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What it means to be a Stakeholder

February 1, 2017
by Lisbet Thoresen


Attend the BLM Field Tour

Fri, February 24, 2017


Field Trip Itinerary:
Amboy Crater, Marble Mts & Pisgah Crater

See BLM-DAC field trip agenda
on this Paleo-themed field trip


Attend the California Desert
District Advisory Council (DAC)
meeting in Barstow, CA

(changed from Needles on 2/17)

Sat, February 25, 2017
8:00am – 5:00pm


Location: Ramada Inn, 1511 E. Main Street
Barstow, CA 92311


Be sure to double check
the meeting location & agenda
on the BLM website
shortly before the meeting date.


Agenda for the Saturday meeting will include updates by council members, the BLM California Desert District Manager, five Field Managers, and council subgroups. Specific agenda topics include:

  • Mojave Trails NM Management Plan update
  • DRECP implementation update
  • presentation on PRPA

See detailed DAC Mtg Agenda (2/25/17)


Submit written comments
prior to the meeting

  • Bureau of Land Management
    External Affairs
    22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos
    Moreno Valley, CA 92553

  • Written comments also are accepted at the time of the meeting and, if copies are provided to the recorder, will be incorporated into the minutes.


The 15-member council advises the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM, on a variety of planning and management issues associated with public land management on BLM administered lands in the California desert. Public comment for items not on the agenda will be scheduled at the beginning of the meeting on Saturday morning.

Time for public comment is made available by the council chair during the presentation of various agenda items, and is scheduled at the end of the meeting for topics not on the agenda.

Members of the public interested in a particular agenda item or discussion should schedule their arrival accordingly.


For more information contact:

Stephen Razo
BLM California Desert District External Affairs
951-697-5217 or

BLM Tour & DAC mtg Barstow
The theme is Paleontology and MTNM

See BLM-DAC Field Tour Agenda (2/24/17)

See DAC Mtg Agenda (2/25/17)



Part I. Club support of hobby collecting

A tsunami of bureaucratic changes in land use policy and specific land use plan amendments has been gathering momentum in recent years. Some of the most significant, far-reaching changes on managing federal lands are in the pipeline now. Input from individual Rockhounds and their clubs and their federations will be needed to ensure that hobby collecting on public lands is going to be accommodated in the future. The American Federation of Mineralogical Societies, Inc. (AFMS) with its seven regional federations, represents more than 50,000 members in aggregate throughout the United States. If each and every club would write or sign onto comment letters drafted by other clubs or regional federations, it would benefit the Rockhound community at large. While individuals make a difference by weighing in on the proposed changes, the participation of special interest groups help elevate their members to Stakeholder status. Clubs, by definition, are special interest groups, and gem-mineral-lapidary clubs need to invest more effort into their role as a Stakeholder.

Who are Stakeholders?

Federal agencies recognize groups that have or represent special interests. They are referred to as "Stakeholders" – they can be non-profit organizations or even other governmental agencies. Yes, governmental agencies submit comment letters on Proposed Rules under Statutes administered by other agencies – sometimes they even sue each other. For example, in 2015, the EPA wrote a very critical comment letter on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which was drafted jointly by five State of California and federal agencies.

Why is being a Stakeholder important?

Federal agencies recognize "Stakeholders" as having authority, expertise, or special interest to contribute input on a regulation or policy. In other words, Stakeholders have some gravitas in the Rulemaking process. It will be difficult for Rockhounds to achieve critical mass on their own – to be treated as a Stakeholder group – if they are perceived as being a disaggregated assortment of isolated individuals instead of an organized community capable of communicating a coherent message in a unified manner. The support of clubs is vital to lending authority and credibility to values shared in common by its constituents and by its federation affiliate clubs.

To be sure, the efforts of individuals and a small number of clubs have been rewarded lately. In May 2016, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), wrote a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in full-throated support of Rockhounding in three newly created National Monuments in California (fig. 1). She suggested accommodation of Rockhounding should be considered for Monuments designated in the future. As one of the most influential legislators championing protective designations for public lands, Senator Feinstein's endorsement of Rockhounding as an activity whose values are compatible with protective land designations is perhaps more consequential than that of any other public servant, except the President.

Fig. 1 Senator Dianne Feinstein's letter to Secretary Sally Jewell, 12 May 2016.


Fig. 2a (left): Draft DRECP Preferred Alternative - Conservation Plan. Bright magenta-colored areas are DFAs, i.e., land available for utility scale projects, some of which are adjacent to rock collecting areas. Fig 2b (rght): Final DRECP – Conservation Plan. DFAs revised where they conflicted with rock collecting areas identified in comment letters to the DRECP.

Another milestone win for Rockhounds occurred in 2016. Significant changes were made in the final Phase I Record of Decision (ROD) for the DRECP to accommodate Rockhounding where it was vulnerable to exclusion in the Proposed Plan (figs. 2a, b). This was no small feat. The DRECP is the most signficant land use plan amendment in California state history. On September 13, 2016, the day before the ROD was signed, a conference call was held during which Vicki Campbell, BLM program manager for DRECP, attributed some changes made in the ROD to the high number of detailed comment letters received from Rockhounds during the public comment period. (SDMG and CFMS co-authored a comment letter.)

