Last week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined two comment letters to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opposing its proposed “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule. Idaho and Alaska spearheaded the letters.
According to BLM, the April 3rd proposed rule enhances provisions for the agency to “protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat, and make wise management decisions based on science and data.” BLM is responsible for more than 245 million acres of public lands—approximately ten percent of the United States. Ben Burr, the Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition, asserted that this rule would essentially “sell off public lands to environmental groups who schemed up the 30 x 30 agenda,” which is an attempt to “justify locking up 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.”
The attorneys general make the case in the Idaho letter that BLM’s proposed rulemaking is “bad policy, unlawful, and would inflict immediate injuries on State, public, and small business interests.” The States argue that BLM “has no authority to adopt or implement the proposed rule” and that it “violates existing caselaw, furthers privatization of public lands, and would cause significant, detrimental, economic impacts to important State interests and harm small businesses.” Essentially, they conclude that the “rule would sell out our public lands to the highest bidder.”
General Reyes issued the following statement: “Utah is blessed with public lands that are both beautiful and abundant. Wise management of this land empowers us economically, provides food for our families, sacred spaces, scientific research, solitude for those who seek it and recreation for visitors from around the world. In this balance of multi-use benefits, conservation is certainly a key component. But, this new BLM proposal attempts to rewrite the law to elevate conservation—or non-use—above all other uses combined. It would effectively cut off access to public land at the request of well-heeled environmental lobbyists with devastating effect. This is an abusive attempt to exercise power that Congress never granted to the BLM, and I will fight it.”
In the Idaho letter, the attorneys general write that the “BLM does not have authority to exercise powers it does not have—here, leasing public lands for ‘conservation’ as a use. Similar unilateral actions have most recently been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as a ‘particular and recurring problem: agencies asserting highly consequential power beyond what congress could reasonably be understood to have granted.’”
They demand that “immediate withdrawal of the rule must occur.”
The States of Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and South Dakota joined the Idaho letter.
Note: The Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office also submitted a letter to BLM opposing its proposed rule.