Uintah County v. Zinke
The federal Department of Interior imposed a new “Wild Lands” policy in 2010 without any notice to the public or ability to comment. This policy equips the Bureau of Land Management will an arsenal of tools for restricting productive use of public lands. When BLM designates land as “wild lands,” it then subjects that area to “high priority protection” that takes two main forms: land use planning and project permitting. Under land use planning, BLM may close wild lands to leasing, prohibit new roads, exclude commercial uses, and limit construction. Under project permitting, BLM withholds permits until the agency evaluates the project area for wilderness characteristics, creating long delays in the permitting process. BLM may also condition or deny permits. This policy conflicts with other federal laws that require public lands to support multiple uses, and prohibit the government from withdrawing land from productive use. It also circumvents the legislative process for designating national wilderness, which must be done by Congress, not unilateral agency regulation.
The Administrative Procedures Act requires federal agencies to provide notice of proposed rule-making by publishing the proposed rule in the Federal Register and inviting the general public to participate in the rule-making process by offering comments. The Department of Interior entirely bypassed this procedure, making the Wild Lands policy final and binding without any notice or comments. As such, the policy is invalid. As PLF’s amicus brief explains, the economic consequences are dire. The cattle industry provides food for the nation, jobs for the public, and tax revenue for local, state, and federal governments. The Wild Lands policy threatens to reduce the amount of land available for grazing, thus reducing the ability of this critical industry to function.