A few weeks ago I wrote about the Bureau of Land Management using arbitrary standards to decide when an event is considered “significant,” thus, needing to be officially “noticed” in the Federal Register. At that time my curiosity got the best of me and the AMA wrote a letter to the principle deputy director of the BLM asking for clarification. Just this week the BLM responded to the letter the AMA sent out asking for clarification.
The BLM’s response was disappointing.
The BLM directed me to 40 CFR 1508.27 which, theoretically, lays out the legally binding definition of a “significant” event. The legal definition leaves much to be desired. At the end of the day, this flexible definition of a significant event gives nearly total discretion to (unelected) federal decision-makers on the ground.
The BLM went on to say that, “Although Federal regulations do not require a comment period for environmental assessments… [we] strongly encourage public involvement, leaving the type of involvement at the discretion of the decision-maker.”
As a result, if an unelected bureaucrat wants to make an unpopular decision he/she first gets to decide if an event is significant enough to legally warrant public comments and being noticed in the Federal Register. That same bureaucrat can then decide the level of public involvement. Since the law is so vague, any decision is difficult to appeal.
I am not one to argue for more levels of arbitrary bureaucracy. But, the BLM, as well as all other federal land management agencies, should have quantitative measurements that apply when determining the significance of a proposed decision. These metrics should be applied to every project so the public can be involved in decisions that affect them, no matter how insignificant the federal government claims them to be. After all, our nation’s citizens and their treasured natural resources deserve nothing less.