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BLM addresses public lands rule, opposition remains strong

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On June 8, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming State Director Andrew Archuleta gave an agency update during theWyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in Riverton.

His presentation included information on the BLM’s current regarding rangelands, energy, economics and resource management, as well as the hot button topics of sage grouse and wild horses.

However, the majority of the discussion was centered around the BLM’s incredibly controversial proposed public lands rule

which is widely opposed by ag industry stakeholders across the West.

Public lands rule

Archuleta explained the idea behind the proposed public lands rule is multi-pronged.

“There are five areas the rule addresses. I won’t say they are good or bad, they simply just address them,” he stated.

“The rule emphasizes habitat restoration and provides some tools to make it a little easier and more efficient for BLM to under- take restoration,” Archuleta explained. “It also broadens the use of land health standards, which many permittees are familiar with through their grazing pro- gram, but will apply to all programs including oil and gas, coal and recreation as well.”

According to Archuleta, intact large landscapes are vast pieces of land across the West which haven’t been split apart or subdivided, and through their proposed rule, BLM hopes to keep them this way.

“We want them to remain intact and not split them up in any way, whether it be through energy development, housing, etc.,” he said.

BLM’s proposed rule also addresses the allocation of conservation leases – the idea a third-party entity could apply for a 10-year conservation lease – and facilitating compensatory mitigation – offsite habitat restoration to mitigate onsite impacts, such as those caused by a transmission line development.

“I know this topic has raised a lot of questions, and I’m sure BLM hasn’t thought of everything,” Archuleta said. “The devil is in the details, so I’m hoping public comment will illuminate a lot of areas we haven’t thought about.”

Producer concerns

Following his speech, Archuleta opened the floor to questions, concerns and comments from convention attendees.

An overarching concern shared between many producers is the affect conservation leases will have on livestock grazing.

“The intent of this rule is not to affect ongoing activity, but there is the potential, which is something we need to seriously consider when issuing a conservation lease,” Archuleta stated.

BLM Wyoming Range Program Lead Mark Gortel commented, “As it stands right now, a conservation lease would not impact preexisting uses. With this, if a producer has a grazing permit or lease, it would continue as it normally has, meaning they are issued for 10 years and once they expire, the preexisting preference holder has the first right to apply and renew, as long as they’re in good standing.”

Producers also voiced their unease regarding how conservation leases would be issued. Since permit leasing for grazing is a difficult process, many wonder if the same will be true for those who apply for a conservation lease, and they question what information would determine if someone was granted such a lease.

Producers also expressed their desire to be involved in granting third-party conservation leases, since lessees will have to be intimately involved with grazing planning or sagebrush treatment, for example.

In response, Archuleta explained a conservation lease application would have to go through environmental analysis.

“I would want to see some type of monitoring activity and benchmark to show they are achieving what they intend, or we stop the lease. But, those details haven’t been worked out,” he shared. “Obviously we can’t be biased about who applies for a permit, but we do need to get all of the information on what they intend to use the lease for.”

As for existing lessee involvement, Archu- leta commented, “I think it would be critical. Who knows better how an activity will impact the land than a producer who has been grazing it for years. From my perspective, the existing lessee would have a say.”

Convention attendees also expressed their wish to have proper grazing techniques recognized under the definition of conservation.

“It is interesting the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which guides the basis of BLM, doesn’t actually define conservation,” Archuleta stated. “I come from the old-school Aldo Leopold way of management, who defined conservation as the wise use of resources, and two tools to accomplish this are the cow and the plow.”

He concluded, “I support public lands grazing, and I don’t want to see producers’ livelihoods impacted by another thing thrown on top of them. They lead busy lives and have a lot going on, and I don’t want to throw on another layer of burden.”

Ag industry opposition

In addition to the attendees at WSGA’s summer convention, opposition for the public lands rule has been felt from a plethora of ag industry stakeholders across the West.

In fact, on June 15, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a legislative hearing to require BLM to withdraw the proposed rule.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon was among those to testify.

“This proposed rule was rushed forward without material input from Wyo- ming or other states,” Gordon said. “It did not have the benefit of the views of impacted public land users. The proposed rule mischaracterizes conservation, seeks to preempt wildlife management from the states and oversteps the bureau’s statutory authority. The best solution is to rescind the rule.”

Gordon also joined a handful of Western governors in penning a letter to the U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, describing the rule as “a solution in search of a problem.”

“Tens of millions of acres of BLM lands across the Western U.S. are already protected under strict fed- eral 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,” they added.

Additionally, on June 19, the Public Lands Council (PLC) announced the launch of a grassroots campaign against the proposed rule.

“The BLM must follow the law in managing our nation’s public lands for multiple use and sustained benefits for all,” said PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “Public lands grazing is an important conservation tool which pro- tects these landscapes and is integral to national food security.”

“We must remind BLM grazing is an essential use of our nation’s public lands, and I hope the pub- lic will join us in sending a letter to agency leadership underscoring their responsibility to be good partners – especially since they’ve fallen short in this rule,” she continued.

Those interested in signing PLCʼs letter can visit Questions can be directed to Hunter Ihrman by e-mailing

In response to this slew of opposition, BLM extended the comment period for the proposed rule for another 15 days, bringing the total comment period to 90 days. The comment period will now close July 5.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@

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