Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: July 19, 2004

Secretary Norton Says States, Counties and Tribes Should Have a Stronger Role in Land Use Planning Decisions

Interior Department is seeking public comments on
Cooperating Agency Status


PHOENIX -- In a keynote speech Sunday before the annual meeting of the National Association of Counties in Phoenix, Ariz., Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced a change in the land use planning rule. The proposed rule change will give states, counties and tribal governments a stronger role in developing Bureau of Land Management land use plans.

"States, counties and tribes all have a tremendous stake in land management issues," Norton said. "They should be at the table when these issues are being addressed and share a strong role in the process when these planning decisions are made."

Norton noted that the proposed change to the BLM planning regulations will formally recognize and define the Cooperating Agency status that may be granted to local, state, tribal and other federal agencies during the land use planning process. Cooperating Agency status permits entities to collaborate with lead land management agencies, such as the BLM, in the environmental analyses required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

"Cooperating Agency status will promote broader public participation in resource management decisions and will ultimately generate more effective on the ground solutions," Norton said. "It will also promote the principle of shared community stewardship of our public lands."

The BLM has worked with and actively encouraged governmental partners to participate as cooperating agencies in planning and NEPA activities, but the practice has never been specifically recognized in BLM regulations. Norton asked conference attendees and the general public to read the proposed rule and make their comments before Sept. 20, 2004.

"The changes we are proposing will affirm that the lands entrusted to our care belong to
the public and should be managed in partnership with the public to serve public needs and interests," Norton added. "The proposed rule change will ensure the planning process incorporates local knowledge of economic, social and political conditions and addresses local interests and values."

"This is the first change to NEPA in 30 years and it was done to increase public participation," Norton said. "When this process is complete, the Bureau of Land Management will be the first federal agency to make cooperating agency policy the rule."

The proposed Land Use Planning Rule will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, July 20, 2004, and may be read on the BLM Web site at The proposed rule contains information on how to submit comments, which will be accepted until Sept. 20, 2004.

The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages 261 million acres of public lands, primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, and 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, cultural and other resources on the public lands.


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