February 21, 2013
In Reply Refer To:
1734 (200) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-082
Expires: 09/30/2014
To:                   All Washington Office and Field Office Officials
From:               Acting Director
Subject:           Use of Regional Assessments                                     DD: 9/30/13 and 3/31/14
Program Areas: All Resource Programs.                               
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) outlines policy for the use of Rapid Ecoregional Assessment (REA) information in managing the public lands. This memorandum builds on the discussion of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Landscape Approach for Managing the Public Lands outlined in Information Bulletin (IB) 2012-058, issued April 3, 2012.
Policy/Action:  The REAs provide the BLM with a large amount of information about current and projected resource condition. It is the policy of the BLM to use this REA information and similar information from other large-scale assessments to help prepare land use plans and plan amendments; conduct cumulative impact analyses; establish development, restoration and conservation priorities; develop best management practices; and authorize public land uses. 
It will take time for the BLM and its partners to explore these uses of regional information and to develop program specific guidance to effectively integrate it into the BLM’s established work processes for planning, use authorization, and project implementation. To both facilitate and structure this exploration, BLM managers at every level of the organization should use the REA information, where appropriate, to help inform their analyses and decisions.
(1)   The Assistant Directors (ADs) and Center Directors are encouraged to:
(a)    Develop proposed guidance on how to effectively use REAs and other assessments to help answer a wide variety of management questions, including questions about identifying priority areas for conservation, restoration, and development; understanding critical ecological thresholds and developing associated stipulations for use authorization; developing off-site mitigation strategies; evaluating the effectiveness of a region’s existing system of protected areas; and developing regional climate change adaptation strategies focused on landscape scale change agents such as drought, wildland fire and invasive plants and animals.
(b)   Develop proposed planning guidance on the use of REAs and other assessments in analyzing the management situation, describing the affected environment, formulating alternatives, analyzing cumulative effects, and developing mitigation strategies.
(c)    Engage national partners in a discussion about how we can more systematically conduct and use large-scale assessments.
(d)   Review the REAs and other assessments to develop a list of potential national-level priorities for policy and program development, data collection, research, and out-year funding. 
(2) The Director, National Operations Center, is encouraged to:
(a)    Provide guidance on accessing the REA data and models.
(b)   Establish a data services team to help answer questions about accessing and using regional and national data sets.
(c)    Work with the ADs to develop and implement a strategy to identify and maintain core regional data sets over time. 
(3) The State Directors are encouraged to:
(a)    Use the REAs and other assessments, where appropriate, in developing new state-wide Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) such as the Greater Sage Grouse EISs, in siting large-scale projects managed at the state or regional level, identifying focal areas for development, restoration and conservation; and in designing state or regional level off-site mitigation strategies.
(b)   Work with regional partners to create interagency teams to review the REAs and other assessments to identify regional challenges and opportunities, describe what is already being done to address these challenges and opportunities, and propose additional actions that could be taken over the next 3-5 years to address them.
(c)    Review the REAs and other assessments to develop a list of potential state-level priorities for policy and program development, data collection, research, and out-year funding. 
(4) District and Field Office Managers are encouraged to:
(a)    Identify training and guidance needs that would help the field make effective use of the REAs and other assessments.
(b)   Use the REAs and other assessments, where appropriate, in developing new land use plans, plan amendments and project specific National Environmental Policy Act documents.
(c)    Demonstrate how REAs and other assessments may be used to help identify potential obstacles to achieving our multiple use and sustained yield mission and to more effectively focus and integrate day-to-day management activities and coordinate work with adjoining Field Offices.
(d)   Work with local partnerships to use the REAs and other assessments to facilitate cross-jurisdictional activities. 
By September 30, 2013, the AD for Resources and Planning (WO-200) will conduct a survey of key BLM officials to gather information about the bureau’s experience to date in using regional information; specific policy and program development needs, including required training and technical assistance; interagency and intergovernmental coordination needs and opportunities; and the potential focus and organization of future assessments.
