Review of the Federal Land Use Planning Process
Access to public lands plays an increasing role in the exploration and development of hydrocarbon resources. Federal land use planning is conducted through the resource management plan (RMP) process and the end-point of the planning process will, to varying degrees, dictate which lands will be available for leasing and what kind of restrictions will be placed on use of those lands. Review of recent draft RMPs in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming indicates that the proposed plans contain excessive restrictions, inadequate Reasonably Foreseeable Development Scenarios (RFDS), lack of accountability for mineral decisions, failure to acknowledge valid existing lease rights, and unreasonable mitigation requirements. There are a number of opportunities in the RMP process where the public can be involved. These opportunities include scoping, development of RFDS, determination of proposed alternatives, and draft and final environmental impact statements. Decisions made during the development of RMPs have direct bearing on the ability to access, explore, and develop mineral resources and industry must have a greater role in the federal land use planning process.