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ENR Committee conducts oversight meeting regarding BLM

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On June 13, senators from Western states voiced their concerns during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to conduct oversight of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

At the hearing, multiple senators questioned BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning for the agency’s lack of transparency and unrelenting determination to restrict American oil and natural gas. 

In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) states, “The BLM is responsible for more than one in every 10 acres of land in the U.S. and approximately 30 percent of the nation’s minerals, 245 million acres of surface land and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate.”

Roughly 10 percent of U.S. oil and gas production occurs on BLM-managed lands, and in Fiscal Year 2023, 516 million barrels of oil and 3.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from federal onshore lands were produced, according to Manchin.

“Unfortunately, the BLM quickly followed up by choosing ‘no more coal leasing’ as their preferred alternative on those federal lands,” he adds. “I guess when you look at the regulations this administration is putting out, it’s clear they think coal won’t be needed anymore, which I disagree with, and I’m here to say what it’s actually doing is putting our grid reliability at risk.”

BLM’s activity in Wyoming

Following Manchin’s opening remarks, Committee Ranking Member and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) confronts Stone-Manning on the BLM’s assault on Wyoming.

Barrasso criticizes the agency’s updates to the Rock Springs Field Office and Buffalo Field Office resource management plans, changes to the Greater sage grouse range-wide planning process and efforts to drive oil and gas production off of federal lands.  

“The director’s decisions have a significant effect on people’s jobs, their family budgets, the quality of public education and our entire state’s economy,” says Barrasso. “Stone-Manning has been busy making decisions which will crush Wyoming’s economy and lay waste to our local communities in the years ahead.”

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. coal comes from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, most of which is extracted from BLM-managed lands.

“The bureau claims coal production in the region won’t be impacted until the year 2038 – 14 years from now – and existing leases are sufficient to meet expected demand for coal,” he states. “My question then is why is the BLM taking this action now if they say it’s not going to have any impact for at least 14 years?”

Stone-Manning replies, “As you know, President Joe Biden has asked us to turn and transition to a clean energy economy, but the lands in the Powder River Basin are leased through 2041 and the record of decision is still in formulation.”

Barrasso continues to question Stone-Manning on the BLM’s justification for its new oil and gas leasing and bonding rule.

“I don’t buy it – this rule, to me, is completely arbitrary and punitive. You’re trying to drive oil and gas producers off of federal lands, and I think it’s disgraceful,” he adds.

Lastly, Barrasso questions Stone-Manning on why BLM refuses to issue oil and gas leases and permits in Wyoming.

“We are still working our way through multiple court decisions. When we issue them, we want them to be durable and to stick,” she replies. “I don’t have a date for when we will issue them either.”

Barrasso concludes, “It seems like a lot of foot-dragging. The state office can’t issue the permits to drill on these leases until the bureau releases the updated analysis which is now done – it was done a year ago.”

BLM’s involvement across the West

During the hearing, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) criticizes the drastic increase in bond requirements, pointing out the decision would likely hurt smaller oil and natural gas businesses in the Western U.S. the most.

“It’s a radical change. It disregards the costs to reclaim a Montana well. It disregards the small oil and natural gas producers in our state. Simply put, Montana oil and gas producers can’t afford a 1,500 percent increase in bonding,” Daines states. “It is no secret the Biden administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and BLM are doing everything they can to eliminate oil, gas and coal production in the U.S.”

However, during Stone-Manning’s testimony, she states, “The BLM is committed to managing America’s public lands in a balanced, science-based manner.” 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who represents a state with a territory of roughly 61 percent federally-owned lands, brought forth concerns about BLM’s restrictive practices.

“In my home state of Alaska, it seems you’ve abandoned any pretense of balance. BLM is restricting development however and wherever it can. It has direct consequences on our jobs and revenues. It hurts our energy and our mineral security,” she states.

Murkowski then points out the decision to restrict oil and natural gas production in Alaska and other states will result in an increase in overall global emissions due to an increased global reliance on dirtier energy from other countries. She went as far as to call for BLM’s budget to be cut.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) adds the BLM’s decision to overprotect lands at the expense of the American economy was particularly damaging to his constituents, as Utah is home to roughly 65 percent federally-owned lands. 

“Last fall, BLM closed 317 miles of historic roads in Utah. These are in people’s backyards. You can hardly throw a rock in any direction in Utah and not hit federal land,” he continues. “Month after a month, a sweeping new policy seems to be imposed by you from your agency, harming Utahans who rely on the land for their livelihood.”

But Stone-Manning pushed back, saying conservation fits neatly into the agency’s mandate to balance multiple uses of public lands.

The questions continue

The senate committee also questioned Stone-Manning during the hearing on her involvement in a decades-old, tree-spiking case and doubted her ability to lead the agency.

Questions about the tree-spiking case dominated Stone-Manning’s 2021 senate confirmation but Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and other senators resurfaced them during the oversight hearing, as Hawley questioned her about lying to the committee regarding her involvement in the case. 

It was the first time Stone-Manning appeared in front of the committee since she was confirmed in 2021.

“I warned everyone when the confirmation was up, if the BLM had someone who had such disrespect for the natural resources of America, for our country and for my state of Idaho, this was what we were going to see,” U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) reiterates. “This is awful, awful management of our public lands – it is not multiple-use, it is abuse of our public lands.”

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

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