Tucson, AZ— In a letter sent today to the Bureau of Land Management, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva urges the agency to abandon their recent proposal to eliminate a regulation that provides for emergency withdrawals of public lands.
The BLM recently published a notice in the Federal Register to rescind the rule (43 C.F.R. 2310.5) that allows the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to notify the Secretary to withdraw certain lands in emergencies in order to give Congress the opportunity to determine whether permanent protection for the lands is warranted. The notice only gave the public 15 days to comment and provides no environmental analysis of the impacts of the proposed action.
In most cases, the emergency withdrawal authority has been used cooperatively between Congress and the acting administration and the Bureau of Land Management admits that the authority has only been used “sparingly.” It was previously used several decades ago by Congressman Mo Udall to protect important lands that were under threat, and most recently when the House Natural Resources Committee, prompted by Grijalva, notified the Secretary to withdraw lands around Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining. The Department of Interior has refused to comply with the emergency withdrawal notification thus far and withdraw the lands, allowing uranium mining to continue on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Bureau of Land Management is allowing exploratory drilling for uranium without the benefit of any environmental analysis or public notice and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“The very manner in which this rule is being rescinded shows how truly necessary it is for Congress to have the emergency withdrawal authority at its disposal,” stated Rep. Grijalva, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “Land management agencies under this administration are able to move with lightning speed, especially on behalf of extractive industry, to rid themselves of inconvenient rules and subvert or avoid altogether the normal comment periods and environmental analyses, yet they act at a glacial pace when confronted with a proposal to take action to protect the environment. I am hardly convinced that allowing the executive branch the sole withdrawal authority adequately protects our precious and irreplaceable public lands.”