has expressed an interest in the appeals processes of the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) and the Forest Service because of its complexity, and
because of allegations that the appeals processes have restricted the
ability of the agencies to manage the resources under their care. In 2011,
Congress changed the Land Resources Management Plan review process from one that
provided for automatic stays and multiple levels of review to a 30-day
pre-decisional objection process (P.L. 112-74 §428). In replacing the 1992
Forest Service Decisionmaking and Appeals Reform Act process with that of
the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, Congress aimed to expedite
agency review. This change, however, will not take effect until final
regulations are issued for which Congress did not set a deadline.
Administrative appeals are challenges to agency actions that agencies attempt
to resolve themselves. Agencies set up hearing processes and regulations
to meet the requirements guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution—that no person will be deprived of property without the due
process of the law. This report describes the appeals processes of the BLM
of the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the Forest Service of the
Department of Agriculture. These appeals are not all formal adjudicatory
proceedings under the Administrative Procedure Act (although some have
similar procedures), but are defined primarily by agency regulation.
BLM has many different types of administrative appeals. The type of appeal depends,
in large part, on the type of action taken by BLM. Decisions regarding
land use plans have one type of review that differs slightly for
challenges by governors. Decisions regarding minerals, oil and gas, forests,
and grazing have a different appeals process, sometimes even having different
processes within those categories. Many, but not all, BLM decisions have a
final agency review by an appeals board under the Department of the
Interior. Sometimes the final review is completed by an Administrative Law
The Forest Service also has multiple types of reviews, although it does not
have an appeals board. For the most part, Forest Service administrative
appeals are based on the type of decision being challenged. Forest plans
have one process. However, projects implementing those plans have different
types of administrative appeals depending on the underlying statute from which
the project was authorized. Decisions regarding use and occupancy of
forests have another appeals process, which differs depending on the level
of employee who made the decision being challenged.
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