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Project SEORMP

 

SOUTHEAST OREGON RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN
"Open Houses" are not "Public Hearings"
by: Mark Salvo

The Bureau of Land Management (Vale, Burns Districts) recently released the Draft Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan/Enivironmental Impact Statement for public comment and review.  The BLM has scheduled "public meetings" throughout Oregon to present the plan, but these are dog & pony shows where opportunity to comment on the record is not permitted.  In fact, NO "public hearing" has been scheduled and interested parties may only submit written comments on the plan.

The following memorandum outlines federal law requiring the BLM to provide a public hearing with opportunity for comment in cases like this.  Oregon groups may decide not to request a hearing for strategic reasons, but you might use this memo as a model to request a public hearing should you be faced with a similar situation.  Please send questions and comments to marksalvo@hotmail.com.

  • 1. The Draft Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan is a major federal action that significantly effects the quality of the human environment.

    • A. A major action is "one that requires substantial planning, time, resources or expenditure."  NRDC v. Grant, 341 F.Supp 356, 366-67, 2 ELR 20185, 20189 (E.D.N.C. 1972).
    • B. A significant effect is one that has "important or meaningful" consequences, directly or indirectly.  NRDC v. Grant, 341 F.Supp. 356, 367, 2 ELR 20185, 20189 (E.D.N.C. 1972).
    • C. The Draft Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement addresses management options for more than six million acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management in the Burns and Vale Districts.  Draft SEORMP/EIS v.1, ix.
  • 2. Proposals for major federal actions that significantly effect the environment require preparation of an impact statement in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

    • 42 § 4332.  "The Congress authorizes and directs that, to the fullest extent possible:
      • . . . (2) all agencies of the Federal Government shall- (C)     include in every recommendation or report on proposals for . . . major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on-
        • (i) the environmental impact of the proposed action,
        • (ii) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented,
        • (iii) alternatives to the proposed action,
        • (iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man's environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and
        • (v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented.
  • 3. Federal agencies must abide by regulations promulgated by the Council on Environmental Quality implementing the National Environmental Policy Act.  Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 358 (1979).

  • 4. The Bureau of Land Management promulgates its own regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act, including rules providing for public participation in planning efforts.

    • 43 § 1610.2.  The public shall be provided opportunities to meaningfully participate in and comment on the preparation of plans, amendments and related guidance and be given early notice of planning activities. Public involvement in the resource management planning process shall conform to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and associated regulations.  (emphasis added)
  • 5. The Council on Environmental Quality has developed regulations governing public involvement in agency planning efforts.

    • 40 § 1506.6.  Agencies shall:
      • (c) Hold or sponsor public hearings or public meetings whenever appropriate or in accordance with statutory requirements applicable to the agency.  Criteria shall include whether there is:
        • (1) Substantial environmental controversy concerning the proposed action or substantial interest in holding the hearing.
        • (2) A request for a hearing by another agency with jurisdiction over the action supported by reasons why a hearing will be helpful.
  • 6. Public interest in the management of public lands in the Bureau of Land Management Vale and Burns Districts is substantial and warrants scheduling a public hearing on the Southeast Oregon Resource Management
    Plan/Environmental Impact Statement.

    • The Oregon Natural Desert Association hosts the High Desert Conference at Malheur Field Station in the Burns District every year.  Hundreds of participants gather to discuss public land management in the region.
    • The Oregon Natural Desert Association sued to protect part of the Donnor und Blitzen River specially designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from livestock grazing.  ONDA v. Green, 953 F.Supp. 1133, 27 ELR 20,858 (D.Or. 1997).
    • ONDA v. ______ (ONDA's trespass cattle FOIA case -- ONDA won)
    • ONDA v. ______ (the Owyhee Wild and Scenic River Act case - ONDA won)
    • The Oregon Natural Desert Association recently submitted a Proposal for the Nomination of the Pronghorn
      Area of Critical Environmental Concern covering Bureau of Land Management lands in Southeastern Oregon.
    • The Oregon Natural Desert Association and other citizen groups have spent years developing the Oregon High Desert Protection Act which covers most of the lands in the Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan.

Mark N. Salvo
Grasslands Advocate
Public Lands Grazing Program
American Lands Alliance
Hillsboro, Oregon