BLM public lands proposal: What we’re saying, what they’re saying

Jun 14, 2023

DENVER—Thursday morning, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a bill that would preemptively block the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed Public Lands Rule. The rule, if finalized, would expand the tools available to land managers by explicitly making conservation a “use” of BLM lands, alongside grazing, mining, oil drilling, and other extractive uses.

The proposal, which is aligned with and authorized by the plain text of FLPMA, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976, would expand the use of land health standards across all BLM lands to enable BLM staff to make better-informed decisions. It would also formalize the use of conservation leases under FLPMA’s existing leasing authority. Conservation leasing would give ranchers, the energy industry, and conservation groups a way to partner with the BLM to restore degraded ecosystems, ensure public access, and offset the effects of other uses.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Deputy Director Aaron Weiss:

“The proposed rule would give the Bureau of Land Management the tools it needs for responsible stewardship of America’s public lands in the 21st century. Lands across the West are under increasing pressure from wildfires, drought, and development. At the same time, our public lands will be central to America’s transition to a clean energy economy. By elevating the best available science and giving land managers on the ground more flexibility, the rule would ensure America’s public lands remain healthy for years to come.”

“Given all that, the pearl-clutching opposition to a draft proposal is perplexing. The entire point of a public comment period is to refine a new rule so that it can best achieve its goals. Instead of holding bombastic hearings to decry a work-in-progress, members of Congress should sit down with the authors of the proposed rule, understand how and why it’s written the way it is, and provide constructive feedback to help make it even better.”

Former BLM California State Director Jim Kenna, whose 40-year government career spanned seven administrations, joined CWP’s podcast, The Landscape, where he explained how the proposed rule is not only consistent with the language of FLPMA, but will help the agency achieve its congressionally-mandated mission.

“This is really a framework for doing what has been in the business line of the Bureau of Land Management for a long time,” Kenna said. “Restoration work and conservation work is critical to sustaining public lands over the long haul. It’s what we hand off to the next generation when we’re done.”

The public comment period on the draft rule runs through next Tuesday, June 20. Members of the public can read the proposal and submit their comments at

What they’re saying

Denver Post editorial board: BLM rule puts conservation on equal footing with oil and gas on public lands

“In many ways, it makes sense that BLM’s mission for generations has been to make sure public lands are utilized for ‘multiple uses’ especially public recreation. But the time has come to put conservation on equal footing with the private enterprises that have benefited enormously from using and sometimes abusing our lands.”

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel editorial board: Let’s not let our land get caught up in a culture war

“We like the rule because it doesn’t alter multiple uses; it simply provides much-needed guidance on how to allow for them in a sustainable way and re-establishes the importance of managing our cherished landscapes for ecological health. The rule will influence how local land-use plans are made and that’s where the rubber really meets the road. It doesn’t change the fact that land uses are still driven by local interests and input.”

Albuquerque Journal editorial board: Rule allows BLM to better balance conservation, O&G

“New Mexicans should support the rule and give BLM the ability to deliver on its multiple-use mandate in a time of climate crisis. It’s time we place the same emphasis on land conservation that we have on energy development. Conservation is a productive use of public lands. We can, and should, do both.”

Durango Herald editorial board: Our View: Proposed BLM rule conservation timestamp in history

“The Public Lands Rule would be a tectonic shift in safeguarding important places by considering and managing for resilient ecosystems, protecting intact landscapes and applying land health standards, guided by science and data. Not politicians.”

Center for American Progress report: What Biden’s proposed conservation rule would mean for America’s most vulnerable public lands

“With climate change, extractive development, and other threats imperiling America’s most vulnerable public lands, President Biden must act now. By finalizing a strong Public Lands Rule and responding to community and Tribal-led conservation proposals, this administration can ensure some of the country’s most important wildlife habitat, clean water, outdoor recreation, and cultural resources are passed on to future generations.”

—Drew McConville, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow, and Kara Matsumoto, Conservation Lands Foundation Policy Director

Center for Western Priorities podcast: A BLM veteran weighs in on the agency’s proposed conservation leasing rule

“Conservation is a participative sport. If you look at where it’s been done well, anywhere in the country, you will find partnerships.”

—James Kenna, former BLM California state director and 40-year agency veteran

Learn more

Bureau of Land Management, BLM Public Lands Rulemaking online listening and fact session

Arizona Republic, What to know about a proposed BLM plan to strengthen protections on public lands