Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management issued a proposed rule change on federal land usage in the western United States. Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of the Public Lands Council, talks about the proposed change.
Glover, “The proposed rule entitled “Conservation and Landscape Health” had three big pieces. One was the facilitation, the escalation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, which is arguably one of the most restrictive designations that the BLM can make by themselves without going through additional regulatory activity. The second part of that was applying something called Land Health Standards or Land Health Evaluation to more landscapes across the West because, right now, they’re just applied to grazing allotments. The third and most concerning part of this was the language related to mitigation and adding conservation as a use under the law that governs BLM lands across the West. That’s the Federal Land Policy and Management Act or FLPMA. And so, this is where you saw a significant amount of concern, not only from the livestock industry but from other groups as well.”
She says the rule change is troublesome to ranchers who graze on federal lands. “Changing FLPMA is something that is solely within Congress’s authority,” according to Glover. “And adding conservation as a use, separating conservation, as if it is something distinct from what the grazing community already does, was really, really problematic. And a lot of producers, quite rightly so, thought this was a way to justify the displacement of grazing activities, removal of grazing activities and other things, from federal lands.”
The PLC led a pretty big pushback against the proposal, and discussions are ongoing.
Glover says, “We at the Public Lands Council led a pretty robust grassroots stakeholder campaign, as well as a substantive policy comment campaign before those comments period deadline came due on July 5. And now, the agency is reviewing those comments. We continue to have conversations with them explaining pieces of our comments, talking to them about where there might be areas for us to come to an agreement on some of the less-controversial pieces, but also being quite clear where there are things that simply cannot be included in a final rule. So, I expect those conversations will continue to be ongoing, but BLM has made it pretty clear that they want to continue down this road before the end of the year. So, I doubt this is going to be the last time that we’re going to be talking about it.”