The scope and volume of land use amendments and policy changes are so numerous and so far-reaching, individual Rockhounds cannot be expected to succeed in holding ground if they have to go it alone. They will need their federations and clubs to support them – not only by articulating the values of the community at large, but also by addressing specific provisions of Proposed Rules via public comment under the Rulemaking process.

Part II. Legislation is not administrative regulation

Gem-mineral-lapidary clubs could help their Rockhound members enormously if they would write comment letters or sign onto comment letters drafted by other clubs or regional federations. The number of Rockhound boosters represented in aggregate is not trivial. Yet, if their impact could be so consequential, why have so many clubs been reticement about writing or supporting comment letters, which would elevate the community at large to a Stakeholder? Some gem-mineral-lapidary clubs fear they may jeopardize their 501(c)(3) non-profit status if they submit public comments on land use plan amendments or proposed regulations under the law. They worry that public comment is the same thing as political speech or lobbying. Out of an abundance of caution they stay silent on regulations that may restrict hobby collecting; although, opportunity for the public to give input is mandated by law.

Let's clear up the confusion or misunderstanding about non-profit status, political speech, and public speech. The IRS Web site sets some bright lines for reference: two areas where 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations need to pay careful attention are 1.) involvement with political activities (influencing or participating in political campaigns or candidates running for office) and 2.) legislative activities, i.e., lobbying (source: Political speech may be public speech, but public speech is not generically political speech. According to IRS rules, political activities are not relevant to this discussion, so let's take that off the table. The confusion seems to concern lobbying, which the IRS defines as the effort to influence passage or defeat of pending legislation or to change existing statutes (laws) through the legislative process. Fundraising is a feature of lobbying that draws the critical scrutiny of the IRS, but that is not relevant to this discussion, either.

Is there a difference between lobbying and making public comments on a Regulation under a Statute (a law passed by Congress)? The short answer is "Yes, bigly."

Legislation passed by Congress has a way to go before it is becomes an actionable Statute. A bill is often written in general or broad language. It frequently lacks sufficiently specific or detailed provisions needed for administrative agencies to know how to enforce it, so Rules are drafted to guide agencies on the practical application of the Statute.

Congress passed the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946 (APA) so that the drafting of the specific details – or Rules – under a Statute, would be performed in a structured manner and would be publicly accessible. The Federal Register Web site is the repository for all things related to Rules and Regulations under Law, including a searchable archive. The steps in the Rulemaking process itself must be published in the Federal Register. If it's not in the Federal Register, it's not official.

The APA's function is non-partisan – its activities are by definition administrative, not legislative. It sets forth a Rulemaking process for drafting the specific Regulations applicable under a Statute. To be clear, Rulemaking is an administrative process that occurs after the legislative process has been completed. Therefore, participating in the APA's Rulemaking process by making public comments is not germane to IRS rules on lobbying, which is defined as a legislative activity. Rulemaking under a Statute does not provide opportunity to support or oppose the Statute. That ship sailed along with the opportunity to lobby when the Statute was passed. Also, Rules written under the Statute cannot overturn it. To do that, one has start the legislative process all over again. A summary of the Rulemaking process can be downloaded from the Federal Register Web site at: It states:

The notice‐and‐comment process enables anyone to submit a comment on any part of the proposed rule. This process is not like a ballot initiative or an up‐or‐down vote in a legislature. An agency is not permitted to base its final rule on the number of comments in support of the rule over those in opposition to it. At the end of the process, the agency must base its reasoning and conclusions on the rulemaking record, consisting of the comments, scientific data, expert opinions, and facts accumulated during the pre‐rule and proposed rule stages."

Public comments under the Rulemaking Process

Recognizing that the public should be afforded opportunity to give input, the APA requires the administrative agency to "give interested persons an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking through submission of written data, views, or arguments" (5 U.S.C. § 553(c) (2006)), especially, when a person's own interests might be affected or when a person might have special expertise whereby constructive input could improve the Final Proposed Rule. Under § 551. Definitions, (2), " 'person' includes an individual, partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization other than an agency." In other words, comments may be made by anyone, including individuals, corporations, advocacy groups, and other government entitites.

Are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations or clubs "interested persons"? Yes.

The comment period under the Rulemaking process of the APA is the federally mandated vehicle for receiving input from "interested persons" and incorporating it into the writing of regulations under a Law. Again, providing opportunity for public comment is an administrative activity explicitly required under APA. It is not a political or legislative activity. The Federal Register reiterates the APA: "The proposed rule and the public comments received on it form the basis of the final rule." (see: It could be argued that not providing comment on regulations that affect "interested persons" is a dereliction of responsibility. At least, there can be little justification for complaint after the fact. And certainly, it is easier to get a regulation drafted the way one would wish in the first place than having to litigate or lobby for changing it after it has been made final.

Concerning public lands access, in general, and hobby collecting, specifically, Rockhounds have been doing better advocating their own interests, but they have yet to be effective at asserting their Stakeholder status. If Rockhounds hope to hang onto the accommodations that they have enjoyed for decades but may lose in the coming months and years in the face of an impending regulatory tsunami, they are going to have to assert their Stakeholder status, and they are going to need their clubs to speak up on their behalf to do it.



Cite this article: L. Thoresen. 1 February 2017. What it means to be a Stakeholder. San Diego Mineral & Gem Society, Inc. Available online at:

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