Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed a new rule through the Bureau of Land Management, giving conservation priorities equal weight in land use decisions as other permitted uses.
The proposed rule, titled “Strengthening the Stewardship of America’s Public Lands,” is marked as one of the most significant land management policy moves in decades, upending multi-use mandates that jeopardize the agency’s ability to partner with ranchers who have been managing millions of acres across the West for generations.
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After grazing districts were apportioned thanks to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 set up a multiple-use management policy for the BLM, where the agency was responsible for managing its lands for diverse needs, including grazing.
Currently, the BLM manages over 245 million acres of public land in 12 western states, including Alaska. The new BLM rule not only makes conservation one of the public land’s uses, but it also places that use on equal footing to grazing, recreation, water rights, oil and gas leases, and mining claims. And stakeholders only have 75 days to respond before June 20.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council have spoken quickly against the rule.
“Ranchers have a reasonable expectation of transparency and predictability with dealing with the BLM, and this proposed rule falls short on both accounts,” said NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “The covert manner in which the rule was developed and announced has left permittees feeling like the rule is either a capitulation to the extremist environmental groups who want to eradicate grazing from the landscape or a concerted effort to develop rules that preclude ranchers’ input.”
The Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act requires multiple environmentally sustainable and appropriate uses. Grazing not only offers an opportunity to multiple uses, but billions of dollars in revenue generated from beef, lamb, grazing fees, and more.
“Over the next 75 days, the BLM will have to answer some serious questions about their understanding of their multiple-use mandate and the value they place on their relationship with ranchers across the landscape,” said Glover.