Bennet, western democratic senators urge feds to lift sudden suspension of public land advisory groups | TheFencePost.com
U.S. Sen Michael Bennet

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Bennet, western democratic senators urge feds to lift sudden suspension of public land advisory groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet today joined a group of western Democratic senators to urge the Department of the Interior to lift its sudden suspension of long-standing committees and advisory boards that provide essential local community input on public land management.

"It is concerning that Secretary Zinke postponed all BLM Resource Advisory Council meetings through September — a move that aligns with the Interior Department's review of national monuments and energy standards," Bennet said. "These meetings are an invaluable way to ensure rural and local voices in Colorado are heard and considered in conversations about the use of our public lands. The Administration should not block community input on BLM actions. These meetings should be reinstated immediately."

The letter sent today to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke follows reports that the Department of the Interior postponed all meetings for public resource advisory councils and committees until September.

"We are very concerned about this news and would like an answer as to why the RAC meetings were postponed during the BLM's review of all advisory boards and committees," the senators wrote. "It is critical that local voices, including RACs, have the opportunity to provide input and take part in the process at all times, not just when those local voices align with the Administration or a large special interest."

The advisory groups are designed to include diverse community input on often-contentious public land management issues. The ongoing suspension includes four Resource Advisory Councils in Colorado. The advisory groups have long helped to balance questions of environmental and economic impacts by informing decisions on issues such as recreation, land use planning, grazing, oil and gas exploration, and wildfire management.

"Balancing these interests is challenging, which is why RACs were created," the senators wrote. "By working through difficult land management issues and getting local input from the beginning, projects are more likely to succeed. Without this tool, many good land management projects would never be completed."

The letter was signed by Sens. Bennet, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.