Skip to content
Main Menu
Utah Attorney General
Search
Attorney General
Sean D. Reyes
Utah Office of the Attorney General
Secondary Navigation

Utah and Wyoming File Suit Challenging the New BLM Public Lands Rule

SALT LAKE CITY On Tuesday, the states of Utah and Wyoming, where federally-controlled land is abundant, filed a joint lawsuit challenging the new BLM Public Lands Rule. The states are suing the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The BLM finalized the Public Lands Rule without the required environmental review. This misstep needs correction as the new Public Lands Rule overhauls the BLM’s land management priorities in ways that the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) does not allow. 

“The new Public Lands Rule is devastating to Utah as it allows the BLM to unnecessarily restrict access to millions of acres of land by adopting a hands-off, museum-like management approach,” said Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “The Rule redefines and prioritizes ‘conservation’ or ‘non-use’ over all other legal and productive uses, directly violating existing federal law and vitiating the intent of multi-use policies as required by FLPMA.”

The BLM’s Public Lands Rule, finalized April 18 and effective June 10, overhauls BLM’s substantive priorities under the FLPMA and changes how the agency will carry out its mission with guidelines for the management of all 245 million acres of federal public land, including 22.8 million acres in Utah. This rule significantly impacts the state and all other Western states where federally controlled land is plentiful. 

“The BLM has exceeded its authority by allowing special interest groups to close down access and uses of our public lands across Utah, including areas that many Utahns love to visit and uses that are critical to our rural communities,” said Redge Johnson, Director of Utah’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office.

A key component of the new rule is “restoration and mitigation leases,” which will be issued or denied at the discretion of the BLM to lessees that include non-governmental entities to “support” restoration and mitigation projects on public lands with a defined purpose and scope. There is no requirement for the non-governmental lessees to coordinate or cooperate with state agencies that currently manage activities on public lands, such as the Division of Wildlife Resources and the Department of Agriculture. Once issued, no other activities inconsistent with the lease terms are allowed. If unchallenged, these restrictive leases will fundamentally change conservation practices such as wildfire mitigation, watershed restoration, invasive species removal, recreation, livestock grazing, mineral extraction, and renewable energy production.

Instead of following the statutory processes required under NEPA, the BLM issued this new Public Lands Rule decision using what is called a “categorical exclusion.” A “categorical exclusion” is the absolute lowest level of environmental review and is typically reserved for small scale projects such as improving parking areas. As this new Public Lands Rule impacts land management on over 245 million acres nationwide, the BLM is required to conduct the highest level of environmental review. 

“Utah is committed to managing our public lands for multiple-use and sustained yield, providing access for all users of all ages and abilities, and opposes closing any existing access on public land. The BLM has increasingly failed to keep these lands accessible, forcing Utah to take action in the courts,” Attorney General Reyes said. 

For more information on how the BLM’s Public Lands Rule would impact public lands in Utah, visit ​​https://publiclands.utah.gov/plr/.