Bureau of Land Management proposes changes to reflect modern forestry management practices, make review of salvage actions more efficient and effective

Comment periods now open on proposed changes to timber protest regulations, salvage CX

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management is proposing updates to antiquated regulations governing administration of timber sales, as well as a new tool designed to streamline and improve analysis of projects designed to reduce fuel loads and improve forest health by removing dead and dying trees. Both proposals better reflect how BLM plans and analyzes timber management actions at watershed and landscape scales.

Public comment periods are now open for both proposals, and information is provided below for anyone seeking to provide information to the BLM.

BLM proposes expedited review of timber salvage projects

The Bureau of Land Management announced a proposal to establish a new categorical exclusion (CX) under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would streamline the agency’s review of routine timber salvage projects and operations. This proposal would contribute to rural economies, accelerate reestablishment of native resilient forest tree species and reduce future wildfire fuel loads, while diminishing hazards to wildland firefighters, the public and infrastructure from dead and dying trees.

Given the threat of wildfires across millions of acres of forests – and the threat this poses to native wildlife and the lives and livelihoods of people and communities across the West – the BLM has identified that establishing a new CX for the actions is necessary to expedite the removal of dead and dying timber to reduce fuel loads and the threat of catastrophic wildfires.

The proposed CX – National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures for the Bureau of Land Management – published on June 2, 2020. Publication opened a 30-day comment period.

The public can review the proposed changes to the Departmental Manual and the new proposed CX Verification Report online at: https://tinyurl.com/w8t4jx2.

Comments can be submitted in the following ways:

  • BLM National NEPA Register: https://go.usa.gov/xvPfT. Follow the instruction at this website.
  • Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Attention: WO-210-SLVGCX, 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, CO 80215.
  • Personal or messenger delivery: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Attention: W0-210-SLVGCX, 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, CO 80215.

Please submit comments on proposed changes to the Departmental Manual and the new proposed CX Verification Report to the BLM on or before July 2, 2020.

BLM proposes modernizing forest management rules

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing updates to antiquated regulations governing administration of timber sales and protest of forest management decisions, which haven’t been revised in more than 35 years. This proposal more effectively executes the bureau’s modern watershed and landscape-level land management planning and evaluation process, which will enable BLM to make better decisions more quickly for the benefit of taxpayers and local communities.

The way BLM plans forest management projects and completes the environmental review of these projects has changed significantly since the 1980’s, and these proposed changes will improve the public’s ability to comment earlier in the process, when views and information have the greatest impact, rather than relying on protests after decisions have been made. Abuse of and litigation over protests has delayed the BLM’s efforts to implement active forest management, with both economic and public safety consequences.

The proposed rule – Forest Management Decision Protest Process and Timber Sale Administration – published in the Federal Register on Monday, June 8, 2020. Publication opened a 60-day public comment period.

Comments may be submitted on the proposed rule, identified by the number RIN 1004-AE61, by any of the following methods:

  • Mail, personal, or messenger delivery: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134 LM, 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20240, Attention: RIN 1004-AE61.
  • Federal eRulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Searchbox, enter “RIN 1004-AE61” and click the “Search” button. Follow the instructions at this website.

Please submit comments on this proposed rule to the BLM on or before August 7, 2020.