A new proposal from the Bureau of Land Management is raising alarm bells for public land users. Micheal Clements shares more.
Clements: The Bureau of Land Management's recent conservation proposal would be a major shift in public land management. Shelby Hagenauer, American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Government Affairs Director, says the proposal could change the way farmers and ranchers operate in the Western U.S.
Hagenauer: There are several things they are proposing. The first one and probably the most significant is elevating conservation as a use under the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976. They're proposing to create a new kind of lease on BLM lands, a conservation lease. They're prioritizing the designation and protection of areas of critical environmental concern, and these are areas that have special management attention, and they could include simply closing down areas entirely from public use.
Clements: Hagenauer says the proposal was developed with no stakeholder input or advanced notification.
Hagenauer: These are really complicated issues and conversations that should be facilitated by the agency with the involvement of all stakeholders, folks interested in grazing, the energy industry, recreationalists, they should have these conversations over years to develop really solid durable solutions. Right now, public input is confined to a 75-day public comment period, and further, the public meetings they are holding have left stakeholders of all kinds with more questions than answers.
Clements: She encourages Farm Bureau members to contact their lawmakers regarding the issue.
Hagenauer: Work with your state Farm Bureau, provide comments about the benefits your work has on the land. You can contact members of Congress and Senators to tell them what the impacts may be to your ranch. Ask them to support an extension of the comment period. And finally, there's legislation that would require the BLM director to withdraw the proposal, so that they could go back to the drawing board and work collaboratively with all of these interests in a true multiple use spirit.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.