By March 31, 2014, the AD for Resources and Planning will sponsor at least one lessons-learned workshop with key state, tribal and Federal partners to discuss the initial set of REAs and other large-scale assessments, the above mentioned survey of the BLM’s experience, and potential next steps. Recommended actions resulting from this workshop will be forwarded to the members of the BLM’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) for their review and comment.
Timeframe:  This IM is effective upon issuance.
Budget Impact:  The REAs and other large-scale assessments may be used in out-year budget development and in identifying regional funding priorities.  
Background: BLM managers recognized in the early 1980s that western forests and rangelands were beset by widespread wildfires and weed and insect infestations that could no longer be managed effectively by local offices alone, or through traditional management practices.  Scientists, land managers, and stakeholders have been working since then to understand these wide-ranging impacts, develop shared strategies, and implement collaborative management efforts, resulting in BLM’s landscape approach to public land management.
The REAs are one of five interconnected components of the BLM’s landscape approach. REAs use existing scientific information to identify resource conditions and trends within ecoregions which transcend traditional administrative boundaries.  Their large-scale approach is designed to help us identify patterns of environmental change that may not be evident when managing smaller, local land areas.
Each REA highlights and maps areas of high, medium and low ecological value, including important wildlife habitats and corridors, and gauges their potential risks from four key environmental “change agents:” climate change, wildfires, invasive species, and development. REAs also map areas that have high energy development potential, and relatively low ecological value, which could be best-suited for siting future energy development. In areas of high energy development potential, REAs will also assist states in identifying appropriate restoration strategies within areas of moderate to high ecological values, as appropriate. Depending on the availability of regional data sets, future REAs may be expanded to address other resources such as air quality, subsurface water, and cultural resources.
The REAs are not the only large scale assessments that have been or are being prepared. In 2008, for example, the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Interior prepared Phase III of the Energy Policy and Conservation Action (EPCA) Inventory of Onshore Federal Oil and Natural Gas Resources. (See http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/oil_and_gas/EPCA_III.html.) The Western Governors’ Association is developing Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools throughout the West. (See IM 2012-039, Identification and Uniform Mapping of Wildlife Corridors and Crucial Habitat Pursuant to a memorandum of Understanding with the Western Governors’ Association.) And, the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives are beginning to conduct assessments with varying foci and at varying scales. It is crucial that the REAs be used, as appropriate, in conjunction with such other assessments.
It is also critical that the BLM consider this large-scale information in partnership with others. Many of the challenges and opportunities highlighted by the REAs are landscape in scope and are beyond the authority or capacity of any single agency. If the BLM is going to effectively address these challenges and opportunities, it will have to work across jurisdictions at scales larger than a field office.
Working in partnership with others, the BLM should be able to use the landscape-scale information from the REAs and other assessments to help site large scale projects; to highlight potential focal areas for development, restoration and conservation; and to identify areas where mitigation strategies need to be developed to reduce key stressors. 
Initial funding for the REAs came from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009.  As discussed in detail on BLM’s website, the BLM initiated seven REAs in 2010, three REAs in 2011, and four REA pre-assessments in 2012. (See http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/Landscape_Approach.html.)
The first seven REAs will be completed in 2013; the other seven REAs will be completed approximately 2 years after they were initiated.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: None.
Coordination: The Design Team established by IB 2012-058 developed the initial version of this IM. It was distributed to the members of BLM’s ELT for their August 2012 meeting and was then reviewed and discussed by the ELT’s Landscape Working Group.
Contact: ELT members may direct any questions or concerns to Edwin L. Roberson, Assistant Director, Resources and Planning, at 202-208-4896 or at eroberso@blm.gov. Staff may contact Kit Muller, BLM Strategic Planner and Initiatives Coordinator, Resources and Planning (WO-200) at 202-912-7225 or at kmuller@blm.gov.
Signed by:                                                        Authenticated by:
Mike Pool                                                          Robert M. Williams
Acting, Director                                                 Division of IRM Governance,WO-560