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Environmental group praises new BLM rule elevating conservation uses

April 19, 2024, 8:40 am

Durango-based Western Leaders Network and other environmental groups on Thursday issued the following press releases on a new rule released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management putting conservation on equal footing with mining, oil and gas drilling and cattle grazing:

Today, the Department of the Interior has taken a significant step toward protecting public lands and cultural resources. The new rule, released under the Bureau of Land Management, not only advances the Biden administration’s national climate and environmental justice goals but also underscores the administration’s commitment to these crucial issues.  

The BLM Conservation and Landscape Health rule updates existing land management protocols to place conservation on an equal footing with extractive resource development. It also gives the agency clearer authority to prioritize public land health and climate resilience on BLM lands. 

“Public lands are central to the economies and health of our western communities. We commend Interior Secretary Debra Haaland and BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning for championing a rule that facilitates energy transition and prioritizes communities disproportionately impacted by our warming climate,” said Gwen Lachelt, Executive Director of Western Leaders Network. “This historic rule helps achieve the BLM’s mandate to balance competing uses by putting conservation on a level playing field with extractive industries like mining and drilling. Local, tribal and state elected officials across the Interior West stand ready to collaborate with the BLM to implement the rule in a way that prioritizes tribal consultation and partnerships, builds climate resilience, and works toward just transition.” 

The implementation of BLM’s Public Lands Rule will advance the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful agenda, which includes the science-driven objective of conserving 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030 to mitigate the effects of climate change. The rule will also advance the administration’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that at least 40% of new climate investments are made in communities that have historically lacked sufficient funds to address pollution caused by mining and drilling operations, transition to clean energy economies, build and maintain clean water infrastructure, and develop sustainable housing solutions.

By placing conservation on an equal footing with other uses of BLM’s 245 million acres of public lands, the agency will be in a better position to effectively manage different interests and ensure the conservation of wildlife habitat, protection of cultural integrity, and restoration of lands and waters that are increasingly compromised by climate change.

Western Leaders Network is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the power of local, tribal and state elected officials across the Interior West. Its mission is to advance energy transition, promote clean air and water initiatives, and protect democracy.

Here’s a press release from Act Now for Public Lands:

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final “Public Lands Rule” putting conservation, wildlife habitat and cultural resource protection on equal footing with extractive uses like oil and gas development for the first time in over 40 years. The Public Lands Rule joins a list of recent announcements by the Biden administration and the BLM that will finally bring balance to the management of BLM lands and ensure communities and local managers have the tools they need to create a sustainable future in Colorado and across the West.

“For too long, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management has prioritized extractive uses on our public lands. This new Public Lands Rule goes a long way towards putting conservation on a level playing field with other uses on BLM lands – something Wilderness Workshop and local communities have long been calling for,” said Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop’s Executive Director. “This Rule confirms that conservation is an important use too. We’ll be working hard to ensure BLM’s new management plans implemented under the Rule protect wildlands and wildlife, and reverse the loss of nature on public lands.”

Public support played a pivotal role in shaping the Public Lands Rule with 92% of public comments submitted backing the new rule. The regulation was also supported by western lawmakers, local elected officials, and state governors, including Governor Polis. Leading news outlets, including The Denver Post, also published editorials supporting the regulation.

“Thanks to the Biden administration with support from Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, Colorado is on the path to ensuring a sustainable future for our treasured wild places while meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing climate,” said Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director of The Wilderness Society.  “For nearly half a century, the federal government has failed to balance the complex management needs of public lands across Colorado and around the West.  The Biden administration and the BLM have created the tools we need to ensure a sustainable future by finalizing the public lands rule. With today’s announcement, land conservation will be added to the list of management priorities by the nation’s largest land manager and Colorado’s cherished wild places will benefit from it for years to come.”

Colorado’s members of Congress have championed greater protections for BLM lands across the state. Representatives Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, and Brittany Pettersen joined nearly four dozen members of Congress voicing support for the rule in a letter to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland. Local officials, including those in Colorado joined more than 120 past and present western elected officials calling for additional protection of lands managed by the BLM.  

“Protecting biodiversity in Colorado and the greater Southern Rocky Mountain Region is a big job. Public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, 35% of federally managed lands in Colorado, form a critical part of ensuring a biologically healthy future for our region,” said Alison Gallensky, Conservation Geographer, Rocky Mountain Wild. “Rocky Mountain Wild applauds the Public Lands Rule that finally puts conservation of our land and natural resources on par with other uses. Prioritizing protecting the most intact, functioning landscapes, restoring degraded habitat and ecosystems, and making wise management decisions based on science and Indigenous Knowledge are the primary parts of the rule and are critical to our work of protecting, connecting, and restoring wildlife and wild lands.” 

“Bureau of Land Management’s new public lands rule reinforces and affirms what has always been true – that conservation of our public lands is a central and indispensable component of the agency’s multiple use and sustained yield mission,” said Keeley Meehan, Policy Director at Colorado Wildlands Project. “We celebrate today’s announcement and are eager to support the agency in implementing this long overdue measure to ensure wildlands across Colorado are managed for protection of their special values for generations to come.” 

