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
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
. . . (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
(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
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
Public Lands Grazing Program
American Lands Alliance