ADR in cases before the IBLA
The Interior Board of Land Appeals
The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA or the Board) is one of the primary forums of independent and objective administrative review of BLM decisions. When a party in a matter is adversely affected by a BLM officer's decision, generally that party can appeal the decision to the IBLA (subject to certain exceptions, such as those outlined in 43 CFR 4.410 and 1610.5 et seq). The IBLA is part of the Office of Hearings and Appeals of the Department of the Interior, which by regulation has been designated as an authorized representative to carry out and decide the hearings, appeals, and other review functions on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. 43 CFR 4.1.
The IBLA ADR Case Referral Program
ADR, including direct negotiations, has long been a viable practice in cases before the Interior Board of Land Appeals. In recent years, the use of both direct and facilitated negotiations in cases before the IBLA has increased. In part, this is because of the Board's ADR Case Referral Program, which the Board initiated by Federal Register Notice in 2004. Under this program, the IBLA screens incoming appeals and, in appropriate cases, orders the parties to attempt ADR, usually direct (unassisted) negotiations. The program also seeks to educate parties about ADR as an acceptable option for resolving IBLA appeals. Parties are not required to settle an appeal; if no settlement can be reached, the IBLA decides the case using standard adjudicative procedures. If, however, the parties successfully settle the case, the IBLA generally dismisses the case, and the parties can act on their settlement agreement.
In reponse to the IBLA Case Referral Program and the rise in use of ADR and collaborative stakeholder engagement in IBLA cases, the BLM has prepared guidance for BLM Managers and staff. The guidance provides procedures for managing ADR in cases before the IBLA, as well as information and answers to questions about the IBLA ADR Case Referral Program and ADR generally in IBLA cases. While the IBLA may order ADR, either the BLM or an appellant also may request ADR or a collaborative stakeholder engagement process at any time during an appeal, even if not ordered by the IBLA. The BLM's policy is to seek to use collaborative stakeholder engagement or ADR processes to resolve an appeal, except under unusual conditions such as when constrained by law, regulation, or other mandates or when it is important to obtain an IBLA decision to establish new, or reaffirm existing, precedent. The full text of this guidance is available here.
This page also contains general information and resources related to the IBLA, useful for appellants and BLM Managers and staff. The links below include the IBLA's own documentation regarding the IBLA case referral program, as well as other resources and materials related to the IBLA.
If you are an appellant in a BLM case before the IBLA, and would like more information about using ADR in your case, please contact us.