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BLM releases finalized, controversial Public Lands Rule

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On April 18, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a final rule to help guide the balanced management of America’s public lands and help conserve wildlife habitat, restore places impacted by wildfire and drought, expand outdoor recreation and guide thoughtful development.

In an April 18 press release, DOI Secretary Deb Haaland states, “As stewards of America’s public lands, the DOI takes seriously the role in helping bolster landscape resilience in the face of worsening climate impacts. Today’s final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development and sustain our public lands for generations to come.”

DOI notes the final rule comes amid growing pressures and historic challenges facing land managers with the impacts of climate change – including prolonged drought, increasing wildfires and an influx of invasive species – posing increasing risks to communities, wildlife and ecosystems. 

According to DOI, the Public Lands Rule will help the BLM navigate changing conditions on the ground, while further helping public lands continue to serve as economic drivers across the West.

Following the announcement of the final ruling, the BLM explains, “The Public Lands Rule will provide tools to help improve the health and resilience of public lands in the face of a changing climate, conserve important wildlife habitat and intact landscapes, facilitate responsible development and better recognize unique cultural and natural resources on public lands.”

“Our public lands provide wildlife habitat and clean water, the energy which lights our homes, the wood we build with and the places where we make family memories,” says BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “This rule honors our obligation to current and future generations to help ensure our public lands and waters remain healthy amid growing pressures and change.”

Expressing concern

In response to the release of the final Public Lands Rule, Gov. Mark Gordon reiterates his frustration over the agency’s dismissal of state efforts and input in a statement released on April 18.

“It appears Wyoming’s comments – and those from our people who depend on public lands for their livelihoods – were completely overlooked,” Gordon comments. “The Biden administration’s contorted interpretation of multiple use under the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and the BLM’s authorities will completely upend economies across the West, including grazing, recreation and energy.”

Gordon adds, “Wyoming takes immense pride in our wildlife and habitat management and expertise. With Wyoming’s voice, authorities and management efforts, as well as the standard of multiple use disregarded, I wholeheartedly support Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) efforts to withdraw this rule in the U.S. Senate.”

He continues, “Renaming the rule the ‘Public Lands Rule’ from its earlier incarnation as the ‘Conservation and Landscape Health Rule’ or calling conservation leases ‘mitigation’ and ‘restoration’ leases reflects the BLM’s disingenuous attempt to shift perception surrounding this rule. It completely disregards the public’s rejection of the administration’s efforts to force the 30×30 initiative down our throats.”

In a statement released the same day, Barrasso states, “The people of Wyoming depend on access to public lands for their livelihoods, including energy and mineral production, grazing and recreation. With this rule, President Biden is allowing federal bureaucrats to destroy our way of life. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and I will introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal this outrageous rule.”  

Also expressing concern is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC), who released a statement addressing the final ruling which reimagines the agency’s requirements to manage lands for multiple uses, including livestock grazing.

NCBA President and Wyoming Rancher Mark Eisele states, “BLM has a statutory responsibility to ensure multiple use on our nation’s public lands, which includes livestock grazing. It is extremely concerning this rule makes serious additions to the leasing structure for federal lands without authorization or direction from Congress. Changes that aren’t based in law not only compromise the security of grazing on the landscape but make cohesive management much more challenging.” 

Eisele continues, “Ranchers have and will always be serious partners in conservation and sensible land management, but after a year of feedback from agricultural organizations and local stakeholders, BLM has decided to move forward with the most concerning parts of this proposal.”

NCBA, PLC and more than 60 state and national agricultural groups previously submitted comments to the BLM highlighting concerns this rule would upend the relationship between federal agencies and grazing permittees, opening the door for public lands grazing to be removed from the land entirely, states the NCBA website.

“The work ranchers and permittees do every day is conservation and crucial to landscape health across the West. Our priority continues to be defending grazing across the West, and despite our repeated warnings to the BLM, the agency is forging ahead with a rule which threatens their ability to make sure even the most basic of functions can be delivered in a timely way,” says PLC President Mark Roeber, a Colorado rancher and federal grazing permittee.  

Roeber adds, “The devil is in the details and what we’ve seen so far is a rule that makes engagement in sage grouse discussions and others so much more complicated. The timing of this rule disenfranchises permittees who are working to be good partners and engage in other conservation efforts by increasing uncertainty and liability from extremists who only want to bully livestock producers off of working landscapes.”   

What this means for the future

NCBA notes the final rule runs counter to the agency’s multiple use mandate under FLPMA. 

According to FLPMA, the BLM is required to balance the multiple uses of public lands including recreation, energy, mining, timber and grazing. 

The BLM’s Public Lands Rule rearranges agency priorities by putting a new, single use on equal footing with long-established uses Congress explicitly directed, and the rule also places an outsized focus on the use of restrictive Areas of Critical Environmental Concern designations which have compromised land and water health across the West, explains NCBA.

However, BLM states the final rule directs the agency to manage public land uses in accordance with the fundamentals of land health, which will help watersheds support soils, plants and water; ecosystems provide healthy populations and communities of plants and animals and wildlife habitats on public lands protect threatened and endangered species consistent with the multiple use and sustained yield framework.  

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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