Panel Echoes Frustrations with Federal Government’s Failure to Respect Local Input in the Development of Land Management Plans

Washington, D.C. – February 1, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — The Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing on issues surrounding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Draft Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs National Conservation Areas in Washington County, Utah. The panel received testimony from the Mayor of St. George, the Chairman of the Washington County Commission, local stakeholders and a representative from the BLM.

One focal point of the hearing was the BLM’s lack of coordination with community members in the development of these plans for future land management in Washington County. In its draft plans, BLM is proposing to unduly restrict grazing, recreation, and other multiple-uses of federal lands laid out in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, and failed to identify an agreed upon transportation corridor north of St. George as required by the law.

“Congress is hearing a crescendo of complaints about BLM tactics and policies across the country and St. George seems to be a poster child of BLM bad behavior,” stated Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA). “The overwhelming consensus of these local representatives today is that what was painstakingly agreed to in the legislation that they negotiated, and Congress ratified, has since been distorted by unelected BLM bureaucrats to fit a narrow ideological agenda.”

“Welcome to the jewel of my district. Washington County is easily one of the most spectacular settings in the nation,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said during the hearing. “This contemptuous and condescending attitude towards the local planning process and the directive of Congress is not unique to my district and it is fostering mistrust between Americans and the government.”

“The spirit and letter of the 2009 law, and the good faith negotiations that went into crafting it, appear to have been at best ignored, and at worst forgotten, by BLM,” stated full Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). “The federal government can’t pick and choose which laws to enforce and you can’t choose to operate unilaterally at the expense of people. These actions hurt people and the very livelihood of this community.”

“Both State and the County signed up early to be Cooperating Agencies and also requested full coordination as mandated by law in the development of the draft RMP’s alternatives,” Director of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office Kathleen Clarke said. “They were left out of the critical deliberations and were not invited to the table to discuss the challenges the BLM wrestled with or the decisions that followed.”

“With the public release of the draft RMP, it became clear that BLM was not going to cooperate with the county to make the RMPs reflect the spirit of cooperation that led to the creation of the NCAs,” Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner wrote in his testimony. “What concerns me is the effort we had to go to just to get the plans to reflect the compromises that we worked on for years.”

Click here to view the full witness testimony.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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