New rule would equalize conservation with industry

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Biden’s push to make federal lands open to conservation restoration through revised leasing agreements is angering ranchers and the oil industry that use the land for other reasons. A recent proposal aims to “put conservation on equal footing with industry” though opponents say it’s just a way to “exclude mining, energy development and agriculture,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

However, that’s not true. Biden administration officials say the proposal would, instead, allow conservationists or others to lease federally owned land just as other industries can – only to restore it rather than drill or graze. Additionally, leases could be bought on behalf of the companies to “offset damage to public land by restoring acreage elsewhere.” The goal, according to Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the Bureau of Land Management, is to “make conservation an ‘equal’ to grazing, drilling and other uses while not interfering with them.”

Historically, BLM’s policies for the 380,000 square miles it oversees has been “industry-friendly” rather than conservation focused. BLM currently regulates over 1 million square miles of publicly owned underground minerals like oil, coal and lithium.

Opponents argue that it will shut down other uses for the land like grazing. Stone-Manning said that wasn’t the case. Grazing would continue. If hunting was allowed, that would also stay the same.

“It makes conservation an equal among the multiple uses that we manage for,” said Stone-Manning. “There are rules around how we do solar development. There are rules around how we do oil and gas. There have not been rules around how we deliver on the portions of (federal law) that say, ‘Manage for fish and wildlife habitat, manage for clean water.’”

If approved, the new rule would also focus on “establishing more areas of ‘critical environmental concern’ due to their historic or cultural significance or their importance for wildlife conservation, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Another virtual event is planned for June 5 with public meetings on May 25 in Denver, on May 30 in Albuquerque and June 1 in Reno.


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