's decision for the Governor's consistency review 
(existing Sec.  1610.3-2(e)). The final rule does not retain this 
existing requirement and will instead adopt the commitment that the BLM 
shall notify the public of this decision and make the written decision 
available to the public (final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(4)(ii)). Removing the 
requirement to publish a Federal Register notice at this step will 
provide for a more efficient planning process and better reflects the 
ready availability of Internet communications. In locations where 
internet is not readily available, the responsible official will 
identify additional forms of notification to reach local communities 
within the planning area (Sec.  1610.2-1(c)). Moreover, interested 
parties already will have had the opportunity to be added to the 
mailing list to receive notifications (Sec.  1610.2-1(d)).

Public Comment Periods

    The proposed rule would have reduced the minimum length of formal 
public comment periods on draft resource management plans from 90 days 
to 60 days. Many comments opposed that proposed change, stating various 
reasons, including that resource management plans were complex 
documents and shortening the comment period would reduce opportunities 
for meaningful public input. Some comments stated that additional, 
early opportunities for public involvement, such as the planning 
assessment and review of preliminary alternatives, were adequate 
substitutions for formal comment periods on the draft resource 
management plan. In response to these comments, the final rule will 
expand the comment period for draft resource management plans to a 
minimum of 100 days, which is 10 days longer than the existing minimum 
comment period of 90 days (Sec.  1610.2-2(c)). The proposed rule also 
would have reduced the minimum public comment period for plan 
amendments when an environmental impact statement (EIS) is prepared 
from 90 days to 45 days. Many comments opposed that change as well, for 
similar reasons. In response to these comments, the final rule will 
change the comment period for draft EIS-level plan amendments to a 
minimum of 60 days (Sec.  1610.2-2(b)), which is longer than the length 
of the proposed comment period, but shorter than the length of the 
existing comment period. The scope and complexity of EIS-level plan 
amendments varies considerably, and the 60-day period will be 
appropriate as a minimum for EIS-level plan amendments. The BLM retains 
the discretion to extend the length of public comment periods or to 
initially offer a longer public comment period, as appropriate.
    A number of comments requested a provision in the rule providing an 
opportunity to request a comment period extension, or a requirement of 
an automatic extension when a plan was particularly long or complex. 
The BLM has the discretion to extend the length of the minimum public 
comment periods; however, due to the variation in issues, geographic 
scope, and complexity, it is not appropriate to adopt a single standard 
for comment period extensions in the final rule.
    The BLM received several comments requesting that all opportunities 
for public involvement, including the planning assessment, review of 
preliminary alternatives, and the basis for analysis, be subject to a 
formal comment period, and require the BLM to provide a formal comment 
response. Some comments expressed concern that without formal comment 
responses, it would not be clear to the public that the BLM considered 
public comment during these steps. The final rule does not adopt these 
recommendations. Although public involvement must meet the requirements 
of Sec.  1610.2, the BLM recognizes that resource management plans and 
plan amendments will vary based on factors such as complexity, 
geographic scale, and budgets. Public notification and review will 
provide additional transparency and an opportunity for the public to 
provide feedback, but it is not appropriate to require a formal comment 
period for each public involvement opportunity. The BLM generally 
provides a formal comment period at steps when there is a complete 
document available for review, such as a draft resource management 
plan. The final rule adds opportunities for public involvement in the 
development of these documents, which may take several forms, such as 
public workshops or posting information on the web and inviting the 
public to provide additional information. This will inform the 
development of the draft resource management plan, and it will be made 
available for a formal comment period. Section 1610.2(b) requires the 
BLM to document public involvement activities by either a record or 
summary of principle issues discussed and comments made, and make that 
record or summary available to the public.

Consultation With Indian Tribes

    The BLM received comments noting that the proposed rule did not 
recognize the sovereign status of Indian tribes or address government-
to-government consultation with Indian tribes during

[[Page 89649]]

planning. Other comments raised concerns that a larger planning area 
under the new rule could mean less meaningful tribal consultation and 
potentially less influence by Indian tribes over BLM planning 
decisions. Some comments raised concern that the BLM would no longer 
consult with tribes in person and electronic means would replace the 
current process.
    In response to comments, the final rule is revised to include a new 
section on tribal consultation (final Sec.  1610.3-1). This section 
provides that the BLM will initiate consultation with Indian tribes on 
a government-to-government basis during the preparation and amendment 
of resource management plans. This section is added to the final rule 
to reflect the fact that the BLM is required to initiate consultation 
with affected Indian tribes during the planning process, and will 
consult with any Indian tribes that choose to accept the BLM's request 
for consultation, but the BLM cannot guarantee that an Indian tribe 
will agree to consultation. This government-to-government consultation 
shall be initiated regardless of an Indian tribe's status as a 
cooperating agency or any on-going coordination with the Indian tribe. 
Should an Indian tribe choose to participate as a cooperating agency or 
to coordinate with the BLM, the BLM is still required to initiate 
government-to-government consultation.
    The final rule does not explicitly prescribe larger planning areas; 
should future planning areas increase in size, however, the BLM will 
continue to conduct meaningful consultation with Indian tribes, 
including in person meetings. The BLM does not intend for electronic 
means to replace current processes for consultation. The BLM 
recognizes, however, that some Indian tribes may prefer electronic 
communication such as email correspondence, and the BLM will employ 
such communication techniques where they are helpful and appropriate.

Coordination With State, Tribal and Local Governments

    The BLM received many comments regarding coordination with other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes, as 
provided in section 202(c)(9) of FLPMA, as well as cooperating agency 
status under NEPA.
    Several comments expressed that the definition of and provisions 
for cooperating agencies inappropriately restrict eligibility by saying 
that cooperating agencies will participate ``as feasible and 
appropriate given the scope of their expertise and constraints of their 
resources'' (proposed Sec. Sec.  1601.0-5 and 1610.3-1(b)(2)). In 
response to these comments, this language is removed from the 
definition of cooperating agencies, and proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(2) 
is revised to state that ``[t]he responsible official shall 
collaborate, to the fullest extent possible, with all cooperating 
agencies concerning those issues relating to their jurisdiction and 
special expertise.'' These changes are consistent with the DOI NEPA 
regulations which provide ``the lead bureau will collaborate, to the 
fullest extent possible, with all cooperating agencies concerning those 
issues relating to their jurisdiction and special expertise'' (43 CFR 
46.230). Cooperating agencies must meet the requirements defined in 
DOI's NEPA implementation regulations, 43 CFR 46.225(a), which includes 
special expertise or jurisdiction by law. That section references the 
Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA implementation regulations' 
definition of special expertise (40 CFR 1508.26) and jurisdiction by 
law (40 CFR 1508.15). These requirements apply to both Federal and non-
Federal governments, such as State, local, and tribal governments. The 
BLM will continue to use these definitions to determine eligibility for 
cooperating agencies. Eligible governmental entities are not required 
to be cooperating agencies if they do not have sufficient resources; 
therefore, the reference to ``constraints of their resources'' is not 
appropriate.
    Comments raised the concern that including the term ``eligible 
governmental entity'' in the definition of ``cooperating agency'' in 
Sec.  1601.0-5 will lead to confusion and potentially exclude some 
government entities. The final rule is not revised in response to these 
comments. The use of this term does not represent a change from 
existing regulations. The term ``eligible governmental entity'' is used 
in the existing definition of cooperating agencies and is defined in 
the DOI NEPA regulations (Sec.  46.225(a)). The final rule adds a 
reference to this definition in the DOI NEPA regulations to improve 
clarity and understanding of this term. The BLM believes it is 
appropriate for the planning regulations to use similar terminology as 
the DOI NEPA regulations when defining cooperating agencies. Hence the 
term ``eligible governmental entity'' is used in the final definition 
of ``cooperating agency'' in Sec.  1601.0-5 and when describing what 
entities can participate as cooperating agencies in final Sec.  1610.3-
2(b) of the final rule.
    Several comments objected to the removal of the existing 
requirement that field managers must inform the State Director of any 
denials of a request to be a cooperating agency and requested that the 
final rule retain the State Director's review. In response to these 
public comments, the final rule includes a new paragraph requiring the 
responsible official to consider a request by an eligible governmental 
entity to participate as a cooperating agency and to inform the 
deciding official of any denials. The deciding official shall determine 
if the denial is appropriate and state the reasons for any denials in 
the environmental impact statement (see Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(1)).
    Several comments requested that the planning rule clarify 
requirements for consultation with Indian tribes. Some comments 
requested the BLM identify specific offices eligible for consultation, 
such as Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. In response to these 
comments, the final rule includes a new section titled ``[c]onsultation 
with Indian tribes'' (Sec.  1610.3-1). This section states that the BLM 
shall initiate consultation with Indian tribes on a government-to-
government basis during the preparation and amendment of resource 
management plans. The final rule does not define consultation because 
that term is defined in other regulations and guidance. These other 
sources also outline the types of processes, how consultation may 
inform decision making, and what information should be exchanged in 
consultation. The methods of consultation and its content may vary by 
particular circumstances. The rule also does not list all the types of 
offices that are included under the consultation provisions because 
this level of detail is not necessary in regulations. The BLM will 
continue to consult with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers as 
required under the National Historic Preservation Act.
    Further, tribes are considered an ``eligible governmental entity'' 
under 43 CFR 46.225(a), and will be invited to participate as 
cooperating agencies in the planning process in accordance with final 
Sec.  1610.3-2(b). While a tribe may elect not to participate as a 
cooperating agency, the BLM is still required to appropriately consult 
and coordinate with tribes during the planning process in accordance 
with Sec. Sec.  1610.3-1 and 1610.3-2, respectively.
    The final rule does not affect implementation of the ``Department 
of the Interior Policy on Consultation with Alaska Native Claims 
Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporations'' (2012). The BLM will continue to 
consult with ANCSA corporations during the preparation and amendment of 
resource

[[Page 89650]]

management plans, consistent with DOI policy.
    Many comments included support for the proposed requirement of a 
memorandum of understanding (MOU), including its commitment to 
confidentiality. These comments noted that confidential review affords 
agencies the opportunity to identify and resolve conflicts without 
creating public worry or confusion. The final rule adopts these 
provisions with minor modifications (see proposed Sec.  1610.3-1(b)(1) 
and final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(2)). Some comments recommended a 
requirement to establish a separate MOU for the planning assessment. 
The final rule does not adopt this recommendation because it is not 
necessary. Final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(3) does not specify the length or 
scope of the MOU for a cooperating agency relationship and includes 
sufficient flexibility for the BLM and cooperating agencies to 
establish multiple MOUs, if necessary, or to enter into an MOU that 
includes only the planning assessment. The final rule does not address 
the status of information provided to the BLM by cooperating agencies, 
because this will be a case-by-case determination based on the MOU 
agreement and any applicable State and Federal requirements, such as 
the Freedom of Information Act.
    Some comments suggested the BLM publish a Federal Register notice 
inviting cooperating agencies to participate in the preparation of a 
resource management plan. In response to public comments, the BLM will 
publish a NOI in the Federal Register for all resource management plans 
and plan amendments as described in final Sec.  1610.2-1(f), but does 
not adopt the recommendation to publish a Federal Register notice 
inviting cooperating agencies. The NOI will include the kind and extent 
of public involvement activities to be provided, as known at the time, 
as well as contact information for a BLM employee for further 
information, including a request to participate as a cooperating 
agency. The responsible official will invite cooperating agencies as 
provided for in Sec.  1610.3-2(b) of the final rule. The BLM considers 
these two provisions to be complimentary. The BLM will collaborate with 
cooperating agencies as early as possible in the planning process. 
Section 1610.3-2(b)(3) will include the steps of the planning process 
for collaborating with cooperating agencies. The earliest step in this 
section will be the planning assessment which occurs before publication 
of the NOI.
    Some comments recommended a requirement that a cooperating agency 
MOU must be in place before the commencement of the planning 
assessment. The final rule does not adopt this recommendation. Eligible 
governmental entities have the option of entering into a MOU as 
cooperating agencies under NEPA, but are not required to do so at any 
specific point in the planning process. Creating a requirement for all 
MOUs to be in place prior to the planning assessment would limit 
eligible government entities from joining as cooperating agencies later 
in the planning process when the scope of the planning effort is more 
clearly defined. The BLM does not foresee any problems working with 
eligible governmental entities without a MOU during the planning 
assessment step since this step primarily involves information 
gathering by the BLM. The BLM will not share confidential information 
with other government entities without an MOU in place to maintain 
confidentiality.
    Many comments raised concerns that the proposed rule would limit 
local governments to ``cooperator status'' by failing to provide for 
``coordination status,'' which the comments state is required by FLPMA, 
which would place an unfair burden on such governmental entities. The 
final rule is not revised in response to these comments because 
coordination requirements are already addressed in this rule. While the 
BLM believes that cooperating agency status is a tool to achieve 
coordination, the BLM recognizes that local governments may choose not 
to participate as cooperating agencies for a variety of reasons such as 
limited resources or confidentiality concerns. An eligible government 
entity is not required to participate as a cooperating agency and under 
the final rule the BLM must still coordinate with these governmental 
entities, whether or not they choose to participate as a cooperating 
agency under NEPA. The final rule includes a number of ways for 
governmental entities, including local governments, to meaningfully 
participate in the planning process outside of cooperating agency 
status. Local governments are able to participate in the public 
involvement opportunities described in Sec.  1610.2 of the final rule. 
Additionally, final Sec.  1610.3-2(c) addresses the requirements for 
coordination with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, 
and Indian tribes, and these requirements apply independently of 
cooperating agency status. The final rule adopts proposed changes to 
more clearly distinguish the cooperating agency role from 
``coordination'' and ``consistency'' requirements under FLPMA. Each of 
these is covered by different paragraphs in final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2 
and 1610.3-3. In final Sec.  1610.3-2, paragraph (b) covers cooperating 
agencies and paragraph (c) covers coordination requirements. Final 
Sec.  1610.3-3 covers consistency requirements. By separating these 
provisions, the BLM believes that the final rule sufficiently 
identifies the distinction between these roles under FLPMA and NEPA.
    Some comments recommended the final rule make formal coordination 
mandatory during the planning assessment. It is important to note that 
coordination is already mandatory during the planning assessment. Final 
Sec.  1610.4(b)(3) requires the BLM to ``[p]rovide opportunities for 
other Federal agencies, State and local governments, Indian tribes, and 
the public to provide existing data and information or suggest other 
laws, regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, or plans.'' In 
response to public comments, the final rule includes additional 
language regarding coordination during the planning assessment, stating 
that ``[t]o the extent consistent with the laws governing the 
administration of the public lands and as appropriate, inventory data 
and information shall be gathered or assembled in coordination with the 
land use planning and management programs of other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes within which the lands 
are located'' (Sec.  1610.4(b)(1)). This language is consistent with 
FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)).
    Several comments raised concerns that individual notification 
requirements for State and local governments are insufficient as they 
only require the BLM to provide affirmative individual notification to 
those that have requested to be notified or that the BLM has reason to 
believe would be interested in the planning effort. Comments requested 
the final rule require notification of all affected State and local 
governments. The final rule is not revised in response to these 
comments. This provision does not represent a substantive change from 
existing regulations, which require the BLM to provide notice to 
governmental entities ``that have requested such notices or that the 
responsible line manager has reason to believe would be concerned with 
the plan or amendment'' (existing Sec.  1610.3-1(e)). The final rule 
clarifies this requirement slightly by replacing ``concerned with'' 
with ``interested in.'' Interest in the

[[Page 89651]]

resource management plan includes ``concern,'' but also includes a 
broader range of interest. The wording of the final rule is necessary 
to avoid providing an unreasonable ``guarantee'' that the BLM will be 
able to identify, find contact information for, and contact all 
affected governmental entities. However, the BLM will continue its 
current practices and commitment to notifying State and local 
governments and will endeavor to contact all affected governmental 
entities to the best of our ability. Additionally, the BLM believes 
that public notification requirements will provide an additional 
opportunity for government entities to become aware of resource 
management plans and plan amendments.
    In addition, the BLM will post a list on its Web site of the status 
of each resource management plan in process or scheduled to be started 
by the end of each fiscal year under Sec.  1610.2(c). Interested 
members of the public, including governmental entities, may review that 
list for information on upcoming plans in advance of the BLM beginning 
notification for public involvement, and may request to be notified of 
public involvement opportunities. Additionally, in response to public 
comment, final Sec.  1610.2-1(c) is revised such that the ``responsible 
official shall identify additional forms of notification to reach local 
communities located within the planning area, as appropriate.'' This 
provision addresses concerns about local governments that may not be 
reached by notices in the Federal Register or through online 
notifications.

