Statement on proposed Bureau of Land Management rule to balance conservation and climate impacts on public lands

Mar 30, 2023

DENVER—The Bureau of Land Management today announced a 75-day public comment period on a proposed rule to balance its operations with a focus on conservation, recreation, and climate impacts across millions of acres of American public lands.

The draft rule would clarify that restoring and protecting public lands is a use of the land within the framework of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). FLPMA provides for the designation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), an authority that has been underutilized since the law’s passage in 1976. The proposed rule would direct BLM staff to identify priority landscapes for protection and restoration using ACEC designations and use funds from the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for restoration projects.

The rule would also formalize the practice of “conservation leasing” for land restoration or protection, clearing a path for durable compensatory mitigation agreements with extractive industry as part of the permitting process. It also takes the concept of measuring landscape health, a process that currently only applies to grazing, and applies it to all renewable resources, bringing consistency and the best science to land management practices across BLM. The proposed rule also requires BLM offices to engage in meaningful consultation with Tribal nations during the decision-making process and incorporates Indigenous Knowledge into land management practices.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“America’s public lands are at a crossroads. With the U.S. facing dire threats from the biodiversity and climate crises, we have a narrow window to shift the way the country thinks about our lands and waters. For too long, BLM’s multiple use mandate has failed to properly consider the value of conservation, recreation, and cultural protection. This proposed rule would bring long-overdue balance to millions of acres of American lands. As we’ve long said, collaboration and conservation go hand in hand. This proposed rule will give land managers the tools they need to identify the landscapes most in need of protection today, providing certainty to communities, industry, and everyone who cares about protecting our public lands and building resilient ecosystems over the coming decades.

“Kudos to BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and all of the staff that worked to put this rule together. We look forward to a robust public comment process and encourage President Biden to ensure this rule is finalized within the next 12 months. It will take bold steps like these to ensure our public lands can benefit all Americans and show the world how the U.S. is tackling the climate crisis.”