The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced that it will hold five public meetings between May 15 and June 5 to discuss the agency’s proposed “Public Lands Rule.” This rulemaking will provide express direction and outline a process for how BLM staff should strike the balance between conservation and consumptive uses on BLM-managed lands.
The meetings are being billed as opportunities for BLM leadership and staff to explain the rule and for members of the public to ask questions and get answers about how the rule will advance conservation across BLM lands in Utah and throughout the West.
The first meeting is scheduled for this Monday, May 15, and will be held virtually. Follow this link for details on how to attend.
The subsequent three meetings will be held in person in Denver (May 25), Albuquerque (May 30), and Reno (June 1), and a final virtual meeting is scheduled for June 5. Click here for details on time and location for all five meetings.
Keep an eye out for more information from SUWA in the coming weeks about how to submit your comments to the BLM.
What is the proposed Public Lands Rule?
Earlier this year, the BLM announced that it would update the rules that govern how the agency goes about managing our public lands. Specifically, the rule clarifies the “sustained yield” side of the agency’s “multiple-use and sustained yield” mission. Congress imposed that mission when it passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. Congress also said that sustained yield—or “conservation”—is on equal footing with other uses of BLM-managed lands. Over the years, and especially during anti-conservation administrations, this seemed to be conveniently forgotten.
In addition to providing direction on elevating conservation to equal footing with the other uses of BLM-managed lands, the proposed Public Lands Rule has several other notable provisions.
- First, the rule directs local BLM offices engaged in land use planning to assess the lands they manage, identify the most ecologically intact of them, and prioritize their protection.
- Second, the rule revitalizes Congress’s mandate that the BLM identify, designate, and protect “areas of critical environmental concern” or ACECs. These are places with important identified historical, cultural, and scenic values that require heightened management—places the BLM has historically given short shrift.
- Finally, the rule outlines a conservation leasing program under which public lands can be leased for conservation and restoration purposes.
In short, the proposed Public Lands Rule represents the chance for a long overdue course correction for the BLM, the nation’s largest land management agency. The BLM’s public process is a golden opportunity to provide positive reinforcement and ensure a better future for some of America’s most magnificent wild landscapes.