Consistency With State, Tribal, and Local Government Plans

    The BLM received many comments regarding requirements under FLPMA 
for BLM resource management plans to be consistent with State and local 
government plans (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). Several comments raised 
concerns that the proposed rule departs from FLPMA's coordination and 
consistency requirements. In response to public comments, final Sec.  
1610.3-3 is revised in several ways, as described in the following 
paragraphs.
    Several comments raised concerns that the proposed rule would 
provide the BLM more discretion regarding consistency with State and 
local plans than is afforded by FLPMA. In response to comments, final 
Sec.  1610.3-3(a) is revised to state that ``resource management plans 
shall be consistent with officially approved or adopted plans of other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes to the 
maximum extent the BLM finds consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and 
other Federal law and regulations applicable to public lands, and the 
purposes, policies and programs implementing such laws and 
regulations.'' Because of its obligations under FLPMA and other Federal 
law, the BLM cannot always ensure consistency. The BLM will achieve 
consistency to the maximum extent consistent with the purposes of FLPMA 
and other Federal law and regulations applicable to public lands and 
the purposes, policies and programs implementing such laws and 
regulations. Based on public comment, the final rule removes 
``practical'' from the phrase ``practical and consistent'' in this 
paragraph. It is important to note that statements in the final rule 
that the BLM will coordinate to the extent consistent with the laws 
governing the administration of the public lands (e.g., final Sec.  
1610.4(b)(1)) do not preclude the BLM from satisfying its requirements 
for coordination and consistency under final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2 and 
1610.3-3. Similarly, the final rule's additional opportunities for 
public involvement in the planning process do not eliminate or alter 
the BLM's obligations for coordination and consistency.
    A few comments stated that proposed changes to Sec.  1610.3-2 would 
omit FLPMA consistency requirements pertaining to compliance with 
pollution control laws, ``including State and Federal air, water, 
noise, or other pollution standards or implementation plans. . . .'' 
The final rule is not revised in response to these comments because 
this language is not necessary. Resource management plans must comply 
with Federal and State pollution control laws as implemented by 
applicable Federal and State air, water, noise, and other pollution 
standards or implementation plans. It is unnecessary to identify all 
relevant laws the BLM must abide by in the regulations, as the BLM is 
required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. The final 
rule removes existing Sec.  1610.3-2(b), which references Federal and 
State pollution control laws, because the BLM believes that final Sec.  
1610.3-3(a)'s requirement that resource management plans be consistent 
with ``officially approved or adopted plans of other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes'' includes pollution 
control laws as implemented by applicable Federal and State air, water, 
noise, and other pollution standards and implementation plans. Although 
FLPMA specifically references pollution control laws (43 U.S.C. 
1712(c)(8)), the BLM believes that such laws are appropriately 
encompassed by the requirements of final Sec.  1610.3-3(a). The BLM 
does not intend a change to current policy or practice as a result of 
this change, and will continue to comply with applicable pollution 
control laws.
    Several comments objected to language providing that consistency 
requirements would only apply to the ``officially approved and adopted 
land use plans'' of other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes (see proposed Sec. Sec.  1610.0-5 and 
1610.3-2). Comments stated that this language exceeds the statutory 
requirements of FLPMA, which refers only to ``plans.'' In response to 
public comments, the final rule does not adopt the words ``land use'' 
in this phrase. The BLM acknowledges that other types of resource-
related plans, such as a State wildlife plans, are relevant to resource 
management planning conducted by the BLM and should be included during 
consistency review. The final rule also revises the definition of an 
``officially approved and adopted plan'' to specify that these are 
``resource-related'' plans instead of ``land use'' plans (Sec.  1610.0-
5).
    The term ``officially approved and adopted,'' however, is contained 
in existing regulation and is retained in the final rule. The 
definition of this term in the final rule describes it as a plan that 
is prepared and approved pursuant to and in accordance with 
authorization provided by Federal, State, and tribal, or local 
constitutions, legislation, or charters which have the force and effect 
of law (Sec.  1601.0-5). Final Sec.  1610.3-2 provides a mechanism to 
address potential inconsistencies with plans and policies that are not 
officially approved or adopted, or plans that are under development, 
but not yet approved or adopted.
    Similarly, several comments expressed concern that the proposed 
rule would inappropriately limit the BLM's consistency requirements by 
removing the requirement for BLM resource management plans to be 
consistent with the ``policies, programs, and processes'' of State and 
local governments. In response to these comments, the final rule will 
instead adopt a new objective of coordination for the BLM to ``keep 
apprised of the plans, policies and management programs of other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes'' (see 
final Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(1)). The BLM will continue to coordinate with 
other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes 
throughout the planning process, which will include consideration of 
plans, policies, and management programs.

[[Page 89652]]

However, the consistency requirements in final Sec.  1610.3-3 only 
apply to officially approved and adopted plans. This is consistent with 
FLPMA, which requires that resource management plans be consistent with 
State and local plans to the maximum extent the Secretary finds 
consistent with Federal law and the purposes of the FLPMA (see 43 
U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). It would be inappropriate to establish consistency 
requirements for ``policies and programs'' because they do not 
constitute a formal decision regarding resource management.
    Many comments expressed concern that the proposed rule would place 
the burden on State and local governments to notify BLM of 
inconsistencies. Comments expressed that it is the BLM's responsibility 
to identify inconsistencies, not that of State and local governments. 
The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. Final 
Sec.  1610.3-3(a)(2) will carry forward the existing provision that the 
BLM is not required to address the consistency requirements of this 
section if the responsible official has not been notified, in writing, 
by Federal agencies, State and local governments, or Indian tribes of 
an apparent inconsistency. This is an existing requirement, and 
therefore does not represent a change in policy. Although the BLM 
believes that the coordination and cooperation provisions of the final 
rule will help the BLM to identify apparent inconsistencies early in 
the process, and the BLM will do so to the best of its ability, we 
cannot guarantee that all apparent inconsistencies are identified and 
responded to if the BLM is not notified of inconsistencies.
    The requirements for consistency contained in final Sec.  1610.3-3, 
however, do not represent the only opportunity to identify and remedy 
inconsistencies during the planning process. The BLM believes that the 
opportunities for coordination will address the majority of 
inconsistencies prior to the publication of a proposed resource 
management plan. Coordination, as described in Sec.  1610.3-2 of the 
final rule, provides the BLM with a way to identify and address 
potential inconsistencies with other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and tribes throughout the duration of the planning 
process. Final Sec.  1610.3-2(a) states that the objectives of 
coordination include the BLM keeping apprised of the plans, policies, 
and management programs of other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes and assisting in resolving, to the 
extent practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal 
government plans. In addition, as part of information gathering during 
the planning assessment, final Sec.  1610.4(b)(2) requires the BLM to 
identify relevant national, regional, State, tribal, or local laws, 
regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, or plans for consideration 
in the planning assessment.
    The Governor's consistency review in Sec.  1610.3-3(b) provides an 
additional opportunity to meet consistency requirements by affording 
the Governor an opportunity to identify any remaining inconsistencies 
with the proposed resource management plan and work with the BLM to 
address these inconsistencies. Several comments raised concerns that 
the burden of identifying inconsistencies for all State and local plans 
would be placed solely on the Governor. Some comments requested a 
similar consistency review for other governmental entities, such as 
local governments. The final rule is not revised in response to these 
comments. The burden of identifying inconsistencies is not placed 
solely on Governors. Through coordination, the BLM will make a good 
faith effort to identify and address inconsistencies throughout the 
planning process; this is addressed under the objectives of 
coordination (Sec.  1610.3-2(a)). Coordination and the work of 
identifying inconsistencies is a shared responsibility, and the final 
rule reflects this. For example, Sec.  1610.3-3(b) of the final rule 
states that the deciding official shall submit to the Governor of the 
State(s) involved, the proposed resource management plan or plan 
amendment and shall identify any relevant known inconsistencies with 
the officially approved and adopted plans of State and local 
governments. In turn, the Governor may submit a written document within 
the 60-day consistency review period that identifies inconsistencies. 
Additionally, final Sec.  1610.3-3(b)(3) states that the responsible 
official will collaborate, to the fullest extent possible, with all 
cooperating agencies throughout the planning process. Early 
coordination as outlined in the final rule will help to identify 
potential inconsistencies early in the planning process in compliance 
with FLPMA.
    Several comments expressed that the proposed rule inappropriately 
limits the Governor's consistency review to inconsistencies between BLM 
resource management plans and State and local plans. The final rule is 
not revised in response to these comments. The Governor may raise other 
concerns and the BLM will consider these concerns and, as appropriate, 
work with the Governor to seek resolution; however, consistency 
requirements under FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9) and this final rule (see 
Sec.  1610.3-3(a)) only apply to consistency between BLM resource 
management plans and State and local plans.
    Many comments objected to the proposed removal of the requirement 
that, if the Governor appeals the BLM State Director's decision, the 
BLM Director must accept the Governor's recommendations if doing so 
provides for an appropriate balance between State and Federal interests 
(see existing Sec.  1610.3-2(e)). The final rule adopts the proposal to 
remove the existing language requiring the BLM Director to accept 
recommendations if it is determined that such recommendations ``provide 
for a reasonable balance between the national interest and the State's 
interest.'' Instead, the final rule will state that the BLM Director 
``shall consider the Governor(s)' comments and the consistency 
requirements of this section in rendering a final decision'' (Sec.  
1610.3-3(b)(4)(ii)). In response to public comments, the final rule is 
revised to include a requirement that the BLM Director consider ``the 
consistency requirements of this section,'' which includes the 
requirement that resource management plans must be consistent with 
officially approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes ``to the maximum extent the 
BLM finds consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other Federal law 
and regulations applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies 
and programs implementing such laws and regulations'' (Sec.  1610.3-
3(a)).
    The BLM believes the existing language is misleading in regards to 
BLM's obligations and does not reflect the broader range of 
considerations that must apply. When considering the Governor's 
recommendations, the Director must consider whether the recommendations 
are consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other Federal laws and 
regulations. The BLM Director must also consider whether the BLM has 
achieved consistency ``to the maximum extent,'' subject to the 
qualifications of Sec.  1610.3-3.
    Several comments asserted that proposed Sec.  1610.3-2(b) (final 
Sec.  1610.3-3(b)) improperly bypasses local governments by attempting 
to satisfy consistency requirements through Governors. Final Sec.  
1610.3-3(b) does not bypass local governments, but rather provides the 
Governor, as the highest elected representative of the State, a final 
opportunity to identify, discuss, and remedy any relevant

[[Page 89653]]

inconsistencies between State and local plans prior to the approval of 
a resource management plan. Further, the Governor's consistency review 
does not replace the BLM's requirements for coordination and 
consistency under final Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2 and 1610.3-3. The BLM 
recognizes that counties may have officially approved and adopted plans 
that are relevant to the planning process. Such plans would not be 
excluded from consistency review.
    Several comments stated that the proposed rule limits opportunities 
to coordinate with local governments early in the planning process and 
recommended that the BLM provide preliminary consistency review periods 
at the planning assessment and draft environmental impact statement 
stages. The final rule does not incorporate formal consistency reviews 
at earlier stages of the planning process, as a formal review prior to 
availability of a proposed resource management plan or plan amendment 
would be premature. Requirements for consistency will be achieved 
primarily through coordination with Federal, State, local, and tribal 
governments throughout the planning process, as outlined in final Sec.  
1610.3-2, and detailed in the preamble discussion of that section. 
Finally, the final rule increases transparency and opportunities for 
public involvement, which will provide local governments an opportunity 
to participate and raise concerns related to consistency, in addition 
to the opportunities in final Sec.  1610.3-2.

Planning Assessment

    Many comments expressed broad support for the planning assessment. 
Some comments stated that the addition of the planning assessment step, 
if based on the best available scientific information and other high-
quality information, would be a valuable tool for understanding a 
planning area's current baseline resource, environmental, ecological, 
social, and economic conditions. Several comments expressed support for 
new opportunities for public involvement, including early opportunities 
for stakeholders to provide important, relevant baseline information 
before the BLM identifies planning issues and formulates resource 
management alternatives. Other comments expressed concern or were 
unsupportive of the planning assessment, stating that it would 
represent a major policy shift from the current planning process. Some 
of these comments asserted that the planning assessment creates more 
steps and analysis for an already long and confusing process. Other 
comments asserted that the planning assessment and the many factors the 
BLM must consider when conducting it, shift focus from resources, 
multiple use, and sustained yield to ``value-based'' decision-making.
    After consideration of public comments, the final rule adopts the 
proposed planning assessment (Sec.  1610.4), with some minor 
modifications. Although the planning assessment does represent a new 
step prior to initiating the preparation of a resource management plan, 
this does not represent a major policy shift from the current planning 
process, as the planning assessment replaces the existing ``analysis of 
the management situation'' (see existing Sec.  1610.4-4) and the BLM is 
required to describe the ``affected environment'' for a resource 
management plan under CEQ NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1502.15). The BLM 
believes that new requirements under the planning assessment, such as 
opportunities for public involvement, will provide valuable information 
for the preparation of a resource management plan, and therefore are 
appropriate for inclusion in the final rule. Further, the planning 
assessment provides baseline information on resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, and economic conditions, all of which are needed to 
support management on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield. 
The planning assessment does not represent a shift to ``value-based 
decision-making'' as no decisions are contemplated or made during the 
planning assessment.
    Many comments asserted that the planning assessment phase does not 
allow for meaningful coordination opportunities which could lead to a 
lack of consistency with State and local plans. Other comments stated 
that the planning rule does not adequately address the FLPMA 
requirement for the BLM to ``coordinate the land use inventory . . . 
with the land use planning and management programs of other Federal 
departments and agencies and of the States and local governments within 
which the lands are located'' (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)). Some comments 
asserted that the planning assessment treats State and local 
governments as members of the public rather than as agencies with which 
the BLM must coordinate under FLPMA. In response to these comments, the 
final rule includes a new requirement that ``[t]o the extent consistent 
with the laws governing the administration of the public lands and as 
appropriate, inventory data and information shall be gathered or 
assembled in coordination with the land use planning and management 
programs of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and 
Indian tribes within which the lands are located'' (Sec.  
1610.4(b)(1)). This new language highlights the existing requirement 
under FLPMA to coordinate inventory, and promotes a more efficient 
planning process by ensuring that the BLM does not duplicate data 
collection efforts with other governmental entities.
    The final rule also adopts the proposed requirement that the BLM 
``[p]rovide opportunities for other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, Indian tribes, and the public to provide existing data and 
information or suggest other laws, regulations, policies, guidance, 
strategies, or plans'' (Sec.  1610.4(b)(3)). This provides an important 
step for the BLM to coordinate with State and local governments on data 
and information, as well as any State and local laws, regulations, 
policies, guidance, strategies, or plans that are germane to the 
resource management plan. This coordination also provides an important 
early step to avoid inconsistencies between the resource management 
plan and State and local ``plans, policies, and management programs'' 
(see Sec. Sec.  1610.3-2(a)(1) and (a)(2)).
    Final Sec.  1610.4(b)(3) also includes a requirement for the BLM to 
provide opportunities for the public to provide existing data and 
information or suggest other laws, regulations, policies, guidance, 
strategies, or plans. This provision does not diminish the coordination 
requirements with State and local governments; it simply adds an 
opportunity for the public to identify these items. Rather, the 
inclusion of this requirement reflects the fact that, under NEPA, the 
BLM must consider substantive comments related to data and information 
submitted during the comment period on a draft EIS. Rather than waiting 
until the draft resource management plan is developed, the 
identification of this information upfront, whether from a government 
entity or the public, during the planning assessment will provide for a 
more efficient planning process. Further, the BLM recognizes that a 
member of the public may be aware of best available scientific 
information, such as a peer-reviewed research publication, and this 
information should be brought to the BLM's attention as early as 
possible.
    A few comments noted that the planning rule does not mention 
economic or ``commodity'' resources, such as minerals, forest products, 
grazing, or other resource uses. One comment noted that valid existing 
rights are not addressed in the planning

