Proposed BLM Rule Challenged in Congress, NV Conservationists React

Originally published in Public News Service August 31, 2023

Two pieces of legislation could require the Bureau of Land Management to throw out thousands of public comments and jeopardize the agency’s proposed rule, which aims to put conservation efforts on par with other uses taking place on public lands.

Mandi Elliott, executive director of the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition, said it is important for public lands in Nevada to be protected because they not only improve quality of life but also serve as what she called economic drivers.

“Outdoor access plays such a huge role in quality of life,” Elliott pointed out. “Hand-in-hand with that is these burgeoning outdoor recreation economies that if you’re not in Reno and you’re not in Vegas, the draw is outdoor rec, right?”

Elliott noted other parties seem to forget public lands are intended for everyone’s use. While the proposed rule aims to equally prioritize conservation and outdoor recreation with other uses, some stakeholders within the extractive resource industry do not seem to view it that way. Elliott stressed if the rule were to be dismissed, it would send an “unfortunate message” priorities are skewed.

Congress is currently in recess but is set to reconvene after Labor Day, which means House Resolution 3977 and Senate Bill 1435 could get a floor vote shortly thereafter.

Garrett Hammack, board member of the Nevada Wildlife Federation and an avid hunter, said Nevada faces unique challenges for rehabilitation efforts of public lands and supports the proposed rule, as it would help address those concerns.

“What we are seeing right now with feral horses, with the really large-scale fires that we are getting lately and the development around other cities, we really need to get back to rehabilitating some of this land and the sagebrush structure right now in Nevada is continually degrading,” Hammack contended.

Conservationists said public comments are by and large in support of the BLM’s proposed rule. The agency said it would continue to identify appropriate sites for renewable energy developments and to efficiently process applications for projects on public lands.

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