Thursday, February 22, 2024

BLM Proposes Sweeping Rule That Could Change Priorities for Public Lands

by Colter Brown

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a proposed rule that could change priorities on 245 million acres of public land in America. The rule would mark a major shift for the agency as BLM intends to put conservation “on equal footing with other uses.”

The proposed rule would direct BLM to “protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat, and make wise management decisions based on science and data.” In addition, BLM would have to incorporate land health assessments into its decisions on land use.

“Our public lands provide so many benefits — clean water, wildlife habitat, food, energy and lifetime memories, to name just a few — and it’s our job to ensure the same for future generations,” BLM Director Tracy Stone-Mannings said in a statement, “As pressure on our public lands continues to grow, the proposed Public Lands Rule provides a path for the BLM to better focus on the health of the landscape, ensuring that our decisions leave our public lands as good or better off than we found them.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) expressed serious concern with the proposed rule saying that it would completely upend BLM’s multiple-use mandate and jeopardizes the agency’s ability to be a good partner to the ranchers who manage millions of acres across the West. 

“Ranchers have a reasonable expectation of transparency and predictability with dealing with the BLM, and this proposed rule falls short on both accounts.  The covert manner in which the rule was developed and announced has left permittees feeling like the rule is either a capitulation to the extremist environmental groups who want to eradicate grazing from the landscape, or a concerted effort to develop rules that preclude ranchers’ input,” said NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “Over the next 75 days, the BLM will have to answer some serious questions about their understanding of their multiple-use mandate and the value they place on their relationship with ranchers across the landscape.”

Wyoming Senator Jon Barrasso, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, released the following statement:

“In the 1980s extremists used tree spikes to try and stop responsible management of public lands. In 2023 they use decrees from Washington. Today’s announcement undermines the law’s multiple-use requirement for Bureau of Land Management lands. Wyoming families depend on access to public lands for energy and critical mineral development, grazing, forest management, and recreation. The Biden Administration’s extreme unilateral action will kill multiple use. This is a clear violation of the law. I will do everything in my power to stop this proposal.”

The proposed rule would allow BLM to issue “conservation leases,” a new tool to promote land protection and ecosystem restoration. The leases would allow members of the public to sponsor lands for protection and restoration for terms up to a decade long. Conservation leases would not bar public access, the proposed rule says, with the exception of temporary restrictions used to help restore degraded land.

And it would prioritize the creation of more Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) — an agency designation that limits environmentally destructive uses like mining and drilling.

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BLM/NCBA/Sen. Jon Barrasso

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Kevin A

This is wild. We, at Arizona Backcountry Explorers, are going to evaluate this proposal to see how it could harm public land access. I can almost guarantee that it does and will. It seems to be their main focus nowadays.

vivian hale

This administration’s effort to in effect disregard the right of cattlemen, public enjoyment of walking established trails,
etc., etc., is another grandiose move of
control. They use the premise that
environmentalists know how to manage
lands better than generations of people
who live and work there.

Kevin A

I agree. Its astonishing how much is changing. We have seen over 10,000 miles of roads closed in Arizona during this administration. There are many more on the chopping block too. In addition, there are over 50 recommended wilderness areas in the Tonto National Forest alone.

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