By Rose Strickland
In the last few months, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has circulated proposals to elevate conservation as its management goal for public lands, equal to other uses– such as mining, grazing, and oil and gas leasing– and asked the public for its comments. Although conservation was mandated by the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1974 (FLPMA), the BLM is now proposing regulations to better meet its joint mission of conservation, multiple use and sustained yield by prioritizing the health and resilience of ecosystems across the public lands in public land management decisions. While acknowledging that our public lands are increasingly degraded and fragmented, the agency is proposing a framework to protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat and base management decisions on science and data. Agency actions to implement the new conservation rule include applying land health standards to all public lands and uses, clarifying that conservation is a use equal to other multiple-uses and revising existing regulations to prioritize designating and protecting Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
While there was some initial resistance to the BLM conservation proposals from advocates of other multiple uses, the public support for the proposed rule has been overwhelming. The National Audubon Society (NAS) reported that 194 chapters from 41 states, including the Lahontan Audubon Society, signed on to a letter supporting BLM's forward-thinking approach to improve management of 245,000,000 acres of our public lands to ensure healthy landscapes, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water and balanced decision-making. National Public Radio reported that over 216.000 people commented on the BLM proposal. The Center for Western Priorities analyzed a large randomized selection of responses and found that over 90% supported the BLM proposal. Other responses were opposed, neutral, or mixed.
Both the National and Lahontan Audubon Societies also submitted detailed comments to BLM with questions and concerns about implementation as well as suggestions for strengthening the proposed public lands rule. Lahontan Audubon commented on the timeliness of the proposed rule to address both the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. Our comments provided information on the 27 Nevada bird species on the At-Risk list and 26 Nevada species on its Watch list which are being tracked by the Nevada Division of Natural Heritage. Our comments also suggested that the BLM rule prioritize candidate areas for protection and management of threatened, endangered and sensitive species which are dependent on habitat on Nevada's public lands as well as consider Nevada Important Bird Areas as candidate ACECs. Other comments focused on proposals on mitigation, restoration, and conservation leases.
For more information on bird conservation issues, contact Rose Strickland, Chair, LAS Conservation Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.