The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doesn’t seem very interested in hearing from constituents who live near public land.
On Wednesday, the agency released its schedule for a tour of Western high mountain states during which BLM officials will present sweeping new regulations on public lands. The proposed Public Lands Rule, published at the end of March, threatens to undermine the multiple use mandate and jeopardizes grazing rights for ranchers. The bureau, which manages 245 million acres primarily across 12 Western states, is preparing to implement conservation leasing and cut off ranchers’ access to public lands.
The states to entertain a visit from BLM officials include Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Each state is represented by two Democrats in the Senate along with majority-Democrat House delegations. Not listed are Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, where only one out of 16 members of their collective representation in Congress is an elected Democrat. Arizona also remains absent from the lineup, with six out of nine House members Republican.
With more than 90 percent of federal lands located west of the Mississippi River, the new rules will have the most impact in Western states, whose interests are often in conflict with those of Beltway bureaucrats. Recognizing where the BLM primarily manages land, the Trump administration moved the agency to Grand Junction, Colorado in 2020. President Joe Biden’s Interior secretary, Deb Haaland, moved offices of the bureau’s senior leadership back to Washington D.C. last summer.
Even though the BLM still maintains the Grand Junction office as an outpost, located on Colorado’s Western Slope, the agency meetings about its proposed public lands rule will be held in the suburbs of Denver. The state capital is much further from neighboring Utah. In fact, each of the three meetings will be held in urban areas, far away from the ranchers most likely to be impacted.
In Nevada, BLM officials will hold their meeting at a convention center in Reno on the westernmost edge of the state, instead of Las Vegas on the southern tip next to Arizona and Utah. In New Mexico, leaders will meet in Albuquerque.
The five states omitted from the lineup collectively possess more than 150 million acres of federal land, compared to the 105 million acres located in Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado.
Idaho’s four-member congressional delegation sent a letter to BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning on Thursday demanding the agency recalculate its schedule.
“As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) considers a major shift in the longstanding and well understood multiple-use approach of federal land management, we are discouraged to see Idaho was not listed as one of the sites for in-person public meetings,” they wrote. “Further, we were disappointed to see not only was Idaho not included, but the in-person locations are geographically concentrated away from many of BLM’s constituents.”
The closest meeting for Idaho residents, lawmakers noted, “is Reno, Nevada, a trip that can take anywhere between five and fourteen hours by car.”
The BLM director was among President Biden’s most controversial nominees in 2021 and was confirmed in a partisan vote.
While most objections to her nomination focused on her past connections to ecoterrorism, Stone-Manning’s 1992 graduate thesis promoted ads critical of grazing on public lands.
“It is overgrazed. Most likely, the grasses won’t grow back, because the topsoil took flight,” Stone-Manning wrote. “Worse still, the government encourages this destruction. It charges ranchers under $2 a month to graze each cow and its calf on public land — your land.”
Stone-Manning now heads the nation’s preeminent land agency overseeing 155 million acres of grazing land for livestock, about the size of Arizona and New Mexico. New rules proposed under her leadership to ban grazing are now coming straight from her 1992 playbook.