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April 15, 2013
In Reply Refer To:
6100 (410) P         
Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-106       
Expires: 09/30/2014  
To:                  All WO and Field Officials
From:              Principal Deputy Director
Subject:           Bureau of Land Management Manual No. 6310 and 6320 - Additional Guidance Regarding Public and Cooperating Agency Involvement in and Access toWilderness Characteristics Inventory Information and the Land Use Planning Process
Program Area:  Wilderness - Wilderness Characteristics Inventory Process 

Purpose: Bureau of land Management (BLM) Manual No. 6310, Conducting Wilderness Characteristics Inventory on BLM Lands, and BLM Manual No. 6320, Considering Lands with Wilderness Characteristics in Land Use Plans were issued in March, 2012. This Instruction Memorandum provides additional guidance on (1) public involvement in the lands with wilderness characteristics inventory process, (2) the role of cooperating agencies in the wilderness characteristics inventory and land use planning processes, and (3) sharing wilderness characteristics inventory information with the public.


Public Involvement in the Lands with Wilderness Characteristics Inventory Process

Conducting an inventory for wilderness characteristics is a BLM responsibility, regardless of whether the inventory is separate from or a part of a Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) Section 202 land use planning process. While members of the public, including individual citizens, non-governmental organizations, and cooperating agencies may collect and submit inventory information to the BLM for its consideration to help inform BLM’s inventory process,[1] they may not be on BLM wilderness characteristics inventory teams, conduct the inventory for the BLM, or make any findings for the BLM regarding whether the lands in question do or do not have wilderness characteristics. Members of the public, non-governmental organizations, and cooperating agencies who are interested in collecting inventory information, or conducting their own inventories for consideration by the BLM, should be given access to all relevant publicly available information in a timely manner (e.g., maps showing travel routes, location of existing facilities, etc.).

The Role of Cooperating Agencies (CAs) in the Wilderness Characteristics Inventory and Land Use Planning Processes:

The formal CA relationship with the BLM occurs in the context of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis for a site-specific project or a NEPA analysis for a FLPMA Section 202 land use plan. CAs may collaborate and coordinate with the BLM in the inventory process (including data collection and analysis), the development of planning criteria, the formulation of alternatives, the estimation of effects of alternatives, and the selection of a preferred alternative.[2] BLM enters into Memorandum of Understanding’s (MOU’s) with CA’s for all land-use planning exercises. These MOU’s outline the management and control of all draft deliberative documents shared with CA’s during this process, including whether or not data and information can be released and the requirement to keep any and all information shared between the BLM and CA’s confidential. The BLM’s policy is to allow CAs to review preliminary/internal drafts of NEPA documents (e.g. DRMP/EIS) prior to public release, and such documents may contain draft inventory information and findings. These draft NEPA documents are meant to be shared as per the MOU between the BLM and the CA’s.

Nevertheless, and as noted above, the BLM is responsible for compiling and maintaining the inventory, making findings regarding the presence or absence of lands with wilderness characteristics, and incorporating the results of the inventory into the NEPA and/or planning processes. As with any member of the public, the opportunity to provide data and information does not mean that CAs may make decisions on how to manage public lands found to have wilderness characteristics. Any information provided to the BLM by CAs will be given the same level of consideration as any wilderness characteristics submittal from any member of the public. The BLM, as the agency who manages these lands, is ultimately responsible for making the final decisions in accordance with all legal requirements, and ensuring the public interest is safeguarded.

The BLM may, as appropriate, conduct field trips or educational demonstration sessions to explain the general inventory process to CAs or interested members of the public.

Sharing of Wilderness Characteristics Inventory Information with the Public:

Draft inventory findings may be subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As noted above, CAs often review preliminary/internal drafts of NEPA documents (e.g., a DRMP/EIS), and therefore if the draft inventory findings are a part of a preliminary/internal Draft RMP/EIS, the CAs may have the opportunity to see the draft inventory findings before they are made publicly available. 

The BLM field offices should make finalized and signed wilderness characteristics inventory findings (using the forms provided in BLM Manual 6310, Appendix B) available to the public as soon as practicable after their completion and before the inventory data is used to inform decisions.  If possible, this should occur prior to, and no later than, the publication of the draft NEPA analysis associated with the action. The Washington Office (WO) is currently working with the state wilderness program leads to develop a standard and consistent approach Bureau- wide that meets the needs of the public and minimizes costs to the BLM.   At this time, most BLM offices are making the findings available electronically and on-line. There should not be a need for a FOIA request for the public to access BLM’s final wilderness characteristics inventory findings.

As with any public document, prior to release of inventory findings, the BLM needs to protect certain types of information consistent with applicable law, including Privacy Act information and sensitive cultural resources information. BLM field offices should consult with their respective FOIA, Privacy Act, and cultural resources experts, as well as with their local/regional solicitors if they are concerned about information contained in these final inventory findings.

Timeframe: Effective immediately.

Budget Impact: There is no anticipated budget impact of this guidance.

Background: Field and state offices have questions regarding how interested members of the public and cooperating agencies can be involved in the wilderness characteristics inventory process and how inventory information should be made public. This Instruction Memorandum provides guidance on public involvement, including cooperating agencies, in the wilderness characteristics inventory process, and sharing of this inventory information with the public.

Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: Manual 6310 .06 B.2., and Manual 6320.

Coordination: All State Offices, WO 210

Contact: Joe L. Ashor, Senior Wilderness Specialist, 202-912-7179

Signed by:                                                        Authenticated by:
Jamie E. Connell                                               Robert M. Williams
Acting, Deputy Director Operations                   Division of IRM Governance,WO-560

[1]See e.g., 43 C.F.R. §1610.2 (BLM’s planning regulations addressing role of public participation in the land use planning process); 40 C.F.R. § 1500.1 et seq. (CEQ’s NEPA regulations addressing public participation early and throughout the NEPA process); BLM Land Use Planning Handbook H-1601-1 at 2 (addressing forms of public and intergovernmental involvement); and BLM Manual No. 6310 at Section .06 (addressing the BLM’s wilderness characteristics inventory process, including BLM’s evaluation of citizen-submitted information.) 

[2]See e.g., FLPMA §202 (c)(9) (addressing coordination of inventory, planning, and management activities with other Federal, state, and local agencies);43 C.F.R. §1610.4-2through43 C.F.R. §1610.4-7(BLM planning regulations addressing the BLM’s duties in collaboration with cooperating agencies); BLM Manual No. 6310 at Section .06 (addressing the BLM’s wilderness characteristics inventory process, including BLM’s evaluation of citizen-submitted information); BLM Land Use Planning Handbook, H-1601-1; and BLM’s Cooperating Agency Desk Guide.

Last updated: 04-22-2013