© 2023 KSUT Public Radio
NPR News and Music Discovery for the Four Corners
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

BLM begins public meetings over controversial 'conservation leasing' and other proposals

Pronghorn alongside oil and gas facilities near the BLM Pinedale Field Office in Wyoming.
Bryan Nealy
BLM Wyoming, Flickr
Pronghorn alongside oil and gas facilities near the BLM Pinedale Field Office in Wyoming.

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a new rule that would, among other things, clarify that “conservation is a use on par with other uses of federal public lands.” Public meetings on the proposal started this week.

The first virtual meeting was Monday evening, and will be followed by three in-person events in Denver, Albuquerque and Reno. A final virtual meeting will be held on June 5, just over two weeks before the June 20 deadline for all public comments.

The full schedule is here.

“I would definitely weigh in,” said John Leshy, a professor at UC Law San Francisco and former Department of Interior solicitor. “I think you can have an influence if you tell them what you think and give them ideas, because I think this is a sincere effort and I think they’d listen.”

He called the so-called Public Lands Rule “a good step in the right direction.”

It would allow BLM lands to be leased for conservation, in the same way lands are currently leased for grazing or oil and gas drilling. Industry groups are largely opposed.

Those leases would “allow the public to directly support durable protection and restoration efforts to build and maintain the resilience of public lands,” reads the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register.

“These leases would be available to entities seeking to restore public lands or provide mitigation for a particular action,” it continues. “They would not override valid existing rights or preclude other, subsequent authorizations so long as those subsequent authorizations are compatible with the conservation use.”

Idaho’s congressional delegation recently criticized the BLM for not planning an in-person hearing in the state, home to nearly 12 million acres managed by the agency.

“(T)he closest in-person meeting for Idaho residents is Reno, Nevada, a trip that can take anywhere between five and 14 hours by car,” the federal lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, while significant strides have been made in rural broadband development, some Idaho residents still lack reliable coverage needed to communicate and participate in a virtual meeting.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Murphy Woodhouse
Related Stories