How Fishermen, Hunters, Bikers, and Hikers Are About to Lose Their Say on Public Land Use

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Congress is racing to nullify an Obama-era order (the Bureau of Land Management's  "Planning 2.0 rule") that gave hikers, bikers, hunters, fishers, and other outdoor recreation fans an equal voice with drillers, ranchers, loggers, and other industries in how the government manages over 250 million acres of federal lands.

The House and Senate are getting rid of the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows members of Congress to vote on "resolutions of disapproval" during the initial 60 days after an agency publishes the new rule. Striking it this way also allows Congress to do it without public input, and it forbids the agency from revisiting or improving the rule in the future. Since the beginning of the year, the GOP majority in Congress has used the CRA to eradicate Obama administration rules barring the dumping of coal waste into streams, sales of guns to people with mental health disorders, methane leaks and flaring by oil and gas drilling operations on public lands, and payments to either the U.S. or foreign governments for the rights to extract oil, natural gas, or minerals.

Killing the rule would be a huge setback for the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry, said Jessica Wahl of the Outdoor Industry Association. “Public lands are the backbone of our industry,” she told Men's Journal. “In many of these states, the recreation economy is king. So you can't say that on the one hand you support job creation, and on the other take a step that hampers the growth of the outdoor recreation industry.”

Athan Manuel, the director of the Lands Protection Program for the Sierra Club, terms Planning 2.0 “a very common-sense modernization” that “takes into account everyone's perspective, whether you're an oil company or an environmental group,” by increasing transparency and public participation in a process barely changed in over 30 years. “I guess that level playing field bothered Republicans who want to go back to the days of the BLM only permitting logging, grazing, mining, and drilling.”

Both groups are asking Planning 2.0 supporters to contact their legislators. “Folks pushing to repeal are underestimating how popular these measures are with bipartisan voters back home,” said Manuel.