“Colorado’s public lands are the lifeblood of our state. They fuel our outdoor recreation industry, support local communities, sustain healthy wildlife populations, and form a vital line of defense against climate change,” said Brien Webster, Public Lands Campaign Manager at  Conservation Colorado. “With overwhelming public support, the Bureau of Land Management’s Public Lands Rule is a game-changer, ensuring a strengthened commitment to conservation and a more balanced approach to managing public lands. Now, let’s champion the effective implementation of this rule, safeguarding our natural wonders and ensuring all Coloradans continue to experience the many benefits of our public lands for generations to come.” 

According to Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, 2023 Conservation in the West Poll, 82 percent of voters in the Rocky Mountain West support a national goal of conserving America’s lands and waters in the next decade, including over 2/3 of conservative Republican voters. Four in five voters also say loss of open natural areas is a problem across the West. 

BLM lands have been critical to the growth of Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy, attracting tourists from near and far to hike, bike, hunt and fish on the 8.3 million acres managed by the agency across the state. According to the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office outdoor recreation accounts for $13.9 billion in value-added (GDP) annually and contributed 130,000 direct jobs in 2022. In addition to being a significant economic engine for the state, outdoor recreation is part of Colorado’s way-of-life, with 92% of Colorado residents participating in outdoor recreation each year.

 “As an owner of an outdoor small business and a dad who spends as much time as I can with my family outdoors, I know how important our public lands are and how important it is that we do all we can to protect them for the future,” said Chase LaCroix, President, Durango Outdoor Exchange in Colorado. “I applaud the Bureau of Land Management for finalizing the Public Lands Rule which will better ensure the economic and environmental future of communities across the state by finally putting conservation on equal footing with other uses. The final Public Lands Rule will protect and restore more of our important public land for current and future generations.” 

“As an outdoor business owner in Colorado, protected public lands play a critical role in my business and way of life. Protecting more of these BLM lands can help support local economies, local tourism industries and even local manufacturing like our Grand Junction-based outdoor brand while preserving our outstanding opportunities for recreation, including camping, hiking, paddling, hunting and fishing,” said Kevin Timm, Co-Founder and Co-owner Seek Outside, a Grand Junction-based manufacturer of high performance lightweight tents, backpacks and wood stoves. “The Bureau of Land Management’s final Public Lands Rule will help the agency better conserve and protect our nation’s important public lands and waters. By doing so, they will provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, equitable access to nature, and safeguard the climate which will ensure that these important public lands continue to offer the unique recreational opportunities that bring millions of Americans to the great outdoors.”

Hunters and anglers are also critically dependent on access to Colorado’s healthy, wild public lands. The new Public Lands Rule will ensure restoration and mitigation is an agency priority through a new leasing program that will allow sporting groups, local communities and industry to partner with the BLM to restore degraded lands and ensure continued land health across the state.  

“There are more than 8 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in Colorado but 40% of those lands are failing rangeland health standards. The BLM Public Lands Rule provides a pathway for identifying landscapes with important ecological characteristics so they can be restored and conserved,” said Carlee Koutnik, Program Manager for National Wildlife Federation’s Artemis Sportswoman Program. “Those restored lands will benefit wildlife, our sporting traditions, and the rural communities that depend on hunting and angling to fuel their economies.” 

Conservation and recreation advocates see today’s announcement as a once-in-a-generation opportunity and recognize that swift action is needed to successfully implement the Public Lands Rule across Colorado. Advocates across the state and around the West are eager to see the BLM use the new tools highlighted in the rule to chart a more sustainable future for public lands.  

“The Western Slope Conservation Center is thrilled by the Biden administration’s announcement of the new Public Lands Rule, which will ensure that conservation sits on equal footing to other uses like mining and oil and gas development,” said Hannah Stevens, Executive Director of Western Slope Conservation Center. “The new Public Land Rule will lay the groundwork for conserving wildlife habitat, implementing restoration projects, expanding outdoor recreation, and thoughtful development on Bureau of Land Management managed public lands across the West. The Western Slope Conservation Center knows that our public lands and waters are the Western Slope’s greatest assets, and that this rule with help protect our landscape for generations to come” 

“Bureau of Land Management’s new Public Lands Rule is a commonsense and needed update that will greatly benefit area wildlife and their habitat connectivity in Wild Connections region, particularly in a changing climate,” said John Sztukowski, Conservation Director for Wild Connections. “This Rule will not only identify Bureau of Land Management lands that need restoration to improve degraded ecosystems and habitat, but through public processes, it will also help identify intact and climate resilient landscapes to connect and conserve wildlife habitat and migration corridors. We look forward to seeing the new rule in action.”

“The Bureau of Land Management’s Public Lands Rule will help to elevate conservation and wildlife habitat protection to more equal status with long-standing resource development uses on public lands,” said Mark Pearson, Executive Director at San Juan Citizens Alliance in Durango, Colorado. “In our region here across the Four Corners, BLM has committed millions of acres to oil and gas drilling, coal mining, uranium extraction and other development. With the Public Lands Rule, we are hopeful that conservation will finally gain equal footing with development.”

“The Public Lands Rule will elevate BLM’s attention to conservation so that it gains equal footing among the array of multiple uses it must manage, said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of Colorado Wildlife Federation. We particularly applaud the emphasis on ecosystem resilience, intact and connected landscapes, and on setting priorities for restoration of degraded lands.”

One Response to Environmental group praises new BLM rule elevating conservation uses

  1. Weefus Reply

    April 19, 2024 at 8:50 am

    So when are you going to ban cattle-grazing on our public lands?

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