Governor Freudenthal chastises Feds
Forest Service and BLM rule changes
May 10, 2005
Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal doesnít think much of two recent rule changes by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Last week the Forest Service announced changes in the rules for managing roadless areas. The changes are an attempt to allow states to have some say in how designated roadless areas are managed by giving states a chance to make recommendations on future management.
Freudenthal commented in a press release, "Iím frankly not surprised by this announcement. Itís been clear from the outset that the Forest Service was determined to proceed with its proposal. Forest planning is an inherently dynamic process, but these new rules give the states a one-time shot - and Wyoming has neither the staff nor the data to make that a fair shot. Even if we did, any petition we make still goes back through the forest-planning process, which, in the end, simply returns the decision to the forest supervisor, who can incorporate, disregard or modify the stateís petition. This procedural rule change does not alter any of the existing Forest Service planning criteria, regulations or law. It is a cosmetic attempt to appear to act without any real change. This is really a costly exercise in futility for the states and a mechanism for the Forest Service to deflect political pressure. I frankly wish they would have spent their efforts on making the planning process more effective and efficient for the average citizen rather than adding another layer."
Governor Freudenthal also sent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) a letter last week expressing concern about their recent changes to reduce the time period the public will have to make comments and potentially protest upcoming mineral leases in Wyoming. The Governor stated he felt it was appropriate to give the BLM more time to review protests, but not appropriate to take that time away from the public review period.
Freudenthal wrote, "I am writing with concerns regarding the revised protest rules. I fully understand the problems faced by the Wyoming BLM State Office in accepting lease protests the day before the lease sale and believe it is a wise decision to allow the BLM to fully analyze the protests before the sale. However, I am concerned that the time for the public to review documents and conduct research has been reduced to accommodate the BLMís needs. I would ask that you reconsider your decision and allow the public at least a full 45-days notice before the due date for the protest of leases."
He added, "I also understand that limiting protests to original signatures only may streamline the processing of protests. However, the mail situation in Wyoming is such that requiring original signatures on the protest due date could eliminate another seven days of review time. If e-mail and fax notices are not accepted, then please consider giving the public a full 60-day review period before the date the protests are due or perhaps providing a preliminary notice of parcels expected to be included in sales."
"This opportunity to review documents is particularly important, especially in cases of split estate lands and for those who monitor the implementation of Resource Management Plans. With the stateís protest, for example, we were able to identify lands that were to be withdrawn from leasing via BLM recommendation, but were accidentally released for bid. This is not the only instance that can be found of public comments having a direct and tangible effect on the bureau's end product. Providing the additional public review is important to the implementation of the RMP directives," Freudenthal wrote in his letter to the BLM.
Governor Freudenthal asked the BLM to maintain the 45-day public review period and accept faxes and e-mails or provide the public with a 60-day public review if original signatures are required.