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Land Use Planning

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does the Decision Support, Planning & NEPA Division (“Planning Group”) fit into the larger Bureau of Land Management?

A: The Planning Group is a Washington Office-based program under the Renewable Resources and Planning directorate (AD-200). Please see the BLM organizational chart for more information:

Q: What is the difference between a land use plan and a resource management plan?

A: The terms land use plan and resource management plan are used interchangeably by the BLM. Through a land use planning process, the BLM develops resource management plans (RMP) for public lands. In accordance with the provisions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. 1711-1712), these plans ensure that public lands are managed under the principals of multiple use and sustained yield. Land use plans and planning decisions are the basis for every on-the-ground action the BLM takes.
Q: What is an RMP?

A: An RMP is a blueprint explaining how the BLM will manage areas of public land over a period of time (generally 10-15 years). BLM Field Offices or District Offices prepare RMPs for the lands within their boundaries. RMPs contain decisions that guide future management actions and subsequent site-specific implementation decisions. RMPs establish goals and objectives for resource management (desired outcomes) and the measures needed to achieve these goals and objectives (management actions and allowable uses). 

The development of an RMP emphasizes a collaborative approach in which local, State, and Tribal governments, the public, user groups, and industry work with the BLM to identify an appropriate mix of uses and protections for the public lands.  RMPs are periodically evaluated to determine if management decisions contained within them are still current and adequate.  Where changing conditions (such as the Federal listing of a wildlife or plant species as threatened or endangered) and/or demands on the public lands have resulted in the need to update management decisions in the RMP, the BLM may either revise or amend the RMP to bring it into conformance with these changing conditions. 
RMPs generally establish the following:
(1) Land areas for limited, restricted or exclusive use; designations, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC); and transfers from BLM administration;
(2) Allowable resource uses and related levels of production or use to be maintained;
(3) Resource condition goals and objectives to be attained;
(4) Program constraints and general management practices needed to achieve the above items;
(5) Need for an area to be covered by more detailed and specific plans;
(6) Support actions, including such measures as resource protection, access development, realty action, cadastral survey, etc. as necessary to achieve the above;
(7) General implementation sequences, where carrying out a planned action is dependent upon prior accomplishment of another planned action; and
(8) Intervals and standards for monitoring and evaluating the plan to determine the effectiveness of the plan and the need for amendment or revision.
Q: How is an RMP developed?

A: The BLM uses an ongoing planning process to ensure that land use plans and implementation decisions remain consistent and comply with applicable laws, regulations, and policies. The BLM develops RMPs and makes decisions using the best information available and extensive public involvement. RMPs may be revised or amended as the BLM acquires information and knowledge of new circumstances relevant to land and resource values, uses, and environmental concerns.

The specific steps in the development of an RMP include:
1) Issue a Notice of Intent to Prepare the RMP
2) Conduct Scoping (i.e. public process to assist in the identification of planning issues)
3) Analyze the management situation
4) Develop Alternatives to address planning issues
5) Analyze the effects of the alternatives
6) Select a preferred alternative
7) Prepare a draft RMP/draft EIS
8) Provide a 90-day public comment period
9) Prepare a proposed RMP/final EIS based on comments received
10) Provide a 30-day public protest period upon publication of the proposed RMP/final EIS
11) Approve the RMP through a record of decision once the protests have been resolved
12) Implement, monitor, and evaluate plan decisions
Q: Does any action taken on BLM land need to be consistent with a plan?

A: Yes. All actions approved or authorized by the BLM must conform to the existing approved land use plan. If the BLM wants to approve or take an action that is at variance with the decisions contained in an existing plan, it may amend the plan.

Q: How can I be involved in the BLM planning process?

A: The development of an RMP emphasizes a collaborative approach, through which the BLM and the public work together to identify appropriate uses and/or protective measures within the BLM’s multiple use mandate governing the public lands. The BLM planning regulations provide opportunities for public involvement at specific points in the planning process. This includes participation in the identification of planning issues (scoping), reviewing and commenting on the draft RMP/draft EIS, and protesting decisions in the proposed RMP/final EIS. The public is also invited to participate in the environmental analysis associated with subsequent site-specific implementation actions. 

Q: What work is done by BLM Planners?

A: The work BLM Planners are involved with is as follows: 

  • Examine how facts and technical information compare to the big picture
  • Identify gaps in information, expertise & resources
  • Serve as interpreter, facilitator, negotiator
  • Apply and clarify a process for achieving goals
  • Evaluate process and make corrections
  • Package findings and recommendations for public understanding and to meet legal requirements
Q: What is NEPA?

A: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is our basic national charter for protection of the environment. The NEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on an understanding of environmental consequences, and to mitigate actions that may have adverse environmental impacts. NEPA requires that environmental information is available to the public before decisions are made and before actions are taken.  

NEPA mandates that Federal agencies prepare a detailed statement of the effects of major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. For the BLM this includes site-specific implementation, as well as land use planning decisions. The BLM prepares Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Environmental Assessments (EAs) to meet its obligations under NEPA.

Q. Where can I find online NEPA Training?

A.  We have three online NEPA courses that can be taken anytime by anyone at no cost (select Not Required when you are asked for your credit card information).

To do this, you would go to DOI Learn ( and use this procedure:

1) Select Public Catalog Login, and insert the appropriate course number(s) in the Search box:

     a) 1620-17 for NEPA Concepts Modules 1 (NEPA) and 2 (CEQ Regulations)

     b) 1620-18 for NEPA Concepts Module 3 (BLM-specific NEPA Requirements)

     c) 1620-28 for Purpose and Need.

Please note that NEPA Concepts Module 3 has not been updated to match the newly released BLM NEPA Handbook.

Q: What is an EA?

A: An Environmental Assessment (EA) is a concise public document that provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining the significance of effects from a proposed Federal action. An EA is prepared when it is unclear whether an action will have a significant effect on the human environment. If it is determined that a Federal action will not have a significant effect on the human environment, then a Finding of No Significant Impact is prepared (FONSI). If it is determined that a Federal action will have a significant effect on the human environment (either through an EA or based on existing knowledge) then an EIS is prepared.

Generally, an EA includes brief discussions of the following: a statement of the purpose and need for the proposed action; a description of the affected environment; alternatives to the proposed action; and an analysis of environmental impacts and ways to mitigate such impacts. 

Q: What is an EIS?

A: An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a comprehensive public document that analyzes the impacts of a Federal action that will have a significant effect on the human environment. Preparation of an EIS requires public scoping. Draft EISs must be made available for public review and comment; agencies must wait 30 days after publishing final EISs before making decisions. Generally, an EIS includes detailed discussions of the following: a statement of the purpose and need for the proposed action; a description of the affected environment; alternatives to the proposed action; and an analysis of environmental impacts and ways to mitigate such impacts.

The BLM’s land use plans require preparation of an EIS; RMPs and EISs are developed concurrently as part of the BLM planning process (see “How is an RMP Developed?”).
Q: What is the difference between an EA and an EIS?

A: The purpose of an EA is to determine if there will be significant effects resulting from a Federal action. The purpose of an EIS is to analyze and disclose the significant effects resulting from a Federal action. An EA is typically a shorter document than an EIS, and its preparation offers fewer opportunities for public comment or involvement than an EIS. EAs have fewer procedural requirements and therefore take less time to prepare on average than an EIS.