Meat & Livestock News

Debate Over New BLM Rule

TL;DR: The BLM’s new rule on “restoration and mitigation” leases has sparked debate, facing criticism for potentially overstepping legal boundaries and prioritising conservation over other land uses, which may lead to restrictions on grazing, timber, and mineral rights.

Introduction of the Rule

On April 18, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) introduced a new rule focused on “restoration and mitigation” leases. This rule is designed to manage landscape health more effectively but has stirred concerns among land users about potential impacts on grazing, timber, and mineral rights.

Public Involvement

The BLM’s rule revision process began in April 2023 and included a 90-day public commentary period, during which it held five public meetings. Over 200,000 responses were gathered, with most showing support for the changes. These responses led to further refinements in the rule’s language and goals.

Rule Details

The rule directs BLM to ensure the health of landscapes, which is crucial for maintaining natural resources, wildlife habitats, and clean water. The rule also establishes clearer pathways for both restoration and mitigation leases, aimed at enhancing land health and compensating for developmental impacts, respectively.

Opposition and Concerns

However, this rule has faced significant criticism. The Montana Natural Resource Coalition (MTNRC) argues that the BLM has overstepped its legal boundaries by failing to align with local land use plans and expanding the list of “principal or major uses” for land without proper authority.

Legal Challenges Expected

Todd Devlin and Ross Butcher of MTNRC express serious reservations about the rule’s legality, suggesting that it contradicts established uses of the land mandated by law. They predict that this disagreement will likely lead to legal challenges.

Impact on Local Communities

The rule’s potential to prioritise conservation over other uses like agriculture and recreation is particularly troubling to local economies dependent on these activities. Devlin highlights the importance of considering both the natural and human environments in planning, which he feels the BLM has overlooked.

Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLMPA) Issues

According to FLMPA, the BLM’s activities should be limited to specific uses like livestock grazing and mineral production. The inclusion of restoration and mitigation raises questions about the need for congressional approval.

The 30×30 Agenda

Both Devlin and Butcher view these changes as part of a broader federal initiative known as the 30×30 agenda, aimed at conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. They are concerned this could lead to restrictive conservation efforts that sideline traditional land uses.

Industry and Government Reactions

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other stakeholders have voiced concerns that the new rule could restrict access to land for current and future BLM permit holders. This could potentially lock out multiple uses of these lands indefinitely.

The BLM’s new rule has sparked a significant debate about land use priorities, legal boundaries, and the future of land management in the U.S. With potential legal challenges and ongoing opposition from local governments and industry groups, the implementation of this rule could have far-reaching implications for federal land management practices.