[[Page 89654]]

assessment. Many comments opposed the absence of ``uses'' in ``the 
various goods and services that people obtain from the planning area'' 
(proposed Sec.  1610.4(c)(7)). Comments asserted that the exclusion of 
``uses'' eliminates the multiple use and ``major uses'' principles of 
FLPMA and implies an effort to avoid or minimize these uses in future 
resource management plans.
    The final rule does not eliminate the multiple use and ``major 
uses'' principles of FLPMA and does not represent an effort to avoid or 
minimize these uses in future resource management plans. In response to 
public comments, the following revisions are made to the final rule. 
Final Sec.  1610.4(d)(5) is revised to include ``areas with known 
mineral potential'' and ``areas with known potential for producing 
forest products, including timber.'' Final Sec.  1610.4(d)(7) is 
revised to clarify that the responsible official will consider and 
document ``[t]he various goods, services, and uses that people obtain 
from the planning area, such as ecological services, domestic livestock 
grazing, fish and wildlife development and utilization, mineral 
exploration and production, rights-of-way, outdoor recreation, and 
timber production.'' And finally, final Sec.  1610.4(d)(2) is revised 
to include ``known valid existing rights.''
    Many public comments objected to the provision allowing the 
deciding official to waive the planning assessment for minor amendments 
or if an existing planning assessment is determined to be adequate, for 
a variety of reasons. Some comments stated that the term ``minor 
amendments'' is vague. Other comments supported the waiver in some 
situations. In response to public comments, the final rule does not 
adopt the proposed language allowing for a ``waiver'' if an existing 
planning assessment is determined to be adequate. In the case when an 
existing assessment provides the needed information to inform the 
planning process, the responsible official will identify those parts of 
the existing assessment that are pertinent to the geographic area being 
identified and the issues to be addressed. This information, along with 
any new information, will be incorporated into the planning assessment 
for the plan amendment and made available for public review. The final 
rule retains the deciding official's discretion to waive the 
requirements of this paragraph for minor amendments, however, because 
the BLM believes there are situations for minor amendments where a 
planning assessment would not add value to the planning process and 
these situations need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
    In response to comments, this language is revised to provide that 
the responsible official may waive this requirement for ``project-
specific or other minor amendments.'' Minor amendments are intended to 
mean those that are small in scope or scale. The most common type of 
minor amendments for which the BLM prepares an EIS are project-specific 
amendments, such as a solar energy development project, in which the 
amendment only addresses a small portion of a resource management plan 
or a single plan component, but the project itself requires the 
preparation of an EIS. In these situations, a planning assessment may 
not add value to the amendment process and could unnecessarily delay 
the amendment process; the responsible official will have the 
discretion to assess whether the preparation of a planning assessment 
is necessary in these situations. Other types of ``minor amendments'' 
will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and this rule provides the 
BLM the flexibility and discretion to make such assessments.

Preparation of a Resource Management Plan

    Many of the comments on the preparation of a resource management 
plan (Sec. Sec.  1610.5 to 1610.5-5) raised concerns or expressed 
support for the provisions regarding public involvement and cooperation 
and coordination. The concerns raised in these comments are summarized 
in previous paragraphs.
    Several comments suggested that the BLM make the preliminary 
statement of purpose and need available for public comment. The final 
rule is not revised in response to these comments. The final rule 
adopts the proposed requirement to make the preliminary statement of 
purpose and need available for public review (Sec.  1610.5-1(a)). The 
public may provide input on the statement and the BLM will consider 
this input when developing a draft statement of purpose and need.
    Several comments stated that the BLM should accept citizen-proposed 
alternatives. One comment raised concerns that the BLM would develop 
the preliminary alternatives before the public had an opportunity to 
suggest alternatives. The final rule does not adopt a specific 
provision to solicit citizen-proposed alternatives. The final rule does 
not change the BLM's requirement under the CEQ NEPA regulations to 
analyze a range of alternatives (40 CFR 1502.14). If a citizen-
submitted alternative meets the criteria in Sec.  1610.5-2(a)(1), then 
it could be considered as an alternative or a sub-alternative, or 
incorporated into an existing alternative. Although the final rule does 
not have a specific step to solicit citizen-proposed alternatives, the 
public involvement opportunities early in the planning process, 
including as part of the planning assessment, the preliminary statement 
of purpose and need, identification of the planning issues, and 
development of preliminary alternatives, will provide the public 
opportunities to provide input on the range of alternatives they 
believe should be considered. The public will also have an opportunity 
to review the preliminary range of alternatives and inform the BLM if 
they believe a reasonable alternative is not being considered.
    Several comments expressed support for the preliminary 
alternatives, as this step creates greater transparency. Some public 
comments requested that the BLM provide notices and disclose changes 
made to the preliminary alternatives, the preliminary rationale for 
alternatives, and the basis for analysis. In response to public 
comment, the final rule includes a requirement that a description of 
changes made to the preliminary alternatives, preliminary rationale for 
alternatives, and the basis for analysis shall be made available to the 
public in the draft resource management plan (see Sec.  1610.5-4). This 
description is not intended to identify each and every change made to 
these preliminary documents; rather it will summarize how the public 
involvement activities or other new information informed the 
development of the draft resource management plan.
    Several comments expressed concern with the BLM's ability to 
identify multiple preferred alternatives, stating that this is a 
departure from longstanding practice, and that it would create 
confusion or uncertainty, and would make public review more cumbersome. 
The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. The final 
rule language to acknowledge ``one or more'' preferred alternatives is 
adopted to make the planning regulations more consistent with the DOI 
NEPA regulations (43 CFR 46.425(a)). The BLM anticipates that selecting 
more than one preferred alternatives will not be the norm for resource 
management planning, and the BLM will have the discretion to extend 
public comment periods on a case-by-case basis if it is determined that 
the extension will benefit the resource management planning process.

[[Page 89655]]

Resource Management Plan Approval, Implementation and Modification

    The BLM received comments in support of, and opposed to the 
proposed revision to allow the BLM to accept protests electronically. A 
few comments supported the proposal to make protests and responses 
available to the public and suggested that the BLM promptly post all 
protests and related responses, whether requested or not, on its Web 
site for public access. While the BLM expects to post protests to its 
Web site, the final rule is not revised to require the BLM to post all 
protests. Such a requirement would not be practical to implement if the 
BLM were to receive a substantial number of hard-copy protest 
submissions. The final rule instead provides the BLM flexibility to 
determine the best timing and methods to share protest information.
    A few comments requested revisions to proposed Sec.  1610.6-2(a)(4) 
to allow the BLM to withhold certain private and confidential 
information submitted in a protest that is, or could be, exempt from 
disclosure under other laws or regulations. In response to these 
comments, the final rule is revised to include language stating that 
the BLM Director will withhold any protected information that is exempt 
from disclosure under applicable laws or regulations.
    A few comments requested that the BLM expand the eligibility 
requirements for protest submissions by accepting protests from members 
of the public who may not have participated previously in the planning 
process due to the fact that several years may pass between the release 
of a draft resource management plan and the proposed resource 
management plan. Several other comments expressed concern that the 
requirement that a protest identify the associated issue or issues 
raised during the preparation of the resource management plan or plan 
amendment would preclude protests on issues that were not disclosed to 
the public until the publication of the proposed resource management 
plan. The BLM recognizes that changes may occur between the release of 
the draft resource management plan and the proposed resource management 
plan. However, the final rule is not revised to accept this 
recommendation, as the current standing requirement is written to 
ensure that individuals do not use the protest process to raise issues 
that could have been raised during previous public involvement 
opportunities, and to recognize that the protest period is not a public 
comment period. However, in recognition of the potential for changes 
between the draft and proposed resource management plan, final Sec.  
1610.6-2(a) is revised to include new language stating that a protest 
may raise only those issues which were submitted for the record during 
the preparation of the resource management plan or plan amendment 
``unless the protest concerns an issue that arose after the close of 
the opportunity for public comment on the draft resource management 
plan.'' This change in the final rule is made throughout the 
subparagraphs of Sec.  1610.6-2(a) and clarifies that if an issue 
arises after the close of the formal public comment period on a draft 
resource management plan, the public may submit a protest regarding 
that issue. This exclusion only applies to issues that did not exist 
when the draft resource management plan was available for public 
comment, and therefore the public could not comment on the issue.
    Many comments asserted that the proposed rule limited the ability 
to protest by imposing tedious formatting requirements and narrowing 
protest criteria to ``component(s) believed to be inconsistent with 
Federal laws or regulations applicable to public lands, or the 
purposes, policies, and programs of such laws and regulations.'' The 
final rule is not revised in response to these comments. Protest 
criteria identified in final Sec.  1610.6-2(a)(3)(iii) are consistent 
with other adopted changes in the final rule, such as the adoption of 
planning components in Sec.  1610.1-2, and focus protests on potential 
inconsistencies with Federal laws or regulations or the purposes, 
policies, and programs implementing such laws and regulations. The 
protest period is not intended as a second public comment period; 
rather, it is intended to remedy inconsistencies with Federal laws and 
regulations prior to the approval of the resource management plan or 
plan amendment. The BLM does not believe that the required information 
represents a barrier to protest, rather, it ensures that the BLM has 
adequate information to make a decision on protests.
    One comment stated that the explicit authority of the Director to 
approve portions of a resource management plan not subject to a protest 
during protest resolution should be made more clear in the final 
planning rule. In response to this comment, the final rule adopts a 
statement at Sec.  1610.6-2(b), stating ``[a]pproval will be withheld 
on any portion of a resource management plan or plan amendment until 
final action has been completed on such protest.'' Many comments stated 
that the final rule should require the Director to briefly explain why 
a protest does not meet the requirements of Sec.  1610.6-2. In response 
to this comment, final Sec.  1610.6-2(c) has been modified to state 
that the Director shall notify the protesting parties of a dismissal 
and provide reasons for the dismissal.
    A few comments requested that the protest period be extended from 
30 days to 60 days. The final rule is not revised based on this 
request. The 30-day protest period is an existing requirement, and does 
not represent a change in practice or policy.
    Several comments included requests that the BLM adopt language in 
Sec.  1610.6-4 requiring the BLM to adopt an adaptive management 
structure. The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. 
As explained in the preamble discussion of Sec.  1610.1-3, the 
measurable objectives and use of monitoring and evaluation will guide 
adaptive management strategies to help manage for uncertainty. However, 
the specific application of adaptive management principles depends on 
the unique circumstances of each planning effort, and it is not 
appropriate to prescribe how those principles will be applied in the 
final rule.
    Several comments suggested that Sec.  1610.6-4 include a review of 
the objectives as part of monitoring and evaluation. The final rule is 
revised to state that monitoring and evaluation is used to determine 
whether the resource management plan objectives are being met; and 
whether there is relevant new information or other sufficient cause to 
warrant consideration of amendment or revision of the resource 
management plan.
    Several public comments suggested that the BLM should have the 
discretion to rely on other agencies' resource assessments. In response 
to public comment, the final rule includes a new Sec.  1610.6-8(c), 
which provides that another agency's resource assessment may be relied 
on if it is consistent with the nature, scope, and scale of the issues 
of concern relevant to the planning area and has considered the 
resource, environmental, ecological, social, and economic conditions in 
a way comparable to the manner in which these conditions would have 
been considered in a planning assessment, including the opportunity for 
public involvement, and is consistent with Federal laws and regulations 
applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies, and programs 
implementing such laws and regulations. For example, the BLM could rely 
on an assessment developed by the United States Forest Service during 
the development of a land management plan, should it meet these 
requirements.

[[Page 89656]]

Designation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs)

    Several comments objected to the proposed removal of the 
requirement to publish a Federal Register notice and 60-day public 
comment period for proposed ACECs. In response to public comment, the 
final rule is revised to require that when a draft resource management 
plan or plan amendment involves possible designation of one or more 
potential ACECs, the BLM shall publish a notice in the Federal Register 
and request written comments on the designations under consideration. 
The final rule further provides that this step may be integrated with 
the notice and comment period for the draft resource management plan or 
plan amendment (see Sec. Sec.  1610.2-2(d) and 1610.8-2(b)(1)). This 
comment period will be at least 30 days long, in accordance with Sec.  
1610.2-2(a) of the final rule, and will be longer when it is integrated 
with the comment period for draft EIS-level amendments (at least 60 
days) and draft resource management plans (at least 100 days). Either 
resource management plans or plan amendments can consider potential 
ACECs for designation consistent with the priority established by FLPMA 
(43 U.S.C. 1712-(c)(3)). After careful consideration, BLM believes that 
a 30-day comment period will generally be adequate for EA-level plan 
amendments that include ACECs, such as revising the boundary of an 
existing ACEC after the acquisition of an adjoining parcel; however, 
BLM may extend the comment period if warranted.
    Some comments expressed concern that language in the proposed rule 
would not allow identification of potential ACECs later in the process 
as new resources are identified, or in between planning process. Other 
comments objected to identifying potential ACECs during the planning 
assessment, or outside of the preparation of a resource management 
plan. The final rule is not revised in response to these comments. The 
final rule retains the requirement to identify potential ACECs through 
inventory of public lands and during the planning process (see Sec.  
1610.8-2(a)). The identification of potential ACECs is an inventory 
process required under FLPMA which states that an inventory of all 
public lands and their resources and other values, shall be prepared 
and maintained on a continuing basis, giving priority to ACECs (43 
U.S.C. 1711(a)). The final rule establishes procedures for inventory of 
the public lands during the planning assessment at Sec. Sec.  
1610.4(b)(1) and 1610.4(d)(5)(vii), therefore it is appropriate that an 
inventory of potential ACECs occur during the planning assessment. 
Inventory and assessment can be conducted at any point in time, 
however, and not just at times associated with a plan amendment or 
resource management plan. Potential ACECs may be identified after the 
planning assessment is completed, such as during public scoping, and 
the BLM will consider these potential ACECs for designation in the 
draft resource management plan. It is important to note that the 
identification of a potential ACEC does not constitute formal 
designation of an ACEC. Designation of an ACEC occurs through the 
approval of a resource management plan, consistent with existing 
regulation (see final Sec.  1610.8-2(b)(1)). Under the final rule, an 
ACEC is not designated during the planning assessment.
    Some commenters expressed that ACECs are inappropriately given 
special treatment in the rule. The final rule is not revised in 
response to these comments. FLPMA provides that the BLM shall give 
priority to the inventory, designation, and protection of ACECs (43 
U.S.C. 1711(a) and 1712(c)(3)). The procedures described in final Sec.  
1610.8-2 are similar to the existing rule, but are modified slightly 
for clarification, to promote efficiency, and to better align with 
FLPMA. The final rule at Sec.  1610.8-2 provides the process for the 
identification, designation and protection of ACECs through the 
planning process, consistent with the priority established in FLPMA.
    Several comments objected to the proposed removal of language 
stating that an ACEC generally contains values that are of ``more than 
local significance'' (existing Sec.  1610.7-2(a)(2)). Other comments 
expressed support for this proposed change. In response to public 
comments, the final rule removes this existing language. The BLM 
believes that this existing language is not appropriate in the 
regulations because it does not accurately describe the existing 
criteria for importance that an area ``must have substantial 
significance and values.'' There are many examples where an area of 
local significance would meet the importance criteria for substantial 
significance and values, including a cultural site of substantial 
significance to local tribes; a wetland that provides critical water 
filtration services to a local community; or key habitat for an endemic 
wildlife species. The removal of this language does not represent a 
substantive change in these regulations, as this language does not 
represent a requirement under the existing regulations; rather it 
provided an example of what generally meets the ``importance'' 
criteria.
    A few comments suggested that the last sentence in proposed Sec.  
1610.8-2(b) should be deleted, or the word potential removed, as this 
sentences suggests that the existence of a potential ACEC requires the 
BLM to provide special management to the area. Comments noted that 
FLPMA defines ACECs ``as areas within the public lands where special 
management is required . . .'' but contains no language regarding 
``potential'' ACECs or their management. In response to these comments, 
the word ``potential'' is removed from the last sentence of Sec.  
1610.8-2(b) to clarify that only designated ACECs (not ``potential'' 
ACECs) require special management attention.
    Several comments stated that the final rule should include language 
to give priority to ACECs in the final rule. Comments noted that FLPMA 
directs BLM to give priority to ACECs, and this priority is a unique 
directive in multiple use land management law which requires the BLM to 
do more than simply ``consider'' potential ACECs. In response to public 
comment, the final rule is revised at Sec.  1610.8-2(b) to state that 
potential ACECs shall be considered for designation during the 
preparation or amendment of a resource management plan ``consistent 
with the priority established by FLPMA.'' The BLM must comply with 
FLPMA, regardless of these regulations; therefore, a restatement of 
FLPMA is not necessary in the regulations. The BLM, however, recognizes 
the value in restating statutory direction in the planning regulations 
to provide context on the relationship between the regulations and 
overarching statutory direction. This does not represent a substantive 
change in BLM policy; rather, it provides context that the BLM must 
consider ACECs for designation consistent with the statutory direction 
provided in FLPMA.
    Some comments asserted that revisions to the ACEC provisions 
attempt to change the process and intent of FLPMA under the guise of 
trying to make it more readable. Comments stated that the final rule 
needs to ensure the use of the ACEC designation is in accordance with 
FLPMA and the intent of Congress. The final rule is not revised in 
response to these comments. The final rule does not significantly 
change the process for designating ACECs or the intent of ACECs from 
the existing regulations. Where changes are made to the existing 
regulations, the changes are disclosed and a rationale provided in the 
discussion of Sec.  1610.8-2 in this

