Current Issue

BLM Takes Bold Step to Implement the Unauthorized 30×30 Program

Jun 1, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

House Natural Resource Committee Hearing June 15, 2023, Notices BLM of Their Administrative Overreach and ASL Organizes the “Multiple Use Alliance” with Rural Counties to Challenge the Rule

On April 3, 2023, the Bureau of Land Management issued a proposed rule that prioritizes “conservation” of the federal lands over the multiple uses authorized by Congress under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). This is an audacious breach of federal law by the administrative agency, similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate water beyond statutory authority, recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA.

If enacted, it will lock out the American public from the 240 million acres the agency manages.

The intended purpose is to implement by rule what has been rejected by the representatives of the people, that is the international plan to permanently protect 30 percent of America’s land, water, and oceans by 2030. This is the clearest action taken by the Biden Administration since launching 30×30 that confirms their key objective is to control or eliminate existing rights and productive uses on lands already owned by the federal government, while encumbering the private property within these areas.

The agency justifies this bold power play with this reasoning:

“Ensuring resilient ecosystems has become imperative, as public lands are increasingly degraded and fragmented due to adverse impacts from climate change and a significant increase in authorized use.” (Executive Summary, first paragraph)

They claim there has been “significant increases in authorized use” of the lands managed by the BLM. However, according to a 2017 report from the Congressional Research Service on livestock grazing, “since 1954 there has been a 52.2% reduction in the number of AUMs—from 18.2 million to about 8.7 million.” AUM’s are “animal unit months,” the system the federal government uses to track the number of domestic livestock on the lands each month. It does not reflect the total number of animals on the federal range, which is a significantly smaller number.

Fifty percent of domestic livestock use has been eliminated from the federal lands under the Bureau’s management. That is not an increase in use as they claim, but a staggering decrease. Since the Biden Administration was installed, the authorized multiple uses of grazing, mining, timber, oil and gas have further declined.

While the agency claims the land is “increasingly degraded and fragmented,” and in need of “restoration and protection,” it is worth noting this has occurred during BLM’s 50 plus years of management and arguably as a result of BLM’s failed policies. Their solution, of course, is more of the same — assume more power, further restrict access, and eliminate productive uses of these lands.

Making sure local communities could economically benefit from these lands, while the public would have access, was the purpose for BLM management. By their own admission, they have failed in this mission.

The BLM argues the proposed rule will have an insignificant economic impact. Yet, they plan to issue conservation leases to replace the current productive uses such as grazing, mineral and energy development, hunting, and recreation. These industries provide the local economy with the revenue they need to support the local infrastructure, fund schools and hospitals and send search and rescue to help tourists who get lost or injured in the rural areas.

Federal tax dollars do not pay for these services. Local taxpayer’s do. But once you remove these industries, you no longer have a tax-base to support the services, making these areas only accessible to wealthy individuals or environmental non-government organizations who can afford to buy the newly created conservation leases.

While attempting to rewrite the law through rule making, the agency has also audaciously stated the rule is excluded from any Congressional oversight. They find it does not need to be reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, National Environmental Policy Act, Regulatory Flexibility Act, or Congressional Review Act.

Republicans in Congress are equally concerned and have instigated several actions, including holding an oversight hearing Thursday, June 15th on H.R. 3397 that would rescind the rule. The House Western Caucus Chairman, Dan Newhouse (WA-4) and Senate Western Caucus Chairman, Cynthia Lummis (WY) also requested an extension of time for the people to submit comments, which in today’s hearing the BLM Deputy Director extended for only 15 days.

A substantive challenge to the rule is being brought by Western counties. American Stewards of Liberty has organized the “Multiple Use Alliance,” to help counties impacted by the rule join together to develop robust comments and invoke coordination of the proposed rule required at Section 202(c)(9) of FLPMA.

In the Natural Resource Committee hearing, Representative Paul Gosar asked BLM Deputy Director, Nada Wolff Culver if this required coordination had occurred. Her response was that the BLM was only obligated to coordinate management plans with States and local governments. Representative Gosar then read to her the specific requirement in FLPMA that obligates them to coordinate the rule with States and local governments, which reads as follows:

“The Secretary … shall provide for meaningful public involvement of State and local government officials, both elected and appointed, in the development of land use programs, land use regulations, and land use decisions for public lands, including early public notice of proposed decisions which may have a significant impact on non-Federal lands.”

The Deputy Director had no meaningful answer.

At the end of the hearing the Chairman, Bruce Westerman (R-AR) noted for the record that he would be submitting into the Interior Department’s Appropriation bill a provision that will prevent any funds to be expended on finalizing the proposed rule.

The counties that are a part of the Multiple Use Alliance will be sending their formal request to BLM to coordinate the proposed rule. If you are a county, local government, or State entity and would like to join this effort, please contact American Stewards.

Hear Representative Paul Gosar question the BLM Deputy Director on whether they have coordinated the proposed rule with States and local governments.