GAO: Land Regulators Slow
The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management "take years, and sometimes nearly a decade," to write rules for logging, mining and grazing on federal lands, according to an audit by the General Accounting Office.
The audit found that the USFS has been working on three "significant" rules for between six and 10 years, while the BLM has been working on a "key" mining rule for almost four years and another concerning coal management for almost nine years. In some cases, the agencies worked for several years on proposed rule changes without ever taking formal action.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Frank Murkowski (R-AK) "said the audit ... is proof Congress must take matters into its own hands and rewrite laws regulating natural resources."
Murkowski: "Anyone waiting for a regulatory fix might as well be waiting to shake hands with Elvis."
The audit points out that Congress has contributed to some rulemaking delays by cutting agency staffs or changing criteria for rules.
In remarks attached to the GAO report, the BLM said that "speed is not necessarily a good measure when discussing rules," and that "the checks and balances and slowness of the process are an asset" (Scott Sonner, AP/San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner online, 9/2).
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