[[Page 89657]]

preamble. The definition of an ACEC and the process for designating 
ACECs, as described in the final rule, are consistent with FLPMA.
    Several comments requested that the BLM ensure that ACECs are not 
managed as a substitute for wilderness, or used as a substitute for 
wilderness suitability recommendations. Comments noted that BLM Manual 
1613 (1988) states that ``an ACEC designation will not be used as a 
substitute for wilderness suitability recommendations.'' The final rule 
is not revised in response to these comments. ACECs will be identified, 
designated, and managed in accordance with FLPMA and applicable policy, 
including this final rule. Such areas may not be used as a substitute 
for wilderness areas or wilderness suitability recommendations.

Climate Change

    Several comments suggested that the planning rule should require 
each resource management plan and plan amendment to analyze climate 
change and provide for climate adaptation. The final rule is not 
revised in response to these comments to prescribe specific 
requirements related to climate change. The BLM's planning rule 
addresses the impacts of BLM decisions on climate change through the 
NEPA process. Section 1610.5-3(b) of the final rule provides that the 
estimation of effects for resource management plans shall be ``guided 
by the basis for analysis, the planning assessment, and procedures 
implementing the National Environmental Policy Act.'' This analysis 
includes implementation of current policy on climate change analysis 
under NEPA, as appropriate. It is not necessary to provide duplicative 
regulatory guidance in the planning rule.
    It is also important to note that the planning regulations 
establish the procedural framework for preparing and amending resource 
management plans, but they do not prescribe specific management 
outcomes. The BLM, through the land use planning process, will develop 
plan components to address desired management outcomes within the 
planning area. The BLM will consider relevant resource management 
concerns, such as climate change and the need for climate change 
adaptation, when assessing the baseline condition, trend, and potential 
future condition and when identifying the planning issues for any given 
resource management plan (see Sec.  1610.5-1). The planning issues will 
be informed by, among other things, the planning assessment, and will 
in turn inform the development of the plan components. Final Sec.  
1610.4(b)(2) requires that, as part of the planning assessment, the BLM 
``identify relevant national, regional, State, tribal, or local laws, 
regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, or plans for consideration 
in the planning assessment.'' We believe that this is the appropriate 
place to consider relevant policies such as Federal or Departmental 
climate change policies.

Goals of Planning 2.0

    The BLM received comments both in support of, and opposed to, the 
goals of Planning 2.0. The BLM also received comments stating both that 
the revisions to the existing rule did not support the Planning 2.0 
goals, and comments stating that the revisions did support those goals.
    The BLM has retained the goals of Planning 2.0 in the final rule, 
with minor edits. The BLM believes these goals respond to the 
increasing challenges that the BLM faces in managing for multiple-use 
and sustained yield on public lands, and to recent Executive and 
Secretarial direction. For more information, please see the Background 
discussion to this preamble.

Length of Public Comment Period for the Proposed Planning Rule

    The BLM initially provided a 60-day public comment period on the 
proposed planning rule and made the rule available to the public two-
weeks prior to the formal start of the comment period. Many comments 
requested that the BLM extend the comment period for up to 240 days. In 
response, the BLM granted a 30-day extension of the public comment 
period. Additional comments requested that the BLM further extend the 
comment period for up to 270 days. The BLM did not further extend the 
comment period. ``Executive Order 13563--Improving Regulation and 
Regulatory Review,'' published on January 21, 2011, directs Federal 
agencies to ``afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment 
through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period 
that should generally be at least 60 days'' and the BLM has provided 
such opportunity. Several comments also requested that the BLM hold 
public hearings across the western United States. The BLM held webinars 
on March 21, 2016, and April 13, 2016, as well as a public meeting 
broadcast live over the Internet on March 25, 2016. Recordings of all 
webinars and meetings were posted to the BLM Web site and the public 
was provided an email address to submit any additional questions. The 
BLM did not hold public hearings on the proposed rule across the 
western United States because the BLM provided opportunities for remote 
public participation in webinars and meetings over the Internet and 
through email.

Level of NEPA Analysis for the Planning Rule

    The BLM made a preliminary categorical exclusion available 
concurrent with publication of the proposed rule. The BLM received 
multiple comments stating that it is violating NEPA by relying on a 
categorical exclusion for NEPA compliance. Specifically, comments 
argued that the revisions to the planning rule had potentially 
significant impacts, and should have been analyzed through an 
Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. Comments 
stated that the following extraordinary circumstances were present, 
making a categorical exclusion inappropriate:
     Significant impacts to public health and safety;
     Significant impacts on natural resources and unique 
geographic characteristics;
     Highly controversial environmental effects or unresolved 
conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources;
     Highly uncertain and potentially significant environmental 
effects or involving unique or unknown environmental risks;
     Establishes a precedent for future action or represents a 
decision in principle for future actions; and
     Cumulatively significant impacts.
    The BLM believes that the categorical exclusion is the proper form 
of NEPA compliance for this action under 43 CFR 46.210(i). The existing 
and final rules are entirely procedural in character. The actual 
planning decisions reached through the planning process are themselves 
subject to compliance with NEPA's analytical requirements as well as 
the statute's public involvement elements. Any decisions that might be 
reached through the planning process, as proposed for revision through 
this rulemaking, would be subject to compliance with NEPA. For this 
reason, the BLM's reliance upon this categorical exclusion is 
appropriate.
    The BLM has revised the categorical exclusion documentation based 
on public comments. However, none of the comments raised information 
indicating the presence of one or more of the extraordinary 
circumstances listed in 43 CFR 46.215.

[[Page 89658]]

Procedural Matters

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
will review all significant rules. The Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs has determined that this final rule is not 
significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 
12866 while calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system 
to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, 
most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory 
ends. The Executive Order directs agencies to consider regulatory 
approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of 
choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, 
and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 
emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available 
science and that the rulemaking process must allow for public 
participation and an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this 
final rule in a manner consistent with these requirements.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    This final rule does not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). The Small Business Administration (SBA) has 
developed size standards to carry out the purposes of the Small 
Business Act, which can be found in 13 CFR 121.201. For a specific 
industry identified by the North American Industry Classification 
System (NAICS), small entities are defined by the SBA as an individual, 
limited partnership, or small company considered at ``arm's length'' 
from the control of any parent company, which meet certain size 
standards. The size standards are expressed either in number of 
employees or annual receipts. The final rule could affect any entity 
that elects to participate in the BLM's planning process. The 
industries most likely to be directly affected are listed in the table 
below along with the relevant SBA size standards. Other industries, 
such as transportation or manufacturing, may be indirectly affected and 
are not listed below.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Size standards  Size standards
                Industry                  in millions of   in number of
                                              dollars        employees
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Beef Cattle Ranching and Farming........            0.75  ..............
Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest            11.0  ..............
 Products...............................
Logging.................................  ..............             500
Oil and Gas Extraction..................  ..............             500
Mining (except Oil and Gas).............  ..............             500
Drilling Oil and Gas Wells..............  ..............             500
Support Activities for Oil and Gas                  38.5  ..............
 Operations.............................
Support Activities for Coal Mining......            20.5  ..............
Support Activities for Metal Mining.....            20.5  ..............
Support Activities for Nonmetallic                   7.5  ..............
 Minerals (except Fuels)................
Hydroelectric Power Generation..........  ..............             500
Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation...  ..............             750
Solar, Wind, Geothermal Power Generation  ..............             250
Electric Bulk Power Transmission and      ..............             500
 Control................................
Electric Power Distribution.............  ..............           1,000
Natural Gas Distribution................  ..............             500
Environmental Consulting Services.......            15.0  ..............
Other Amusement and Recreation                       7.5  ..............
 Industries.............................
Environment, Conservation and Wildlife              15.0  ..............
 Organizations..........................
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These industries may include a large, though unquantifiable, number 
of small entities. In addition to determining whether a substantial 
number of small entities are likely to be affected by this rule, the 
BLM must also determine whether the rule is anticipated to have a 
significant economic impact on those small entities. The final rule is 
largely administrative in nature and only affects internal BLM 
procedures. The direct impacts on the public are increased 
opportunities for voluntary public involvement. The magnitude of the 
impact on any individual or group, including small entities, is 
expected to be negligible. The actual impacts cannot reasonably be 
predicted at this stage, as they will depend on the specific context of 
each planning effort. However, there is no reason to expect that these 
changes, when implemented across all future planning efforts, place 
undue burden on any specific individual or group, including small 
entities.
    Based on the available information, we conclude that the final rule 
does not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. Therefore, a final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is 
not required, and a Small Entity Compliance Guide is not required. The 
BLM prepared an economic and threshold analysis as part of the record, 
which is available for review.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule is 
administrative in nature and affects the BLM's resource management 
planning process and procedures.
    This rule does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 
million or more. The final rule revises existing procedures and 
requirements. Although the final rule allows the public to submit 
protests electronically, which was not possible under the existing 
regulations, it would be speculative to estimate how many protests the 
BLM will receive as a result of this final rule.
    This rule does not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government 
agencies, or geographic regions. There are no impacts to any prices as 
a result of this final rule.
    This rule does not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. This 
rule is

[[Page 89659]]

administrative in nature and only impacts the BLM's resource management 
planning process and procedures. The BLM prepared an economic and 
threshold analysis as part of the record, which is available for 
review.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    This rule does not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or 
tribal governments, or the private sector of more than $100 million per 
year. This rule does not have a significant or unique effect on State, 
local, or tribal governments, or the private sector. This rule is 
administrative in nature and only impacts the BLM's land use planning 
process and procedures. A statement containing the information required 
by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) is not 
required.

Takings (Executive Order 12630)

    This rule does not effect a taking of private property or otherwise 
have takings implications under Executive Order 12630. This rule is 
administrative in nature and only impacts internal BLM procedures. A 
takings implication assessment is not required.

Federalism (Executive Order 13132)

    Under the criteria in section 1 of Executive Order 13132, this rule 
does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the 
preparation of a federalism summary impact statement. A federalism 
summary impact statement is not required.
    A Federalism assessment is not required because the rule does not 
have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship 
between the national government and the States, or on the distribution 
of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.
    The only provisions that could possibly have a direct effect on 
States are the Governor's consistency review and the increased public 
involvement opportunities, but these provisions will only have minimal 
impacts, if any. In the Governor's consistency review, the final rule 
does not significantly impact Governors or change the existing 
requirements of this section. This section is revised only to clarify 
an existing process that has caused some confusion. The only change 
from existing requirements is final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(1)(ii), which 
allows the Governor to waive or reduce the 60-day period during which 
the Governor may identify inconsistencies. This could provide a benefit 
to the Governor in some situations where the timely approval of a plan 
or amendment is necessary. Please see the discussion on the Governor's 
consistency review at the preamble for final Sec.  1610.3-2(b)(1)(ii).
    The final rule adds more opportunities for public involvement, 
including through the planning assessment (see Sec.  1610.4) and the 
public review of the preliminary alternatives (see Sec.  1610.5-2), 
which may result in more engagement with State and local governments. 
Neither of these instances have a significant adverse effect on State 
governments.

Civil Justice Reform (Executive Order 12988)

    This rule complies with the requirements of Executive Order 12988. 
Specifically this rule: (a) Meets the criteria of section 3(a) 
requiring that all regulations be reviewed to eliminate errors and 
ambiguity and be written to minimize litigation; and (b) meets the 
criteria of section 3(b)(2) requiring that all regulations be written 
in clear language and contain clear legal standards.

Consultation With Indian Tribes (Executive Order 13175 and Departmental 
Policy)

    This rule complies with the requirements of Executive Order 13175 
and Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3317. Specifically, in 
conjunction with preparation of this final rule, the BLM initiated 
government-to-government consultation with federally-recognized Indian 
tribes with which the Bureau normally consults regarding land use 
planning. Each BLM State Office sent a letter notifying Indian tribes 
located within the jurisdictional boundary of the BLM State Office and 
with which the BLM State Office normally consults on proposed rules 
requesting government-to-government consultation. Additionally, each 
BLM State Office sent a follow-up notification and request for 
consultation; the format for follow-up requests varied across BLM State 
Offices. Formats included phone calls, letters, or in-person 
conversations at previously scheduled meetings.
    To facilitate understanding of the proposed rule, the BLM held a 
webinar for interested Indian tribes on May 4, 2016. The webinar 
provided an overview of the proposed changes, discussion on topics of 
interest to tribal participants, and an opportunity for questions. In 
addition, in person meetings were held with all tribes that accepted 
the BLM's request for government-to-government consultation and 
requested a meeting with the BLM.

Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

Overview
    The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) (44 U.S.C. 3501-3521) provides 
that an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required 
to respond to, a collection of information, unless it displays a 
currently valid OMB control number. Collections of information include 
requests and requirements that an individual, partnership, or 
corporation obtain information, and report it to a Federal agency. See 
44 U.S.C. 3502(3); 5 CFR 1320.3(c) and (k).
    This final rule contains information collection activities that 
require approval by OMB under the PRA.
    The BLM included an information collection request in the proposed 
rule. OMB has approved the information collection for the final rule 
under control number 1004-0212.
Summary of Information Collection Activities
     Title: Resource Management Planning (43 CFR part 1600).
     Forms: None.
     OMB Control Number: 1004-0212.
     Description of Respondents: Participants in the BLM land 
use planning process (including Governors of States; individuals; 
households; businesses; associations; and State, local, and tribal 
governments).
     Respondents' Obligation: Required to obtain or retain a 
benefit.
     Abstract: This BLM final rule revises existing regulations 
on procedures used to prepare, revise, or amend land use plans in 
accordance with FLPMA. This information collection request includes 
activities that have been ongoing without a control number.
     Frequency of Collection: On occasion.
     Estimated Number of Responses Annually: 131.
     Estimated Annual Burden Hours: 1,965 hours.
     Estimated Total Non-Hour Cost: None.

