Bureau of Land Management proposes new public lands regulations

The regulations intend to put conservation on equal footing with other land uses

The Bureau of Land Management recently proposed new regulations aimed at addressing land health and resiliency across BLM-managed lands.

The regulations intend to clarify that conservation is a land use commensurable with other uses such as energy development, grazing and recreation.

“As pressure on our public lands continues to grow, the proposed Public Lands Rule provides a path for the BLM to better focus on the health of the landscape, ensuring that our decisions leave our public lands as good or better off than we found them,” said Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning about the proposed rule.

The rule would apply land health standards to all BLM-managed public lands and uses, clarify the term conservation as an equal land use to others within the Federal Land Policy and Management Act multiple-use framework, and revise existing Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) regulations.

ACECs are the primary designation for public lands that require special management activities to conserve an ecological or cultural resource. Special management provisions are developed during the preparation of or amendments to long-term, multi-stakeholder planning documents known as Resource Management Plans. The proposed framework includes provisions that prioritize the identification, evaluation and designation of ACECs.

Notably, the BLM proposed the use of third-party conservation leases as a new tool to restore public lands. The leases aim to facilitate restoration work on public lands, while strengthening collaborative work with communities, states and Tribes.

As described in the proposed rule, this new framework would provide a lease of public land over a limited timeframe, and allow lessees to conduct approved restoration or mitigation activities.

The current comment deadline for the proposed rule runs until June 20, 2023.

Header Image: A visitor fishes on BLM public lands in the Pacific Northwest in 2015. Credit: The Bureau of Land Management