BLM Extends Comment Period on Public Lands Rule

by Colter Brown

The Bureau of Land Management is extending the public comment period for the Public Lands Rule by 15 days. This brings the time collecting public feedback on the proposed rule to a total of 90 days. The new deadline to provide input is July 5, 2023.

The proposed rule seeks to define “conservation” as a use within the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which requires BLM to manage its lands on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield.

“The proposed Public Lands Rule is essential to our work, to ensuring we can respond to changes on the landscape,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We appreciate the useful public input we’ve already received through five public meetings and the first 75 days of the comment period. This extension will allow us to continue to work with the public to make sure that the final rule is durable and effective.”

The Public Lands Council led two letters to the BLM last week requesting a 105-day extension and additional public engagement if the BLM intended to proceed with the proposed rule. While 15 days certainly provides stakeholders a few more days to comment on the rule, the PLC said the extension, “does not represent a meaningful change to the agency’s engagement with the public or with livestock producers as land management partners. Our concerns about the agency’s lack of transparency and engagement remain the same.”

Early next week, PLC will circulate substantive comments for affiliates to review and sign prior to the deadline on July 5. Additionally, draft form letters for additional comments will be made available.

Earlier this week, 6 western governors representing Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah and Nevada wrote to the BLM opposing the rule.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland the governors described the rule as a solution in search of a problem, highlighting existing conservation protections on BLM and other federal lands.

“Tens of millions of acres of BLM lands across the western United States are already protected under strict Federal designations such as national monuments, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern, etc.,” the governors wrote. “Of the remaining BLM lands still open to multiple use, there is still a very high bar set before any kind of surface disturbing activities can be authorized, and many barriers to development in existing BLM resource management plans.”

The governors continued, “In short, the Proposed Rule seems to be a solution in search of a problem when so much BLM land in the western United States is already under strict Federal protection.”

Under the proposed rule, the BLM would be able to grant conservation leases to environmental organizations, businesses, and individuals.

“Public lands are intended to be just that – open to the public, not available for environmental organizations to rent to the exclusion of others,” the governors wrote.

“We urge the BLM to set aside the Proposed Rule in favor of a new, collaborative approach with states, local governments, and stakeholders coming to the table,” they concluded.

The governors’ letter to Secretary Haaland may be viewed here.

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