Discussion of Information Collection Activities

Consistency (43 CFR 1610.3-3(b))
    Section 202(c)(9) of FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)) requires that the 
Secretary of the Interior ``assist in resolving, to the extent 
practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal Government 
plans.'' This responsibility is delegated to the BLM Director and 
accomplished, in part, through the ``Governor's Consistency Review''

[[Page 89660]]

process described in final Sec.  1610.3-3(b). This information 
collection activity is necessary for this process and for compliance 
with section 202(c)(9) of FLPMA.
    Final Sec.  1610.3-3(b) provides an opportunity for Governors of 
affected States to identify possible inconsistencies between officially 
approved and adopted land use plans of State and local governments and 
proposed resource management plans (RMPs) or proposed amendments to 
RMPs and management framework plans (MFPs). Following receipt of a 
proposed resource management plan or plan amendment from the BLM, 
Governors will have a period of 60 days to submit to the deciding 
official a written document that:
     Identifies any inconsistencies with officially approved 
and adopted land use plans of State and local governments; and
     Recommends remedies for the identified inconsistencies.
    The final rule provides that the BLM deciding official will notify 
the Governor in writing of his or her decision regarding these 
recommendations and the reasons for this decision. Within 30 days of 
this decision, the Governor will be authorized to appeal this decision 
to the BLM Director. The BLM Director will consider the Governor(s)' 
comments in rendering a final decision.
Protests (43 CFR 1610.6-2)
    Section 202(f) of FLPMA requires that the Secretary of the Interior 
``allow an opportunity for public involvement and by regulation . . . 
establish procedures . . . to give Federal, State, and local 
governments and the public, adequate notice and opportunity to comment 
upon and participate in the formulation of plans and programs relating 
to the management of public lands.'' The protest process described in 
final Sec.  1610.6-2 authorizes protests of proposed land use plans and 
plan amendments before such plans or plan amendments are approved. The 
collection of information assists the BLM in complying with section 
202(f) of FLPMA. Final Sec.  1610.6-2 provides an opportunity for any 
person who participated in the preparation of the resource management 
plan or plan amendment to protest the approval of proposed RMPs and 
proposed amendments to RMPs and MFPs to the Director of the BLM. The 
following information is required for submission of a valid protest:
    1. The protestor's name, mailing, address, telephone number, and 
email address (if available). The BLM needs this information in order 
to contact the protestor.
    2. The protestor's interest that may be adversely affected by the 
planning process. This information helps the BLM understand whether or 
not the protestor is eligible to submit a protest.
    3. How the protestor participated in the preparation of the 
resource management plan or plan amendment. This information helps the 
BLM determine whether or not the protestor is eligible to submit a 
protest.
    4. The plan component or components believed to be inconsistent 
with Federal laws or regulations applicable to public lands, or the 
purposes, policies and programs of such laws and regulations. This 
information is necessary because the approval of a resource management 
plan is the final decision for the Department of the Interior. Plan 
components represent planning-level management direction with which all 
future decisions within a planning area must be consistent, thus it is 
important for the BLM to know if a plan component is believed to be 
inconsistent with Federal laws or regulations applicable to public 
lands, or the purposes, policies and programs of such laws and 
regulations.
    5. A concise explanation of why the plan component is believed to 
be inconsistent with Federal laws or regulations applicable to public 
lands, or the purposes, policies and programs of such laws and 
regulations and of the associated issue or issues that were raised 
during the preparation of the resource management plan or plan 
amendment. This information is essential to the BLM's understanding of 
the protest and decision to grant or dismiss the protest.
    6. Copies of all documents addressing the issue or issues that were 
submitted during the planning process by the protesting party or an 
indication of the date the issue or issues were discussed for the 
record. This information helps the BLM to understand the protest and to 
reach a decision.
    The BLM Director is required to render a decision on the protest 
before approval of any portion of the resource management plan or plan 
amendment being protested. The Director's decision is the final 
decision of the Department of the Interior.

Estimated Hour Burdens

    The BLM estimates 131 responses and 1,965 hours annually. The 
estimated hour burdens are itemized in the following table. Included in 
the burden estimates are the time for reviewing instructions, searching 
existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and 
completing and reviewing each component of the information collection 
requirements.

                                        Estimates of Annual Hour Burdens
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                    Total hours
                        Type of response                             Number of       Hours per      (column B x
                                                                     responses       response        column C)
A.                                                                            B.              C.              D.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Governor's Consistency Review Requirements 43 CFR 1610.3-3(b)...              27              15             405
Protest Procedures/Governments 43 CFR 1610.6-2..................              16              15             240
Protest Procedures/Individuals and Households 43 CFR 1610.6-2...              32              15             480
Protest Procedures/Businesses and Associations 43 CFR 1610.6-)..              56              15             840
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Totals......................................................             131  ..............           1,965
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In response to the proposed rule (81 FR 9674, February 25, 2016), 
BLM did not receive any public comments that addressed information 
collection activities for this rulemaking.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The final rule does not constitute a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, and the 
BLM has prepared documentation to this effect, explaining that a 
detailed statement under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(NEPA) is not required because the rule is categorically excluded from

[[Page 89661]]

NEPA review. This rule is excluded from the requirement to prepare a 
detailed statement because it is entirely procedural in nature. (For 
further information see 43 CFR 46.210(i)). We have also determined that 
the rule does not involve any of the extraordinary circumstances listed 
in 43 CFR 46.215 that requires further analysis under NEPA.
    Documentation of the reliance upon a categorical exclusion has been 
prepared and is available for public review with the other supporting 
documents for this final rule.

National Historic Preservation Act

    While the promulgation of the rule is an undertaking under the 
National Historic Preservation Act, 54 U.S.C. 306108, the BLM has 
determined that the rulemaking is not the type of activity that has the 
potential to cause effects on historic properties under 36 CFR 
800.3(a)(1). This is because the final rule is entirely procedural. 
This final rule does not set goals, standards, or methods for how the 
public land is to be managed. Rather, it describes the process by which 
the BLM develops these for individual land use planning areas. This 
final rule does not approve any land use plans or plan amendments and 
does not authorize any particular projects or other actions that could 
cause effects on historic properties.

Endangered Species Act

    The BLM has determined a no effect determination is appropriate 
under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The final rule is 
entirely procedural in nature, and it would have no effect on listed 
species or designated critical habitat because it does not approve any 
land use plans or plan amendments or authorize any particular projects 
or other actions that could have such effects.

Effects on the Energy Supply (Executive Order 13211)

    This rule is not a significant energy action under the definition 
of Executive Order 13211. This rule is administrative in nature and 
affects the BLM's internal procedures. There are no impacts on the 
development of energy on public lands. A statement of Energy Effects is 
not required.

Authors

    The principal author of this rule is Shasta Ferranto, Division of 
Decision Support, Planning and NEPA, BLM Washington Office; assisted by 
Charles Yudson, Jean Sonneman and Ian Senio, Office of Regulatory 
Affairs, BLM Washington Office; Elizabeth Meyer Shields, Leah Baker, 
and Rebecca Moore, Division of Decision Support, Planning and NEPA, BLM 
Washington Office; Kathryn Kovacs, BLM Washington Office; and Nicollee 
Gaddis, BLM Las Vegas Field Office.

List of Subjects in 43 CFR Part 1600

    Administrative practice and procedure, Coal, Environmental impact 
statements, Environmental protection, Intergovernmental relations, 
Public lands, State and local governments.

    Dated: November 22, 2016.
Janice M. Schneider,
Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management.

43 CFR Chapter II

0
For the reasons set out in the preamble, the Bureau of Land Management 
amends 43 CFR by revising part 1600 to read as follows:

PART 1600--PLANNING, PROGRAMMING, BUDGETING

Subpart 1601--Planning
Sec.
1601.0-1 Purpose.
1601.0-2 Objective.
1601.0-3 Authority.
1601.0-4 Responsibilities.
1601.0-5 Definitions.
1601.0-6 Environmental impact statement policy.
1601.0-7 Scope.
1601.0-8 Principles.
Subpart 1610--Resource Management Planning
Sec.
1610.1 Resource management planning framework.
1610.1-1 Guidance and general requirements.
1610.1-2 Plan components.
1610.2 Public involvement.
1610.2-1 Public notice.
1610.2-2 Public comment periods.
1610.2-3 Availability of the resource management plan.
1610.3 Consultation with Indian tribes and coordination with other 
Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes.
1610.3-1 Consultation with Indian tribes.
1610.3-2 Coordination of planning efforts.
1610.3-3 Consistency requirements.
1610.4 Planning assessment.
1610.5 Preparation of a resource management plan.
1610.5-1 Identification of planning issues.
1610.5-2 Formulation of resource management alternatives.
1610.5-3 Estimation of effects of alternatives.
1610.5-4 Preparation of the draft resource management plan and 
selection of preferred alternatives.
1610.5-5 Selection of the proposed resource management plan.
1610.6 Resource management plan approval, implementation, and 
modification.
1610.6-1 Resource management plan approval and implementation.
1610.6-2 Protest procedures.
1610.6-3 Conformity and implementation.
1610.6-4 Monitoring and evaluation.
1610.6-5 Maintenance.
1610.6-6 Amendment.
1610.6-7 Revision.
1610.6-8 Situations where action can be taken based on another 
agency's planning documents.
1610.7 Management decision review by Congress.
1610.8 Designation of areas.
1610.8-1 Designation of areas unsuitable for surface mining.
1610.8-2 Designation of areas of critical environmental concern.
1610.9 Transition period.

    Authority:  43 U.S.C. 1711-1712.

Subpart 1601--Planning


Sec.  1601.0-1   Purpose.

    The purpose of this part is to establish in regulations a process 
for the development, approval, maintenance, and amendment of resource 
management plans, and the use of existing plans for public lands 
administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), consistent with 
the principles of multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise 
specified by law.


Sec.  1601.0-2   Objective.

    The objective of resource management planning by the BLM is to 
manage public lands on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield, 
unless otherwise specified by law, provide for meaningful public 
involvement by the public, State and local governments, Indian tribes 
and Federal agencies in the preparation and amendment of resource 
management plans, and ensure that the public lands be managed in a 
manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, 
ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and 
archeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and 
protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will 
provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals; 
that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use, 
and which recognizes the Nation's need for renewable and non-renewable 
resources including, but not limited to, domestic sources of minerals, 
food, timber, and fiber from the public lands.


Sec.  1601.0-3   Authority.

    These regulations are issued under the authority of sections 201 
and 202 of the Federal Land Policy and

[[Page 89662]]

Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1711-1712) (FLPMA); the Public 
Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 (43 U.S.C. 1901); section 3 of the 
Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976 (30 U.S.C. 201(a)); 
sections 522, 601, and 714 of the Surface Mining Control and 
Reclamation Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 1201 et seq.); and the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).


Sec.  1601.0-4   Responsibilities.

    (a) The Secretary and the Director provide national level policy 
and procedure guidance for planning. The Director determines the 
deciding official and the planning area for the preparation of resource 
management plans and plan amendments that cross State boundaries. For 
other resource management plans or plan amendments, the deciding 
official shall be the BLM State Director, unless otherwise determined 
by the Director.
    (b) Deciding officials provide quality control and supervisory 
review, including approval, for the preparation and amendment of 
resource management plans and related environmental impact statements 
or environmental assessments. The deciding official determines the 
responsible official for the preparation of each resource management 
plan or plan amendment. The deciding official also determines the 
planning area for resource management plans and plan amendments that do 
not cross State boundaries.
    (c) Responsible officials prepare resource management plans and 
plan amendments and related environmental impact statements or 
environmental assessments.


Sec.  1601.0-5   Definitions.

    As used in this part, the term:
    Areas of Critical Environmental Concern or ACEC means areas within 
the public lands where special management attention is required (when 
such areas are developed or used or where no development is required) 
to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, 
cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources, or other 
natural systems or processes, or to protect life and safety from 
natural hazards.
    Conformity or conformance means that a resource management action 
shall be clearly consistent with the plan components of the approved 
resource management plan (see Sec.  1610.6-3).
    Consistent with officially approved and adopted plans means that 
resource management plans are compatible with the terms, conditions, 
and decisions of officially approved and adopted plans of other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes, to the 
maximum extent the BLM finds consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and 
other Federal law and regulations applicable to public lands, and the 
purposes, policies and programs implementing such laws and regulations, 
and subject to the qualifications in Sec.  1610.3-3.
    Cooperating agency means an eligible governmental entity (see 43 
CFR 46.225(a)) that has entered into an agreement with the BLM to 
participate in the development of an environmental impact statement or 
environmental assessment as a cooperating agency under the National 
Environmental Policy Act and in the planning process as described in 
Sec.  1610.3-2 of this part. The BLM and the cooperating agency will 
work together under the terms of the agreement.
    Deciding official means the BLM official who is delegated the 
authority to approve a resource management plan or plan amendment (see 
Sec.  1601.0-4).
    High quality information means any representation of knowledge such 
as facts or data, including the best available scientific information, 
which is accurate, reliable, and unbiased, is not compromised through 
corruption or falsification, and is useful to its intended users.
    Indian tribe means an Indian tribe under section 102 of the 
Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C. 5130).
    Landscape means an area of land encompassing an interacting mosaic 
of ecosystems and human systems characterized by a set of common 
management concerns. The landscape is not defined by the size of the 
area, but rather by the interacting elements that are relevant and 
meaningful in a management context.
    Mitigation means the sequence of avoiding impacts, minimizing 
impacts, and compensating for remaining unavoidable impacts.
    Multiple use means the management of the public lands and their 
various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination 
that will best meet the present and future needs of the American 
people; making the most judicious use of the lands for some or all of 
these resources or related services over areas large enough to provide 
sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in use to conform to 
changing needs and conditions; the use of some lands for less than all 
of the resources; a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses 
that takes into account the long term needs of future generations for 
renewable and non-renewable resources, including, but not limited to, 
recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and 
natural scenic, scientific and historical values; and harmonious and 
coordinated management of the various resources without permanent 
impairment of the productivity of the lands and the quality of the 
environment with consideration being given to the relative values of 
the resources and not necessarily to the combination of uses that will 
give the greatest economic return or the greatest unit output.
    Officially approved and adopted plans means resource-related plans 
prepared and approved by other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes pursuant to and in accordance with 
authorization provided by Federal, State, tribal, or local 
constitutions, legislation, or charters which have the force and effect 
of law.
    Plan amendment means an amendment to an approved resource 
management plan or management framework plan to change one or more plan 
components (see Sec.  1610.6-6).
    Plan components means the elements of a resource management plan 
with which future management actions shall be consistent. Plan 
components consist of goals; objectives; designations; resource use 
determinations; monitoring and evaluation standards; and lands 
identified as available for disposal, including sales under section 203 
of FLPMA, as applicable (see Sec.  1610.1-2).
    Plan maintenance means change(s) to an approved resource management 
plan to correct typographical or mapping errors or to reflect minor 
changes in mapping or data (see Sec.  1610.6-5).
    Plan revision means a revision of an approved resource management 
plan that affects the entire resource management plan or major portions 
of the resource management plan (see Sec.  1610.6-7). Preparation or 
development of a resource management plan includes plan revisions.
    Planning area means the geographic area for the preparation or 
amendment of a resource management plan.
    Planning assessment means an evaluation of relevant resource, 
environmental, ecological, social, and economic conditions in the 
planning area (see Sec.  1610.4). A planning assessment is developed to 
inform the preparation and, as appropriate, the implementation of a 
resource management plan.
    Planning issue means disputes, controversies, or opportunities 
related to resource management.

