Land Use Plans and BLM Planning Criteria
The BLM's proposed Solar Energy Program, under either of the action alternatives, would be implemented through land use plan amendments.
Resource Management Plans
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) requires the BLM to develop land use plans, also known as Resource Management Plans (RMPs), to guide the BLM's management of public lands. For solar energy projects to be developed on BLM-administered lands, such activities must be provided for in these RMPs. One outcome of the Solar PEIS could be to amend some of BLM's existing RMPs to adopt the new Solar Energy Program. The BLM's land use planning regulations, which implement the FLPMA, require the BLM to publish, and provide for public review of, the proposed planning criteria that will guide the BLM's land use planning process. The initial notice published May 29, 2008 fulfilled the BLM's obligation under the FLPMA and the BLM's planning regulations (43 CFR 1610.2(f) and 43 CFR 1610.4‑2) to notify the public of its proposed planning criteria.
Planning criteria are the constraints, standards, and guidelines that determine what the BLM will or will not consider during its planning process. As such, they establish parameters and help focus analysis of the issues identified in scoping, and structure the preparation of the planning decisions and associated NEPA analysis. The following are the planning criteria that were considered during preparation of the Solar PEIS:
- The BLM will prepare RMP amendments in compliance with the FLPMA, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and all other applicable laws, Executive Orders, and BLM management policies.
- The BLM will use the PEIS as the analytical basis for any decision it makes to amend an individual land use plan.
- The BLM will develop a Reasonably Foreseeable Development scenario (RFDS) to predict future levels of development. It will identify lands available for utility-scale solar energy development, lands available for utility-scale solar energy development that have restrictive stipulations, and lands not available for utility-scale solar energy development in affected plans.
- The BLM will limit its amendment of these plans to utility-scale solar energy development and associated transmission issues and will not address the management of other resources, although the BLM will consider and analyze the impacts from increased use on other managed resource values.
- The BLM will continue to manage other resources in the affected planning areas under the pre-existing terms, conditions, and decisions in the applicable RMPs for those other resources.
- The BLM will recognize valid existing rights under the RMPs, as amended.
- The BLM will coordinate with Federal, State, and local agencies and tribal governments in the PEIS and plan amendment process to strive for consistency with existing plans and policies, to the extent practicable.
- The BLM will coordinate with tribal governments and provide strategies for the protection of recognized traditional uses in the PEIS and plan amendment process.
- The BLM will take into account appropriate protection and management of cultural and historic resources in the PEIS and plan amendment process.
- The BLM will recognize in the PEIS and plan amendments the special importance of public lands to people who live in communities surrounded by public lands and the importance of public lands to the nation as a whole.
- The BLM will make every effort to encourage public participation throughout the PEIS process.
- The BLM has the authority to develop protective management prescriptions for lands with wilderness characteristics within RMPs. As part of the public involvement process for land use planning, the BLM will consider public input regarding lands to be managed to maintain wilderness characteristics.
- Environmental protection and energy production are both desirable and necessary objectives of sound land management practices and are not to be considered mutually exclusive priorities.
- The BLM will consider and analyze relevant climate change impacts as part of the PEIS process, including the potential for climate change benefits from solar energy development.