The U.S. just changed how it manages a tenth of its land

/ In The News, News

Photo by Meg Frederick

Return to Freedom generally supports this rule change, which would equalize management considerations by considering the habitat and ecosystem as an equal “multiple use.” As the change will be heavily litigated, however, we cannot yet say what this will ultimately mean for wild horses and burros. We will remain vigilant as the process plays out.

As published by The Washington Post

For decades, the federal government has prioritized oil and gas drilling, hardrock mining and livestock grazing on public lands across the country. That could soon change under a far-reaching Interior Department rule that puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction.

The final rule released Thursday represents a seismic shift in the management of roughly 245 million acres of public property — about one-tenth of the nation’s land mass. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials, some of whom have lambasted the move as a “land grab.”

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, known as the nation’s largest landlord, has long offered leases to oil and gas companies, mining firms and ranchers. Now, for the first time, the nearly 80-year-old agency will auction off “restoration leases” and “mitigation leases” to entities with plans to restore or conserve public lands.

“Today’s final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best-available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development, and sustain our public lands for generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Under President Biden, the BLM has put a greater emphasis on protecting public lands from the twin threats of climate change and development. Tracy Stone-Manning, the bureau’s director, has warned that hotter, drier climates are driving longer and more intense wildfires and drought across the American West. At the same time, development has fragmented and destroyed wildlife habitat and migratory corridors.

The fossil fuel industry, a frequent foe of the Biden administration, has chafed at the BLM’s approach. It has called the public lands rule an example of regulatory overreach that will stifle domestic energy production, even as the United States pumps more oil than any nation in history.

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