[[Page 89663]]

    Public means affected or interested individuals, including consumer 
organizations, public land resource users, corporations and other 
business entities, environmental organizations and other special 
interest groups, and officials of Federal, State, local, and Indian 
tribal governments.
    Public involvement means the opportunity for participation by the 
public in decision making and planning with respect to the public 
lands.
    Public lands means any lands or interest in lands owned by the 
United States and administered by the Secretary of the Interior through 
the BLM. Public lands do not include lands located on the Outer 
Continental Shelf and lands held for the benefit of Indians, Aleuts, 
and Eskimos.
    Resource management plan means a land use plan as described under 
section 202 of the FLPMA, including plan revisions. Approval of a 
resource management plan is not a final implementation decision on 
actions which require further specific plans, process steps, or 
decisions under specific provisions of law and regulations.
    Responsible official means a BLM official who is delegated the 
authority to prepare a resource management plan or plan amendment.
    State and local government means the State, any political 
subdivision of the State, and any general purpose unit of local 
government with resource planning, resource management, zoning, or land 
use regulatory authority.
    Sustained yield means the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity 
of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various 
renewable resources of the public lands consistent with multiple use.


Sec.  1601.0-6   Environmental impact statement policy.

    The BLM shall prepare an environmental impact statement when 
preparing a resource management plan. The environmental analysis of 
alternatives and the proposed resource management plan shall be 
accomplished as part of the resource management planning process and, 
wherever possible, the proposed resource management plan shall be 
published in a single document with the related environmental impact 
statement.


Sec.  1601.0-7   Scope.

    (a) These regulations apply to all public lands.
    (b) These regulations also govern the preparation of resource 
management plans when the only public land interest is the mineral 
estate.


Sec.  1601.0-8   Principles.

    The development, approval, maintenance, amendment, and revision of 
resource management plans shall provide for public involvement and 
shall be consistent with the principles described in section 202 of 
FLPMA. Additionally, the BLM shall consider the impacts of resource 
management plans on resource, environmental, ecological, social, and 
economic conditions at relevant scales. The BLM also shall consider the 
impacts of resource management plans on, and the uses of, adjacent or 
nearby Federal and non-Federal lands, and non-public land surface over 
federally-owned mineral interests.

Subpart 1610--Resource Management Planning


Sec.  1610.1   Resource management planning framework.


Sec.  1610.1-1   Guidance and general requirements.

    (a) Guidance for preparation and amendment of resource management 
plans may be provided by the Director and deciding official, as needed, 
to help the responsible official prepare a specific resource management 
plan. Such guidance may include the following:
    (1) Policy established by the President, Secretary, Director, or 
deciding official approved documents, so long as such policy complies 
with the Federal laws and regulations applicable to public lands; and
    (2) Analysis requirements, planning procedures, and other written 
information and instructions required to be considered in the planning 
process.
    (b) The BLM shall use a systematic interdisciplinary approach in 
the preparation and amendment of resource management plans to achieve 
integrated consideration of physical, biological, ecological, social, 
economic, and other sciences. The expertise of the preparers shall be 
appropriate to the resource values involved, the issues identified 
during the issue identification and environmental impact statement 
scoping stage of the planning process, and the principles of multiple 
use and sustained yield unless otherwise specified by law. The 
responsible official may use any necessary combination of BLM staff, 
consultants, contractors, other governmental personnel, and advisors to 
achieve an interdisciplinary approach.
    (c) The BLM shall use high quality information to inform the 
preparation, amendment, and maintenance of resource management plans.


Sec.  1610.1-2   Plan components.

    (a) Plan components guide future management actions within the 
planning area. Resource management plans shall include the following 
plan components:
    (1) Goals. A goal is a broad statement of desired outcomes 
addressing resource, environmental, ecological, social, or economic 
characteristics within the planning area, or a portion of the planning 
area, toward which management of the land and resources should be 
directed.
    (2) Objectives. An objective is a concise statement of desired 
resource conditions within the planning area, or a portion of the 
planning area, developed to guide progress toward one or more goals. An 
objective is specific, measurable, and should have established time-
frames for achievement. As appropriate, objectives should also:
    (i) Identify standards to mitigate undesirable impacts to resource 
conditions;
    (ii) Provide integrated consideration of resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, and economic factors; and
    (iii) Identify indicators for evaluating progress toward 
achievement of the objective.
    (b) Resource management plans also shall include the following plan 
components in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the resource 
management plan, or applicable legal requirements or policies, 
consistent with the principles of multiple use and sustained yield 
unless otherwise specified by law:
    (1) Designations. A designation identifies areas of public land 
where management is directed toward one or more priority resource 
values or resource uses.
    (i) Planning designations are identified through the BLM's land use 
planning process in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the 
resource management plan or applicable legal requirements or policies 
such as the designation of areas of critical environmental concern 
(ACEC) (see Sec.  1610.8-2).
    (ii) Non-discretionary designations are designated by the 
President, Congress, or the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to other 
legal authorities.
    (2) Resource use determinations. A resource use determination 
identifies areas of public lands or mineral estate where, subject to 
valid existing rights, specific uses are excluded, restricted, or 
allowed, in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the resource 
management plan or applicable legal requirements or policies. Resource 
use

[[Page 89664]]

determinations shall be consistent with or support the management 
priorities identified through designations.
    (3) Monitoring and evaluation standards. Monitoring and evaluation 
standards identify indicators and intervals for monitoring and 
evaluation to determine whether the resource management plan objectives 
are being met or there is relevant new information that may warrant 
amendment or revision of the resource management plan.
    (4) Lands identified as available for disposal from BLM 
administration, including sales under section 203 of FLPMA, as 
applicable.
    (c) A plan component may only be changed through a resource 
management plan amendment or revision, except to correct typographical 
or mapping errors or to reflect minor changes in mapping or data (see 
Sec.  1610.6-5).


Sec.  1610.2   Public involvement.

    (a) The BLM shall provide the public with opportunities to become 
meaningfully involved in and comment on the preparation and amendment 
of resource management plans. Public involvement in the resource 
management planning process shall conform to the requirements of the 
National Environmental Policy Act and associated implementing 
regulations.
    (b) Public involvement activities conducted by the BLM shall be 
documented either by a record or by a summary of the principal issues 
discussed and comments made. The record or summary of the principal 
issues discussed and comments made shall be available to the public and 
open for 30 days to any participant who wishes to review the record or 
summary.
    (c) Before the close of each fiscal year, the BLM shall post the 
status of each resource management plan in process of preparation or 
scheduled to be started to the BLM's Web site.


Sec.  1610.2-1   Public notice.

    (a) When the BLM prepares a resource management plan or amends a 
resource management plan and prepares an environmental impact statement 
to inform the amendment, the BLM shall notify the public and provide 
opportunities for public involvement appropriate to the areas and 
people involved during the following points in the planning process:
    (1) Preparation of the planning assessment (subject to Sec.  
1610.4);
    (2) Identification of planning issues and review of the preliminary 
statement of purpose and need (see Sec.  1610.5-1);
    (3) Review of the preliminary resource management alternatives, 
preliminary rationale for alternatives, and the basis for analysis 
(subject to Sec. Sec.  1610.5-2(c) and 1610.5-3(a)(1));
    (4) Comment on the draft resource management plan (see Sec.  
1610.5-4); and
    (5) Protest of the proposed resource management plan (see 
Sec. Sec.  1610.5-5 and 1610.6-2).
    (b) When the BLM amends a resource management plan and prepares an 
environmental assessment to inform the amendment, the BLM shall notify 
the public and provide opportunities for public involvement appropriate 
to the areas and people involved during the following points in the 
planning process:
    (1) Identification of planning issues (see Sec.  1610.6-6(a));
    (2) Comment on the draft resource management plan amendment, as 
appropriate (see Sec.  1610.6-6(a)); and
    (3) Protest of the proposed resource management plan amendment (see 
Sec. Sec.  1610.5-5 and 1610.6-2).
    (c) The BLM shall announce opportunities for public involvement by 
posting a notice on the BLM's Web site, at all BLM offices within the 
planning area, and at other public locations, as appropriate. The 
responsible official shall identify additional forms of notification to 
reach local communities located within the planning area, as 
appropriate.
    (d) Individuals or groups may request to be notified of 
opportunities for public involvement related to the preparation or 
amendment of a resource management plan. The BLM shall notify those 
individuals or groups through written or electronic means.
    (e) The BLM shall notify the public at least 15 days before any 
public involvement activities where the public is invited to attend, 
such as a public meeting.
    (f) When initiating the identification of planning issues for the 
preparation of a resource management plan or plan amendment, in 
addition to the public notification requirements of Sec. Sec.  1610.2-
1(c) and 1610.2-1(d), the BLM shall notify the public as follows:
    (1) The BLM shall publish a notice in appropriate media, including 
newspapers of general circulation in the planning area. The BLM shall 
also publish a notice of intent in the Federal Register. This notice 
may also constitute the scoping notice required by regulations 
implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1501.7).
    (2) This notice shall include the following:
    (i) Description of the proposed planning action;
    (ii) Identification of the planning area for which the resource 
management plan is to be prepared;
    (iii) The general types of issues anticipated;
    (iv) The expertise to be represented and used to prepare the 
resource management plan, in order to achieve an interdisciplinary 
approach (see Sec.  1610.1-1(b));
    (v) The kind and extent of public involvement opportunities to be 
provided, as known at the time;
    (vi) The times, dates, and locations scheduled or anticipated for 
any public meetings, hearings, conferences, or other gatherings, as 
known at the time;
    (vii) The name, title, address, and telephone number of the BLM 
official who may be contacted for further information; and
    (viii) The location and availability of documents relevant to the 
planning process.
    (g) If, after publication of a proposed resource management plan or 
plan amendment, the BLM intends to select an alternative that is 
encompassed by the range of alternatives in the final environmental 
impact statement or environmental assessment, but is substantially 
different than the proposed resource management plan or plan amendment, 
the BLM shall notify the public and request written comments on the 
change before the resource management plan or plan amendment is 
approved (see Sec.  1610.6-1(b)).
    (h) The BLM shall notify the public when a resource management plan 
or plan amendment has been approved.
    (i) When changes are made to an approved resource management plan 
through plan maintenance, the BLM shall notify the public and make the 
changes available for public review at least 30 days prior to their 
implementation.


Sec.  1610.2-2   Public comment periods.

    (a) Any time the BLM requests written comments during the 
preparation or amendment of a resource management plan, the BLM shall 
notify the public and provide for at least 30 calendar days for 
response, unless a longer period is required by law or regulation.
    (b) When requesting written comments on a draft plan amendment and 
an environmental impact statement is prepared to inform the amendment, 
the BLM shall provide at least 60 calendar days for response. The 60-
day period begins when the Environmental Protection Agency publishes a 
notice of availability of the draft environmental

[[Page 89665]]

impact statement in the Federal Register.
    (c) When requesting written comments on a draft resource management 
plan and draft environmental impact statement, the BLM shall provide at 
least 100 calendar days for response. The 100-day period begins when 
the Environmental Protection Agency publishes a notice of availability 
of the draft environmental impact statement in the Federal Register.
    (d) When a draft resource management plan or plan amendment 
involves possible designation of one or more potential ACECs, the BLM 
shall request written comments on the designations under consideration 
(see Sec.  1610.8-2).


Sec.  1610.2-3   Availability of the resource management plan.

    (a) The BLM shall make copies of the draft, proposed, and approved 
resource management plan or plan amendment reasonably available to the 
public. At a minimum, the BLM shall make copies of these documents 
available electronically and at all BLM offices within the planning 
area. The BLM shall also make any scientific or technical reports the 
responsible official uses in the preparation of a resource management 
plan or plan amendment reasonably available to the public, to the 
extent practical and consistent with Federal law.
    (b) Upon request, the BLM shall make single printed copies of the 
draft or proposed resource management plan or plan amendment available 
to individual members of the public during the public involvement 
process. After the BLM approves a resource management plan or plan 
amendment, the BLM may charge a fee for additional printed copies. Fees 
for reproducing requested documents beyond those used as part of the 
public involvement activities and other than single printed copies of 
the resource management plan or plan amendment may be charged according 
to the Department of the Interior schedule for Freedom of Information 
Act requests in 43 CFR part 2.


Sec.  1610.3   Consultation with Indian tribes and coordination with 
other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes.


Sec.  1610.3-1   Consultation with Indian tribes.

    The BLM shall initiate consultation with Indian tribes on a 
government-to-government basis during the preparation and amendment of 
resource management plans.


Sec.  1610.3-2   Coordination of planning efforts.

    (a) Objectives of coordination. In addition to the public 
involvement prescribed by Sec.  1610.2, and to the extent consistent 
with Federal laws and regulations applicable to public lands, 
coordination is to be accomplished with other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes. The objectives of this 
coordination are for the BLM to:
    (1) Keep apprised of the plans, policies, and management programs 
of other Federal agencies, State and local governments, and Indian 
tribes;
    (2) Assure that the BLM considers those plans, policies, and 
management programs that are germane in the development of resource 
management plans for public lands;
    (3) Assist in resolving, to the extent practical, inconsistencies 
between Federal and non-Federal government plans;
    (4) Provide for meaningful public involvement of other Federal 
agencies, State and local government officials, both elected and 
appointed, and Indian tribes, in the development of resource management 
plans, including early notice of final decisions that may have a 
significant impact on non-Federal lands; and
    (5) Where possible and appropriate, develop resource management 
plans collaboratively with cooperating agencies.
    (b) Cooperating agencies. When preparing a resource management 
plan, the responsible official shall follow applicable regulations 
regarding the invitation of eligible governmental entities (see 43 CFR 
46.225) to participate as cooperating agencies. The same requirement 
applies when the BLM amends a resource management plan and prepares an 
environmental impact statement to inform the amendment.
    (1) The responsible official shall consider any request by an 
eligible governmental entity to participate as a cooperating agency. If 
the responsible official denies a request or determines it is 
inappropriate to extend an invitation to an eligible governmental 
entity, he or she shall inform the deciding official of the denial. The 
deciding official shall determine if the denial is appropriate and 
state the reasons for any denials in the environmental impact 
statement.
    (2) When a cooperating agency is a non-Federal agency, a memorandum 
of understanding shall be used and shall include a commitment to 
maintain the confidentiality of documents and deliberations during the 
period prior to the public release by the BLM of any documents, 
including drafts (see 43 CFR 46.225(d)).
    (3) The responsible official shall collaborate, to the fullest 
extent possible, with all cooperating agencies concerning those issues 
relating to their jurisdiction and special expertise, during the 
following steps in the planning process:
    (i) Preparation of the planning assessment (see Sec.  1610.4);
    (ii) Identification of planning issues (see Sec.  1610.5-1);
    (iii) Formulation of resource management alternatives (see Sec.  
1610.5-2);
    (iv) Estimation of effects of alternatives (see Sec.  1610.5-3);
    (v) Preparation of the draft resource management plan (see Sec.  
1610.5-4); and
    (vi) Preparation of the proposed resource management plan (see 
Sec.  1610.5-5).
    (c) Coordination requirements. The BLM shall provide Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes opportunity 
for review, advice, and suggestions on issues and topics which may 
affect or influence other agency or other government programs.
    (1) To facilitate coordination with State governments, deciding 
officials should seek the input of the Governor(s) on the timing, 
scope, and coordination of resource management planning; definition of 
planning areas; scheduling of public involvement activities; and 
multiple use and sustained yield on public lands.
    (2) Deciding officials may seek written agreements with Governors 
or their designated representatives on processes and procedural topics 
such as exchanging information, providing advice and participation, and 
timeframes for receiving State government participation and review in a 
timely fashion. If an agreement is not reached, the deciding official 
shall provide opportunity for Governor and State agency review, advice, 
and suggestions on issues and topics that the deciding official has 
reason to believe could affect or influence State government programs.
    (3) The responsible official shall notify Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes that have requested to be 
notified or that the responsible official has reason to believe would 
be interested in the resource management plan or plan amendment of any 
opportunities for public involvement in the preparation or amendment of 
a resource management plan. These notices shall be issued 
simultaneously with the public notices required under Sec.  1610.2-1 of 
this part.

