As Republican members of Congress continue their efforts to overturn federal regulations passed under the Obama administration, they are now taking aim at the process for managing public lands.

In the past few weeks, Congress has introduced a number of resolutions under an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, which could undo multiple environmental rules finalized last year. And one of the latest to come up for the chopping block is a regulation passed late last year by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), intended to make federal land use planning more efficient and accessible to the public. A resolution to nullify the rule has already passed in the House and may soon come to a vote in the Senate.  

The regulation — commonly known as the BLM Planning 2.0 rule — was meant to address concerns about the time and transparency associated with land planning processes, which can include everything from decisions about energy development on public lands to the protection of endangered wildlife. The final rule expands the process of gathering data and information for decision-making processes, allowing for greater and earlier public input on land planning decisions and calling for decisions to be based on the best available science.

Upon its finalization, BLM officials claimed that the rule would help decisions to be made more quickly, in a way that better reflects the condition of the land and the concerns of affected communities at the time the plans are carried out.  

“Under the current system, it takes an average of eight years for the BLM to finish a land use plan,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze in a statement at the time. “Too often, by the time we’ve completed a plan, community priorities have evolved and conditions on the ground have changed as well. This update to our planning rule allows for a more streamlined process that also increases collaboration and transparency.”  

But critics have claimed that the rule reduces the authority of county commissioners and other local land managers and undermines local interests. Last week, a letter from the Western Governors’ Association to members of Congress expressed concern about the involvement of state governors in resource management plans moving forward, as well as the rule’s potential to favor national objectives over state interests. The letter urged Congress to direct the BLM to reexamine the regulation.  

Under the new resolution, however, the rule would not just be revisited — it would be done away with entirely, with a provision prohibiting any substantially similar rule from ever being enacted again without congressional approval. President Trump has already indicated his intention to sign the resolution should it pass through Congress.

It’s the second major BLM rule to be targeted for repeal under the Congressional Review Act. The first was a highly controversial regulation aimed at curbing excess methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands — it was pinned as a likely target for action under the Trump administration nearly as soon as it was passed in November. This resolution is also awaiting a vote in the Senate.

The Planning 2.0 rule has received somewhat quieter pushback since it was finalized in December, making it a slightly more surprising target for congressional action. It was not pegged by experts as an early priority for repeal, nor was it included in an initial report from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), head of the House Freedom Caucus, containing a comprehensive list of rules and regulations Congress should focus on overturning in the new administration’s first 100 days.  However, the rule was included on a list of targets for action under the Congressional Review Act compiled by the Congressional Western Caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers representing the Western states.

“We already think that Congress has spent way too much time on this planning rule, which should be a nonissue and noncontroversial,” said Phil Hanceford, assistant director of the Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “I’m not saying that people’s complaints or problems with the rule aren’t valid, but they can be fixed through very surgical means.”  

He added that the previous Congress held three hearings on the rule before it was finalized, two in the House and one in the Senate, and that “we were surprised that they spent that much time on the rule in the first place.”  

However, some groups have hailed the congressional action. Ethan Lane, executive director of federal lands with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement last week that the rule was a “massive regulatory overreach” and that the new congressional resolution represented a “huge victory for America’s cattle producers and a sign that some common sense is finally being restored in Washington.”

But environmentalists have maintained that concerns about specific provisions of the rule could still be addressed administratively by the BLM, instead of subjecting the entire regulation to the chopping block.  

“If the planning rule is overturned by the CRA, then we go back to the out-of-date, inefficient way of planning for public lands that everybody has complained about for decades,” Hanceford said.