Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee are demanding the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) double the comment period on new rules that will fundamentally transform how public lands are managed.
The BLM published the “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule in the Federal Register on April 3, kicking off a 75-day public comment period wherein agency bureaucrats hear from interested parties on the new regulations. The proposed Public Lands Rule establishes a framework for “conservation leasing,” allowing public lands to be cut off from development or grazing.
“The administration’s proposal will have considerable implications, fundamentally changing the way the BLM carries out its multiple use and sustained yield mandate under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLMPA),” Republicans wrote in a letter to the Interior Department on Wednesday. “Given the potentially significant impacts of the proposed rule, stakeholders and the public should be afforded additional time to consider and provide feedback on the proposed changes.”
If implemented, the BLM regulations would undermine the long-standing “multiple use mandate” assigned by Congress in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The law stipulates public lands be made available for a variety of purposes, including recreation and grazing. Conservation leases threaten to choke off access to ranchers who rely on BLM land to raise healthy livestock.
Committee Republicans led by Chairman Bruce Westerman of Arkansas recommended Interior Secretary Deb Haaland extend the period for public comment on the new rules from 75 days to 150.
“We continue to hear from a wide range of stakeholders, including those who engage in grazing, recreation, energy development, mining, and timber, among others, on BLM lands,” they wrote. “The proposed rule creates additional uncertainty among America’s businesses and rural economies.”
Their letter follows demands from the Idaho and Wyoming GOP congressional delegations to hold more public hearings closer to constituents impacted. Of the five two-hour meetings announced this month, just three are in person. Further, each of these meetings is scheduled in urban city centers, including Denver, Reno, and Albuquerque, and none of the public hearings are planned in states with a single Republican senator or majority-Republican House delegation.
The BLM manages 245 million acres of federal property, more than 90 percent of which lies in the American West. While two of the agency’s hearings are virtual, rural areas often lack adequate access to high-speed internet.
“Our rural and tribal communities in the West are sparsely populated, spanning thousands of miles, and often lacking the broadband infrastructure to participate in virtual meetings,” wrote Wyoming lawmakers on Monday. A resident in Powell, WY, they explained, “where BLM land surrounds the community in every direction,” would have to travel 511 miles to attend next week’s meeting in Denver.
The move to eliminate grazing on public land comes straight from the playbook of radical environmentalists who aim to cut off undeveloped property from any kind of human use. BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning, whose 2021 confirmation was made controversial by her history as an ecoterrorist, condemned grazing in her 1992 graduate thesis.