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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, witnessed the fall of a controversial new public lands planning rule during a Monday White House ceremony in which President Donald J. Trump signed its repeal.
Afterward, in a media call with reporters, Herbert said the demise of the Bureau of Land Management's so-called 2.0 Planning rule means less bureaucratic red tape in the public lands planning process.
"This just adds another layer that really does not provide any better outcome and diminishes the role the states and local government have in the process of giving input," Herbert said.
The rule, lauded by environmental and conservation groups as more inclusive for public input, was decried by states and local governments because they asserted it diminished their role in the development of management plans for public lands.
Stewart said the BLM adopted the rule despite a backlash of opposition from states with huge chunks of federal lands, including Utah.
"I applaud today’s signing of (the resolution) making the critical and necessary move to roll back the BLM Planning 2.0 rule. This rule ignored thousands of meaningful comments submitted by state and local officials. By signing this resolution of disapproval, President Trump is returning power back to the states and local communities.”
Herbert said the subject of the Bears Ears National Monument did not come up specifically with the U.S. president, because of time constraints and the necessary focus being directed on the rule's repeal.
He did, however, say Trump has been invited to visit the Bears Ears region, as well as Ryan Zinke, the new Interior secretary.
Herbert, Utah's congressional delegation and the Utah Legislature have been pushing Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument designation made by his predecessor in December.
The 1.35 million-acre monument in San Juan County merits some level of protections, Herbert said, but those should happen legislatively, not by executive fiat.
During the media call, Hebert said he believes Zinke and he have similar approaches to land management philosophy.
"Like me, he believes public lands should stay public lands," Herbert said, rebuking accusations by critics that Utah intends to "sell off" public lands for a profit should the state get a chance.
The BLM's planning rule is the seventh Obama-era regulation killed under the Trump administration and the second major environmental rule to fall.
Members of Congress dusted off the Congressional Review Act to kill a controversial coal mining regulation earlier this year – using their power under an act that had not been done in 16 years.
Under the act, Congress passes a resolution of disapproval, which is then signed by the president.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, has said there are about 200 rules that could be killed under the law's provisions and about 50 of them are related to the environment.
He praised Monday's action.
"This rule would have given even more power to the bureaucracy in Washington when what we need is the exact opposite. Reversing this rule is just one of many actions we will take to shift land management decisions back to the people who live in these areas and away from unelected and in many cases unaccountable bureaucrats," he said.
During the media call, Herbert said some of Monday's discussions with elected leaders in Washington, D.C., involved the floundering effort to kill the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something more palatable for GOP members.
Despite criticism leveled at the failure of a Friday vote to support or kill an alternative piece of legislation, Hebert said he doesn't believe reform is "on ice."
He also said governors are welcoming an effort by the White House to seek their input, something he said has happened more this year than the last eight years combined.
"It's refreshing. We've been invited to the dance."