[[Page 89666]]

    (4) The responsible official shall notify relevant State agencies 
consistent with State procedures for coordination of Federal activities 
for circulation among State agencies, if such procedures exist.
    (5) The responsible official shall provide Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes the time period prescribed 
under Sec.  1610.2 of this part for review and comment on resource 
management plans and plan amendments.
    (d) Resource advisory councils. When an advisory council has been 
formed under section 309 of FLPMA for the area addressed in a resource 
management plan or plan amendment, the responsible official shall 
inform that council, seek its views, and consider them throughout the 
planning process.


Sec.  1610.3-3   Consistency requirements.

    (a) Resource management plans shall be consistent with officially 
approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes to the maximum extent the BLM finds 
consistent with the purposes of FLPMA and other Federal laws and 
regulations applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies and 
programs implementing such laws and regulations.
    (1) The BLM shall, to the extent practical, keep apprised of 
officially approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State 
and local governments, and Indian tribes and give consideration to 
those plans that are germane in the development of resource management 
plans.
    (2) The BLM is not required to address the consistency requirements 
of this section if the responsible official has not been notified, in 
writing, by Federal agencies, State and local governments, or Indian 
tribes of an apparent inconsistency.
    (3) If a Federal agency, State and local government, or Indian 
tribe notifies the responsible official, in writing, of what they 
believe to be specific inconsistencies between the BLM draft resource 
management plan and their officially approved and adopted plans, the 
proposed resource management plan shall show how those inconsistencies 
were addressed and, if possible, resolved.
    (4) Where the officially approved and adopted plans of State and 
local governments differ from each other, those of the higher authority 
will normally be followed.
    (b) Governor's consistency review. Prior to the approval of a 
proposed resource management plan or plan amendment, the deciding 
official shall submit to the Governor of the State(s) involved, the 
proposed resource management plan or plan amendment and shall identify 
any relevant known inconsistencies with the officially approved and 
adopted plans of State and local governments.
    (1) The Governor(s) may submit a written document to the deciding 
official within 60 days after receiving the proposed resource 
management plan or plan amendment that:
    (i) Identifies inconsistencies with officially approved and adopted 
land use plans of State and local governments and provides 
recommendations to remedy the identified inconsistencies; or
    (ii) Waives or reduces the 60-day period.
    (2) If the Governor(s) does not respond within the 60-day period, 
the resource management plan or plan amendment is presumed to be 
consistent.
    (3) If the document submitted by the Governor(s) recommends 
substantive changes that were not considered during the public 
involvement process, the BLM shall notify the public and request 
written comments on these changes.
    (4) The deciding official shall notify the Governor(s) in writing 
of his or her decision regarding these recommendations and the reasons 
for this decision.
    (i) The Governor(s) may submit a written appeal to the Director 
within 30 days after receiving the deciding official's decision.
    (ii) The Director shall consider the Governor(s)' appeal and the 
consistency requirements of this section in rendering a final decision. 
The Director shall notify the Governor(s) in writing of his or her 
decision regarding the Governor's appeal. The BLM shall notify the 
public of this decision and make the written decision available to the 
public.


Sec.  1610.4   Planning assessment.

    Before initiating the preparation of a resource management plan the 
BLM shall, consistent with the nature, scope, scale, and timing of the 
planning effort, complete a planning assessment.
    (a) Planning area. The BLM shall identify a preliminary planning 
area for use as the basis for the planning assessment.
    (1) In identifying the preliminary planning area, the BLM shall 
consider the following:
    (i) Management concerns identified through monitoring and 
evaluation (see Sec.  1610.6-4);
    (ii) Relevant landscapes based on these management concerns;
    (iii) Director and deciding official guidance;
    (iv) Officially approved and adopted plans of other Federal 
agencies, State and local governments, and Indian tribes; and
    (v) Other relevant information, as appropriate.
    (2) The responsible official shall make a description of and a 
rationale for the preliminary planning area available for public review 
prior to the publication of the notice of intent in the Federal 
Register (see Sec.  1610.2-1(f)).
    (b) Information gathering. The responsible official shall:
    (1) Arrange for relevant resource, environmental, ecological, 
social, economic, and institutional data and information to be 
gathered, or assembled if already available, including the 
identification of potential ACECs (see Sec.  1610.8-2). To the extent 
consistent with the laws governing the administration of the public 
lands and as appropriate, inventory data and information shall be 
gathered or assembled in coordination with the land use planning and 
management programs of other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes within which the lands are located, and 
in a manner that aids the planning process and avoids unnecessary data-
gathering;
    (2) Identify relevant national, regional, State, tribal, or local 
laws, regulations, policies, guidance, strategies, or plans for 
consideration in the planning assessment. These may include, but are 
not limited to, Executive or Secretarial orders, Departmental or BLM 
policy, Director or deciding official guidance, mitigation strategies, 
interagency initiatives, and State, multi-state, tribal, or local 
resource plans;
    (3) Provide opportunities for other Federal agencies, State and 
local governments, Indian tribes, and the public to provide existing 
data and information or suggest other laws, regulations, policies, 
guidance, strategies, or plans described under paragraph (b)(2) of this 
section, for the BLM's consideration in the planning assessment; and
    (4) Identify relevant public views concerning resource, 
environmental, ecological, social, or economic conditions of the 
planning area.
    (c) Information quality. The responsible official shall evaluate 
the data and information gathered under paragraph (b) of this section 
to ensure the use of high quality information in the planning 
assessment and to identify any data gaps or further information needs.
    (d) Assessment. The responsible official shall assess the resource,

[[Page 89667]]

environmental, ecological, social, and economic conditions of the 
planning area. At a minimum, the responsible official shall consider 
and document the following factors in this assessment when they are 
applicable:
    (1) Resource use and management authorized by FLPMA and other 
relevant authorities;
    (2) Land status and ownership, existing resource management, 
infrastructure, and access patterns in the planning area, including any 
known valid existing rights;
    (3) Current resource, environmental, ecological, social, and 
economic conditions, and any known trends related to these conditions;
    (4) Known resource constraints, or limitations;
    (5) Areas of potential importance within the planning area, 
including:
    (i) Areas of tribal, traditional, or cultural importance;
    (ii) Habitat for special status species, including State or 
federally-listed threatened and endangered species;
    (iii) Other areas of key fish and wildlife habitat such as big game 
wintering and summer areas, bird nesting and feeding areas, habitat 
connectivity or wildlife migration corridors, and areas of large and 
intact habitat;
    (iv) Areas of ecological importance, such as areas that increase 
the ability of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the planning 
area to adapt to, resist, or recover from change;
    (v) Lands with wilderness characteristics, wild and scenic study 
rivers, or areas of significant scientific or scenic value;
    (vi) Areas of significant historical value, including 
paleontological sites;
    (vii) Existing designations located in the planning area, such as 
wilderness, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, national 
scenic or historic trails, or ACECs;
    (viii) Areas with potential for renewable or non-renewable energy 
development or energy transmission;
    (ix) Areas with known mineral potential;
    (x) Areas with known potential for producing forest products, 
including timber;
    (xi) Areas of importance for recreation activities or access;
    (xii) Areas of importance for public health and safety, such as 
abandoned mine lands or natural hazards;
    (6) Dominant ecological processes, disturbance regimes, and 
stressors, such as drought, wildland fire, invasive species, and 
climate change; and
    (7) The various goods, services, and uses that people obtain from 
the planning area, such as ecological services, domestic livestock 
grazing, fish and wildlife development and utilization, mineral 
exploration and production, rights-of-way, outdoor recreation, and 
timber production; and
    (i) The degree of local, regional, national, or international 
importance of these goods, services, and uses;
    (ii) Available forecasts and analyses related to the supply and 
demand for these goods, services, and uses; and
    (iii) The estimated levels of these goods, services, and uses that 
may be produced on a sustained yield basis.
    (e) Planning assessment report. The responsible official shall 
document the planning assessment in a report made available for public 
review prior to the publication of the notice of intent, which includes 
the identification and rationale for potential ACECs. To the extent 
practical, any non-sensitive geospatial information used in the 
planning assessment should be made available to the public on the BLM's 
Web site.
    (f) Plan amendments. Before initiating the preparation of a plan 
amendment for which an environmental impact statement will be prepared, 
the BLM shall complete a planning assessment consistent with the 
requirements of this section for the geographic area being considered 
for amendment. The deciding official may waive this requirement for 
project-specific or other minor amendments.


Sec.  1610.5   Preparation of a resource management plan.

    When preparing a resource management plan, or a plan amendment for 
which an environmental impact statement will be prepared, the BLM shall 
follow the process described in Sec. Sec.  1610.5-1 through 1610.5-5.


Sec.  1610.5-1   Identification of planning issues.

    (a) The responsible official shall prepare a preliminary statement 
of purpose and need, which briefly indicates the underlying purpose and 
need to which the BLM is responding (see 43 CFR 46.420). This statement 
shall be informed by Director and deciding official guidance (see Sec.  
1610.1-1(a)), public views (see Sec.  1610.4(a)(4)), the planning 
assessment (see Sec.  1610.4(c)), the results of any previous 
monitoring and evaluation within the planning area (see Sec.  1610.6-
4), Federal laws and regulations applicable to public lands, and the 
purposes, policies, and programs implementing such laws and 
regulations. The BLM shall initiate the identification of planning 
issues by notifying the public and making the preliminary statement of 
purpose and need available for public review.
    (b) The public, other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes shall be given an opportunity to suggest 
concerns, needs, opportunities, conflicts, or constraints related to 
resource management for consideration in the preparation of the 
resource management plan, including those respecting officially 
approved and adopted plans of other Federal agencies, State and local 
governments, and Indian tribes. The responsible official shall analyze 
those suggestions and other available data and information, such as the 
planning assessment (see Sec.  1610.4-1), and determine the planning 
issues to be addressed during the planning process. Planning issues may 
be modified during the planning process to incorporate new information. 
The identification of planning issues should be integrated with the 
scoping process required by regulations implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1501.7).


Sec.  1610.5-2   Formulation of resource management alternatives.

    (a) Alternatives development. The BLM shall consider all reasonable 
resource management alternatives (alternatives) and develop several 
complete alternatives for detailed study. The decision to designate 
alternatives for further development and analysis remains the exclusive 
responsibility of the BLM.
    (1) The alternatives developed shall be informed by the Director 
and deciding official guidance (see Sec.  1610.1(a)), the planning 
assessment (see Sec.  1610.4), the statement of purpose and need (see 
Sec.  1610.5-1), and the planning issues (see Sec.  1610.5-1).
    (2) In order to limit the total number of alternatives analyzed in 
detail to a manageable number for presentation and analysis, reasonable 
variations may be treated as sub-alternatives.
    (3) One alternative shall be for no action, which means 
continuation of present level or systems of resource management.
    (4) The resource management plan shall note any alternatives 
identified and eliminated from detailed study and shall briefly discuss 
the reasons for their elimination.
    (b) Rationale for alternatives. The resource management plan shall 
describe the rationale for the differences between alternatives. The 
rationale shall include:
    (1) A description of how each alternative addresses the planning 
issues, consistent with the principles of

[[Page 89668]]

multiple use and sustained yield, unless otherwise specified by law;
    (2) A description of management direction that is common to all 
alternatives; and
    (3) A description of how management direction varies across 
alternatives to address the planning issues.
    (c) Public review of preliminary alternatives. The responsible 
official shall make the preliminary alternatives and the preliminary 
rationale for alternatives available for public review prior to the 
publication of the draft resource management plan and draft 
environmental impact statement, and as appropriate, prior to the 
publication of draft plan amendments when an environmental impact 
statement is prepared to inform the amendment.
    (d) Changes to preliminary alternatives. The BLM may change the 
preliminary alternatives and preliminary rationale for alternatives as 
planning proceeds if it determines that public suggestions or other new 
information make such changes necessary. A description of these changes 
shall be made available to the public in the draft resource management 
plan (see Sec.  1610.5-4).


Sec.  1610.5-3   Estimation of effects of alternatives.

    (a) Basis for analysis. The responsible official shall identify the 
procedures, assumptions, and indicators that will be used to estimate 
the environmental, ecological, social, and economic effects of 
implementing each alternative considered in detail.
    (1) The responsible official shall make the preliminary procedures, 
assumptions, and indicators available for public review prior to the 
publication of the draft resource management plan and draft 
environmental impact statement, and, as appropriate, prior to the 
publication of draft plan amendments when an environmental impact 
statement is prepared to inform the amendment.
    (2) The BLM may change the procedures, assumptions, and indicators 
as planning proceeds if it determines that public suggestions or other 
new information make such changes necessary. A description of these 
changes shall be made available to the public in the draft resource 
management plan (see Sec.  1610.5-4).
    (b) Effects analysis. The responsible official shall estimate and 
display the environmental, ecological, economic, and social effects of 
implementing each alternative considered in detail. The estimation of 
effects shall be guided by the basis for analysis, the planning 
assessment, and procedures implementing the National Environmental 
Policy Act. The estimate may be stated in terms of probable ranges 
where effects cannot be precisely determined.


Sec.  1610.5-4   Preparation of the draft resource management plan and 
selection of preferred alternatives.

    (a) The responsible official shall prepare a draft resource 
management plan based on Director and deciding official guidance, the 
planning assessment, the planning issues, and the estimation of the 
effects of alternatives. The draft resource management plan and draft 
environmental impact statement shall:
    (1) Describe any changes made to the preliminary alternatives and 
preliminary procedures, assumptions, and indicators;
    (2) Evaluate the alternatives; and
    (3) Identify one or more preferred alternatives, if one or more 
exist, and explain the rationale for the preference or absence of a 
preference. The identification of one or more preferred alternatives 
remains the exclusive responsibility of the BLM.
    (b) The resulting draft resource management plan and draft 
environmental impact statement shall be forwarded to the deciding 
official for publication and filing with the Environmental Protection 
Agency.
    (c) This draft resource management plan and draft environmental 
impact statement shall be provided for comment to the Governor(s) of 
the State(s) involved, and to officials of other Federal agencies, 
State and local governments, and Indian tribes that have requested to 
be notified of opportunities for public involvement or that the 
deciding official has reason to believe would be interested (see Sec.  
1610.3-2(c)). This action constitutes compliance with the requirements 
of Sec.  3420.1-7 of this title.


Sec.  1610.5-5   Selection of the proposed resource management plan.

    (a) After publication of the draft resource management plan and 
draft environmental impact statement, the responsible official shall 
evaluate the comments received and prepare the proposed resource 
management plan and final environmental impact statement.
    (b) The deciding official shall publish these documents and file 
the final environmental impact statement with the Environmental 
Protection Agency.


Sec.  1610.6   Resource management plan approval, implementation, and 
modification.


Sec.  1610.6-1   Resource management plan approval and implementation.

    (a) The deciding official may approve the resource management plan 
or plan amendment for which an environmental impact statement was 
prepared no earlier than 30 days after the Environmental Protection 
Agency publishes a notice of availability of the final environmental 
impact statement in the Federal Register.
    (b) Approval shall be withheld on any portion of a resource 
management plan or plan amendment being protested (see Sec.  1610.6-2) 
until final action has been completed on such protest. If, after 
publication of a proposed resource management plan or plan amendment, 
the BLM intends to select an alternative that is within the spectrum of 
alternatives in the final environmental impact statement or 
environmental assessment, but is substantially different than the 
proposed resource management plan or plan amendment, the BLM shall 
notify the public and request written comments on the change before the 
resource management plan or plan amendment is approved.
    (c) The approval of a resource management plan or a plan amendment 
for which an environmental impact statement is prepared shall be 
documented in a concise public record of the decision (see 40 CFR 
1505.2).


