Statement on BLM’s final Public Lands Rule

Apr 18, 2024

Rule will bring balance to management of Western public lands

DENVER—The Bureau of Land Management today published the final version of its much-anticipated Conservation and Landscape Health rule (also known as the Public Lands Rule). This rule will help balance the agency’s operations with guidelines for managing conservation, recreation, and climate impacts across millions of acres of American public lands.

The rule underscores that restoring and protecting public lands is a use of the land on par with other activities and rests within the framework of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the law that governs how public lands are managed by the BLM. FLPMA requires BLM to designate Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), a congressional instruction that has been underutilized since the law’s passage in 1976. The final rule directs BLM staff to identify priority landscapes for protection and restoration using ACEC designations, building on investments that Congress made in public lands when it passed the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The rule formalizes the practice of “restoration leasing” and “mitigation leasing” for land restoration or protection, clearing a path for durable compensatory mitigation agreements with extractive industries 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 BLM-managed lands, bringing consistency and the best science to land management practices across BLM. The rule also requires BLM offices to engage in meaningful consultation with Tribal nations during the decision-making process and incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into land management practices. The rule explicitly prevents foreign entities from holding conservation or mitigation leases.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Communications Manager Kate Groetzinger: 

“Today is an exciting day for Westerners, who overwhelmingly support the conservation and protection of public lands. This rule will help the BLM manage our valuable public lands to ensure their long-term health, as Congress directed the agency to do when it passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act back in 1976.

 

“For too long, the BLM has allowed extractive industries to have their way with our public lands. That’s led to degraded landscapes across the West and the decline of iconic species, like the greater sage-grouse. This rule gives the BLM the tools it needs to right these wrongs and start improving the health of our public lands. It also provides tools for extractive industries to be part of the solution, rather than exacerbate the problem. We are incredibly grateful to the Biden administration for finalizing this rule and we look forward to tracking its implementation.”

At the end of the public comment period for the draft Public Lands Rule, 92 percent of the comments submitted encouraged BLM to adopt the rule largely as written or strengthen its conservation measures. Less than five percent of comments encouraged BLM to withdraw or significantly weaken the rule.

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