SCI Comments on BLM’s Proposed Public Lands Rule

Last week, SCI submitted a comment on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rule for Conservation and Land Health. The proposed rule seeks to expressly include “conservation” among the uses appropriate for public lands, create “conservation leases” with the stated purpose of protecting and restoring “degraded” public lands, and extend BLM’s rangeland health standards beyond grazing leases, among other things. While SCI fully supports conservation of habitat and wildlife, SCI seeks to protect broad hunting access on federal lands. SCI’s comment highlights the inconsistent meaning of “conservation,” the lack of clarity for allowed uses on lands subject to conservation leases, and the lack of clarity in the BLM’s new decision-making protocol. Specifically, SCI highlighted that the proposed rule’s definition implies preservation, and not the “wise use” of resources. The use of conservation leases to promote conservation is equally problematic to SCI. The proposed rule does not explicitly exempt recreational and guided hunting from land subject to these leases. Over 99% of the 250 million acres that BLM manages are open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities. These lands provide vital access to all sportsmen and women, and SCI’s comment encourages the proposed rule to expressly protect those opportunities and access. SCI requested that the BLM revise the proposed rule to take into account the comments of affected users of public lands, notably hunters and guides, and to publish another rule that will promote conservation, but protect the multiple use and sustained yield nature of federal public lands.