Sec.  1610.6-2   Protest procedures.

    (a) Any member of the public who participated in the preparation of 
the resource management plan or plan amendment and has an interest 
which may be adversely affected by the approval of a proposed resource 
management plan or plan amendment may protest such approval. A protest 
may raise only those issues which were submitted for the record during 
the preparation of the resource management plan or plan amendment (see 
Sec.  1610.5), unless the protest concerns an issue that arose after 
the close of the opportunity for public comment on the draft resource 
management plan.
    (1) Submission. The protest must be in writing and must be filed 
with the Director. The protest may be filed as a hard-copy or 
electronically. The responsible official shall specify protest filing 
procedures for each resource management plan or plan amendment, 
including the method the public may use to submit a protest 
electronically.
    (2) Timing. For resource management plans or plan amendments for 
which an environmental impact statement was prepared, the protest must 
be filed

[[Page 89669]]

within 30 days after the date the Environmental Protection Agency 
published the notice of availability of the final environmental impact 
statement in the Federal Register. For plan amendments for which an 
environmental assessment was prepared, the protest must be filed within 
30 days after the date that the BLM notifies the public of the 
availability of the amendment.
    (3) Content requirements. The protest must:
    (i) Include the name, mailing address, telephone number, email 
address (if available), and interest of the person filing the protest;
    (ii) State how the protestor participated in the preparation of the 
resource management plan or plan amendment;
    (iii) Identify the plan component(s) believed to be inconsistent 
with Federal laws or regulations applicable to public lands, or the 
purposes, policies, and programs implementing such laws and 
regulations;
    (iv) Concisely explain why the plan component(s) is believed to be 
inconsistent with Federal laws or regulations applicable to public 
lands, or the purposes, policies, and programs implementing such laws 
and regulations and, unless the protest concerns an issue that arose 
after the close of the opportunity for public comment on the draft 
resource management plan, identify the associated issue or issues 
raised during the preparation of the resource management plan or plan 
amendment; and
    (v) Include a copy of all documents addressing the issue or issues 
that were submitted during the planning process by the protesting party 
or an indication of the date the issue or issues were discussed for the 
record, unless the protest concerns an issue that arose after the close 
of the opportunity for public comment on the draft resource management 
plan.
    (4) Availability. Upon request, the Director shall make protests 
available to the public, withholding any protected information that is 
exempt from disclosure under applicable laws or regulations.
    (b) The Director shall render a written decision on all protests 
and notify protesting parties of the decision. The decision on the 
protest and the reasons for the decision shall be made available to the 
public. The decision of the Director is the final decision of the 
Department of the Interior. Approval will be withheld on any portion of 
a resource management plan or plan amendment until final action has 
been completed on such protest (see Sec.  1610.6-1(b)).
    (c) The Director may dismiss any protest that does not meet the 
requirements of this section. The Director shall notify protesting 
parties of the dismissal and provide the reasons for the dismissal.


Sec.  1610.6-3   Conformity and implementation.

    (a) All future resource management authorizations and actions, and 
subsequent more detailed or specific planning, shall conform to the 
plan components of the approved resource management plan.
    (b) After a resource management plan or plan amendment is approved, 
and if otherwise authorized by law, regulation, contract, permit, 
cooperative agreement, or other instrument of occupancy and use, the 
BLM shall take appropriate measures, subject to valid existing rights, 
to make operations and activities under existing permits, contracts, 
cooperative agreements, or other instruments for occupancy and use, 
conform to the plan components of the approved resource management plan 
or plan amendment within a reasonable period of time. Any person 
adversely affected by a specific action being proposed to implement 
some portion of a resource management plan or plan amendment may appeal 
such action pursuant to part 4, subpart E of this chapter, at the time 
the specific action is proposed for implementation.
    (c) If a proposed action is not in conformance with a plan 
component, and the deciding official determines that such action 
warrants further consideration before a resource management plan 
revision is scheduled, such consideration shall be through a resource 
management plan amendment in accordance with Sec.  1610.6-6 of this 
part.
    (d) More detailed and site specific plans for coal, oil shale and 
tar sand resources shall be prepared in accordance with specific 
regulations for those resources: Part 3400 of this title for coal; part 
3900 of this title for oil shale; and part 3140 of this title for tar 
sand. These activity plans shall be in conformance with land use plans 
prepared and approved under the provisions of this part.


Sec.  1610.6-4   Monitoring and evaluation.

    (a) The BLM shall monitor and evaluate the resource management plan 
in accordance with the monitoring and evaluation standards to determine 
whether:
    (1) The resource management plan objectives are being met; and
    (2) There is relevant new information or other sufficient cause to 
warrant consideration of amendment or revision of the resource 
management plan.
    (b) The responsible official shall document the evaluation of the 
resource management plan in a report made available for public review 
on the BLM's Web site.


Sec.  1610.6-5   Maintenance.

    Resource management plans may be maintained as necessary to correct 
typographical or mapping errors or to reflect minor changes in mapping 
or data. Maintenance shall not change a plan component of the approved 
resource management plan, except to correct typographical or mapping 
errors or to reflect minor changes in mapping or data. Maintenance is 
not considered a resource management plan amendment and shall not 
require the formal public involvement and interagency coordination 
process described under Sec. Sec.  1610.2 and 1610.3 of this part or 
the preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact 
statement. When changes are made to an approved resource management 
plan through plan maintenance, the BLM shall notify the public and make 
the changes available for public review at least 30 days prior to their 
implementation.


Sec.  1610.6-6   Amendment.

    (a) A plan component may be changed through amendment. An amendment 
may be initiated when the BLM determines monitoring and evaluation 
findings, new high quality information, new or revised policy, a 
proposed action, or other relevant changes in circumstances, such as 
changes in resource, environmental, ecological, social, or economic 
conditions, warrants a change to one or more of the plan components of 
the approved resource management plan. An amendment shall be made in 
conjunction with an environmental assessment of the proposed change, or 
an environmental impact statement, if necessary. When amending a 
resource management plan, the BLM shall provide for public involvement 
(see Sec.  1610.2), interagency coordination, tribal consultation, 
consistency review (see Sec.  1610.3), and protest (see Sec.  1610.6-
2). In all cases, the effect of the amendment on other plan components 
shall be evaluated. If the amendment is being considered in response to 
a specific proposal, the effects analysis required for the proposal and 
for the amendment may occur simultaneously.
    (b) If the environmental assessment does not disclose significant 
impacts,

[[Page 89670]]

the responsible official may make a finding of no significant impact 
and then make a recommendation on the amendment to the deciding 
official for approval. Upon approval, the BLM shall issue a public 
notice of the action taken on the amendment. If the amendment is 
approved, it may be implemented 30 days after such notice.
    (c) If the BLM amends several resource management plans 
simultaneously, a single programmatic environmental impact statement or 
environmental assessment may be prepared to address all amendments.


Sec.  1610.6-7   Revision.

    The BLM may revise a resource management plan, as necessary, when 
monitoring and evaluation findings (Sec.  1610.6-4), new data, new or 
revised policy, or other relevant changes in circumstances affect the 
entire resource management plan or major portions of the resource 
management plan. Revisions shall comply with all of the requirements of 
this part for preparing and approving a resource management plan.


Sec.  1610.6-8   Situations where action can be taken based on another 
agency's planning documents.

    These regulations authorize the preparation of a resource 
management plan for whatever public land interests exist in a given 
land area, including mixed ownership where the public land estate is 
under non-Federal surface, or administration of the land is shared by 
the BLM and another Federal agency. The BLM may rely on the planning 
documents of other agencies when split or shared estate conditions 
exist in any of the following situations:
    (a) Another agency's plan (Federal, tribal, State, or local) may be 
relied on as a basis for an action only if it is comprehensive and has 
considered the public land interest involved in a way comparable to the 
manner in which it would have been considered in a resource management 
plan, including the opportunity for public involvement, and is 
consistent with Federal laws and regulations applicable to public 
lands, and the purposes, policies and programs implementing such laws 
and regulations.
    (b) After evaluation and review, the BLM may adopt another agency's 
plan for continued use as a resource management plan so long as the 
plan is consistent with Federal laws and regulations applicable to 
public lands, and the purposes, policies, and programs implementing 
such laws and regulations, and an agreement is reached between the BLM 
and the other agency to provide for maintenance and amendment of the 
plan, as necessary.
    (c) Another agency's resource assessment may be relied on only if 
it is comprehensive and has considered the resource, environmental, 
ecological, social, and economic conditions in a way comparable to the 
manner in which these conditions would have been considered in a 
planning assessment (see Sec.  1610.4), including the opportunity for 
public involvement, and is consistent with Federal laws and regulations 
applicable to public lands, and the purposes, policies, and programs 
implementing such laws and regulations.
    (d) A land use analysis may be relied on to consider a coal lease 
when there is no Federal ownership interest in the surface or when coal 
resources are insufficient to justify plan preparation costs. The land 
use analysis process, as authorized by the Federal Coal Leasing 
Amendments Act, consists of an environmental assessment or impact 
statement, public involvement as required by Sec.  1610.2, the 
consultation and consistency determinations required by Sec.  1610.3, 
the protest procedure prescribed by Sec.  1610.6-2, and a decision on 
the coal lease proposal. A land use analysis meets the planning 
requirements of section 202 of FLPMA.


Sec.  1610.7   Management decision review by Congress.

    FLPMA requires that any BLM management decision or action pursuant 
to a management decision which totally eliminates one or more principal 
or major uses for 2 or more years with respect to a tract of 100,000 
acres or more, shall be reported by the Secretary to Congress before it 
can be implemented. This report is not required prior to approval of a 
resource management plan which, if fully or partially implemented, 
would result in such an elimination of use(s). The required report 
shall be submitted as the first action step in implementing that 
portion of a resource management plan which would require elimination 
of such a use.


Sec.  1610.8   Designation of areas.


Sec.  1610.8-1   Designation of areas unsuitable for surface mining.

    (a)(1) The resource management planning process is the chief 
process by which public land is reviewed to assess whether there are 
areas unsuitable for all or certain types of surface coal mining 
operations under section 522(b) of the Surface Mining Control and 
Reclamation Act. The unsuitability criteria to be applied during the 
planning process are found in Sec.  3461.1 of this title.
    (2) When petitions to designate land unsuitable under section 
522(c) of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act are referred 
to the BLM for comment, the resource management plan, or plan amendment 
if available, shall be the basis for review.
    (3) After a resource management plan or plan amendment is approved 
in which lands are assessed as unsuitable, the BLM shall take all 
necessary steps to implement the results of the unsuitability review as 
it applies to all or certain types of coal mining.
    (b)(1) The resource management planning process is the chief 
process by which public lands are reviewed for designation as 
unsuitable for entry or leasing for mining operations for minerals and 
materials other than coal under section 601 of the Surface Mining 
Control and Reclamation Act.
    (2) When petitions to designate lands unsuitable under section 601 
of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act are received by the 
BLM, the resource management plan, if available, shall be the basis for 
determinations for designation.
    (3) After a resource management plan or plan amendment in which 
lands are designated unsuitable is approved, the BLM shall take all 
necessary steps to implement the results of the unsuitability review as 
it applies to minerals or materials other than coal.


Sec.  1610.8-2   Designation and protection of areas of critical 
environmental concern.

    (a) Areas having potential for ACEC designation and protection 
shall be identified through inventory of public lands and during the 
planning assessment, and considered during the preparation or amendment 
of a resource management plan. The inventory data shall be analyzed to 
determine whether there are areas containing resources, values, systems 
or processes, or natural hazards eligible for further consideration for 
designation as an ACEC. In order to be a potential ACEC, both of the 
following criteria must be met:
    (1) Relevance. There must be present a significant historic, 
cultural, or scenic value; a fish or wildlife resource or other natural 
system or process; or natural hazard; and
    (2) Importance. The value, resource, system, process, or natural 
hazard described in paragraph (a)(1) of this section must have 
substantial significance and values. This generally requires qualities 
of special worth, consequence, meaning, distinctiveness, or cause for 
concern. A natural hazard

[[Page 89671]]

can be important if it is a significant threat to human life or 
property.
    (b) Potential ACECs shall be considered for designation during the 
preparation or amendment of a resource management plan consistent with 
the priority established by FLPMA (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(3)). The 
identification of a potential ACEC shall not, of itself, change or 
prevent change of the management or use of public lands. ACECs require 
special management attention (when such areas are developed or used or 
no development is required) to protect and prevent irreparable damage 
to the important historic, cultural, or scenic values, fish and 
wildlife resources or other natural system or process, or to protect 
life and safety from natural hazards.
    (1) When a draft resource management plan or plan amendment 
involves possible designation of one or more potential ACECs, the BLM 
shall publish a notice in the Federal Register and request written 
comments on the designations under consideration. This step may be 
integrated with the notice and comment period for the draft resource 
management plan or plan amendment (see Sec.  1610.2-2). Any draft 
resource management plan or plan amendment involving a potential ACEC 
shall include a list of each potential ACEC and any special management 
attention which would occur if it were formally designated.
    (2) The approval of a resource management plan or plan amendment 
that contains an ACEC constitutes formal designation of an ACEC. The 
approved plan shall include a list of all designated ACECs, and include 
any special management attention, such as resource use determinations 
(Sec.  1610.1-2(b)(2)), identified to protect the designated ACECs.


Sec.  1610.9   Transition period.

    (a) Until superseded by resource management plans, management 
framework plans may be the basis for considering proposed actions as 
follows:
    (1) The management framework plan must be in compliance with the 
principle of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise 
specified by law, and must have been developed with public involvement 
and governmental coordination, but not necessarily precisely as 
prescribed in Sec. Sec.  1610.2 and 1610.3 of this part.
    (2) For proposed actions a determination shall be made by the 
responsible official whether the proposed action is in conformance with 
the management framework plan. Such determination shall be in writing 
and shall explain the reasons for the determination.
    (i) If the proposed action is in conformance with the management 
framework plan, it may be further considered for decision under 
procedures applicable to that type of action, including the regulatory 
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act.
    (ii) If the proposed action is not in conformance with the 
management framework plan, and if the proposed action warrants further 
consideration before a resource management plan is scheduled for 
preparation, such consideration shall be through an amendment to the 
management framework plan under the provisions of Sec.  1610.6-6 of 
this part.
    (b)(1) If an action is proposed where public lands are not covered 
by a management framework plan or a resource management plan, an 
environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement, if 
necessary, plus any other data and analysis deemed necessary by the BLM 
to make an informed decision, shall be used to assess the impacts of 
the proposal and to provide a basis for a decision on the proposal.
    (2) A land disposal action may be considered before a resource 
management plan is scheduled for preparation, through a planning 
analysis, using the process described in Sec.  1610.6-6 of this part 
for amending a plan.
    (c)(1) When considering whether a proposed action is in conformance 
with a resource management plan, the BLM shall use an existing resource 
management plan approved prior to January 11, 2017 until it is 
superseded by a resource management plan or plan amendment prepared 
under the regulations in this part. In such circumstances, the proposed 
action must either be specifically provided for in the resource 
management plan or clearly consistent with the terms, conditions, and 
decisions of the approved plan.
    (2) If a resource management plan is amended by a plan amendment 
prepared under the regulations in this part, a future proposed action 
must be clearly consistent with the plan components of the provisions 
of the approved resource management plan amended under the regulations 
in this part and the terms, conditions, and decisions of the provisions 
of the approved resource management plan that have not been amended 
under the regulations in this part.
    (d) If the preparation, revision, or amendment of a plan was 
formally initiated by issuance of a notice of intent in the Federal 
Register prior to January 11, 2017, the BLM may complete and approve 
the resource management plan or plan amendment pursuant to the 
requirements of this part or to the provisions of the planning 
regulations in 43 CFR part 1600 in effect prior to the effective date 
of this rule.

[FR Doc. 2016-28724 Filed 12-9-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4310-84-P