The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has reached agreement with the states that officials say gives the federal government greater authority to protect historic artifacts and improves cooperation with the states.
The agreement reached with state historic preservation offices should reduce the time the BLM and the state offices spend reviewing applications for resource development.
Interim BLM Director Sylvia Baca called the agreement a good example of growing cooperation between the federal government and states.
She said it “will relieve state historic preservation officers of the burden of reviewing thousands of routine requests a year while ensuring that the spirit and intent” of the National Historic Preservation Act are followed.
The law requires federal agencies to ensure that approved activities and development do not damage historic and archaeologically significant sites on federal land.
In the past, all applications for development activity were forwarded to state historic preservation offices for final approval. Under the new agreement, the BLM will have the authority without a state review to determine whether a project will affect a site.
Several states were already moving in that direction individually, but some state historic officers remain concerned that the bureau can make the necessary changes to implement the new review program.
And Wyoming Historic Preservation Director John Keck said environmental groups and Indian tribes have raised concerns about a lack of public participation in the new review process.
Keck said he would work to ensure opportunities for public input.
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