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Federal Land-Use Planning and its Impact on Resource Management Decisions

Scott W. Hardt, Public Land Law II (1997)

Congress has directed that the bulk of our federal lands — the national forests1 and Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) lands — be managed for multiple uses and sustained yield. Under the multiple-use doctrine, the United States Forest Service (“Forest Service”) and BLM have extremely broad discretion to determine the appropriate balance of resource uses and preservation.

Since 1976, pursuant to the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”), Congress has required that the Forest Service and the BLM make their multiple-use management decisions pursuant to interdisciplinary land use plans prepared by the agencies. Both NFMA and FLPMA direct the land management agencies to consider public input and sound science when preparing their land use plans. These plans generally serve to limit the broad discretion that the Forest Service and BLM otherwise possess under their multiple-use mandates by providing various management guidelines and standards that future resource management decisions must comply with. These guidelines and standards may create judicially enforceable requirements which limit the options for future utilization of public land resources for many years. The party who sits on the sidelines during the planning process, only to find that their desired project is inconsistent with the governing plan, risks subs