WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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 shit 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.
Most BLM public lands are located in these 12 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
“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.”
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.