House Dems urge Haaland to pivot BLM toward conservation

More than three dozen Democrats say the effort will help with President Joe Biden's goal to conserve 30 percent of the nation's lands and waters by 2030.

February 17, 2023

 House Democrats want the Bureau of Land Management to focus more on conservation as a means to address a "biodiversity crisis" driven by climate change.

In a letter dated Wednesday and sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, 40 Democrats said this can be accomplished by directing BLM to identify federal rangelands that could qualify as wilderness or as areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs). The letter was led by Reps. Jared Huffman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

Once such inventories have been completed, the secretary is authorized by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to designate them as ACECs or as wilderness study areas that are managed as wilderness, pending action by Congress.

Doing so would help preserve wildlife corridors and advance the Biden administration's "America the Beautiful" initiative that aims to conserve 30 percent of the nation's lands and waters by 2030, they added.

"The largest opportunity to protect our public lands lies with the BLM," the lawmakers wrote.

Wilderness study areas are one of the quickest ways to conserve pristine federal rangelands that otherwise are subject to BLM's congressional mandate that most of the 245 million acres under its care be managed for multiple uses.

But for years, they added, the Interior Department and BLM "have not utilized their ability to protect these lands, leaving critical habitats vulnerable to degradation of their unique resources. Without proper protections, these lands face many threats that could jeopardize wilderness-quality values the BLM stated these lands have."


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By:  Scott Streater
Source: E&E Daily