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Bureau of Land Management
For Release: Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Fact Sheet
Sharon Wilson
(202) 452-5130
Robert Winthrop
(202) 785-6597
Mark Lambert
(202) 452-7763

BLM Strengthens Role of Local, State, and Tribal Partners in Planning

Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke today said the agency is moving to strengthen the role of local, state and tribal agencies in developing land use plans for the public lands under the BLM’s jurisdiction.

Clarke said the agency is proposing to modify its regulations to formally recognize and define the standing local, state, tribal and federal entities of government may be granted as Cooperating Agencies in the planning process.

Cooperating Agency status is authorized under the National Environmental Policy Act as a tool to permit local, state, tribal and federal government entities to participate in a range of activities that federal agencies such as BLM carry out to comply with environmental analysis and documentation requirements under NEPA.

While the BLM has utilized and actively encouraged its partners and stakeholders to participate as Cooperating Agencies in planning and NEPA activities, the practice has never been specifically recognized in the Bureau’s regulations.

“The changes we are proposing will affirm that the lands entrusted to our care belong to the public and that they should be managed in partnership with the public to serve public needs and interests,” Clarke said. “Local communities, states and tribes all have a tremendous stake in the land management issues that confront our agency. We want to ensure that they also have a place at the table when these issues are addressed, and a strong voice in the planning decisions that are made.”

Clarke said the cooperating agency relationship outlined in the revised planning regulations will ensure that the planning process incorporates local knowledge of economic, social and political conditions and addresses local interests and values.

“Cooperating Agency status can give us broader public participation in resource management decisions and, ultimately, more effective solutions,” Clarke said. “It can be an important tool in promoting the principal of shared community stewardship of the public lands.”

The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages 260 million acres of public lands, primarily in the 12 western states, including Alaska. The Bureau also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural and other resources on the public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Changes to Current Cooperating Agency Status Rule

  • Cooperating agency is defined in regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) implementing the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), particularly at 40 CFR 1501.6 and 1508.5.

  • The cooperating agency relationship implements the policy goal set forth in the first sentence of NEPA, mandating that the federal government shall work “in cooperation with state and local governments” to protect the environment while meeting the social and economic needs of present and future generations (NEPA, Sec. 101(a)).

  • The cooperating agency relationship also implements the coordination requirement of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1712(c)(9)).

  • The following changes provide a more consistent approach to the use of cooperating agencies by the BLM:

    • The rule is amended to include language instructing BLM State Directors and Field Managers to invite qualifying federal agencies, state and local governments, and Indian tribes to participate as cooperating agencies in the development of resource management plans.

    • New language requires that BLM State Directors and Field Managers consider requests for cooperating agency status from other federal and state agencies and local and tribal governments.

  • The proposed rule clarifies within the BLM’s planning regulations the criteria for cooperating agency relationships and their application to the BLM’s land use planning process.

  • The effect of the rule is limited to governmental entities, such as local, state, tribal or federal agencies.

  • The proposed rule does not create new opportunities or obligations for other federal agencies beyond those already existing under the CEQ’s regulations.