June 2023

BLM’s Proposed Public Lands Rule Faces Opposition

In early April, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that, according to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, and other relevant authorities, would advance the BLM’s mission to manage the public lands for multiple use and sustained yield by prioritizing the health and resilience of ecosystems across those lands. To ensure health and resilience, the proposed rule provides that the BLM will protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitats, and make wise management decisions based on science and data.

The BLM purports that the rulemaking is intended to “…establish a framework to ensure healthy landscapes, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water and balanced decision-making on our nation’s public lands.” ARRA is concerned that the proposed changes would fundamentally alter how BLM manages its lands through an approach never envisioned by Congress or the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).

However, many outdoor recreation groups have expressed significant concern about the proposed BLM rule, and the MIC, ROHVA, and the SVIA submitted a joint letter in opposition urging the BLM to rescind the rule. “Unfortunately, the rule would create a new definition of conservation,” said Duane Taylor, Director of Safe and Responsible Use Programs for the MIC, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. “It’s impossible to understand how a brand-new conservation leasing program will work, especially with a new definition that places conservation on par with other uses for the first time in history. These are foundational changes not envisioned by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and they warrant Congressional review and input.”

ARRA members were also vigorously opposed to the rule. There is significant concern the rule will limit recreation areas. “I am concerned that if the mandatory protection and restoration directives in the proposed Conservation Rule are enacted, they will disenfranchise millions of outdoor recreation enthusiasts by restricting access to or closing popular recreation areas,” said Don Amador, Director of Government Affairs, AMA District 36.

There is concern that some efforts still need to be addressed in the rule. “While our motorized recreational interests have been the subject of more than 50 years of NEPA analysis and planning to protect resources, this effort is not addressed at all in the Proposal,” said Fred Wiley, President and CEO, the Off-Road Business Association. “We are opposing any trail loss resulting from conservation leases, ACEC expansions, or other efforts that do not recognize the decades of analysis already in place on these routes and areas.” The American Motorcyclists Association, the Off-Road Business Association, One Voice for Off-Road Motorized Recreation, the United Four-Wheel Drive Associations, the United Snowmobile Alliance, and the Specialty Equipment Market Association collectively submitted comments opposing the rule.

There is also legislative opposition to the BLM rule as Rep. Bruce Westerman, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has vowed to block BLM’s efforts. At a recent House Natural Resources Committee markup, the committee passed H.R. 3397, introduced by Rep. Curtis (R-UT- 3), which requires the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw the rule. MIC also submitted a letter of support for H.R. 3397 and a quote to the committee staff before the markup. Chairman Westerman has also indicated he would work with members of the Appropriations Committee to block the rule through a spending bill if H.R. 3397 does not make it into law, which MIC had also suggested to the committee staff. In the Senate, companion bill S. 1435 was introduced by Sen. Barrasso and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

ARRA sent a call to action to its members on the proposed rule and provided a sample letter for members to use and submit their comments. The comment period ended on July 5, 2023.

Coalition for Recreational Trails Convenes to Advocate for the Recreational Trails Program

Anyone who has hiked, pedaled, rode on, or otherwise utilized the thousands of miles of trails that have been designed, constructed, maintained, or improved by the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) owes the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) a debt of gratitude. The CRT is an alliance of national and regional trail-related organizations representing motorized and non-motorized communities across a broad spectrum of interests. Its members work together to build awareness and understanding of the RTP, which returns federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists to the states for trail development and maintenance.

CRT has worked with the RTP’s many champions on Capitol Hill, who have ensured that the program remains relevant and continues to receive funding. The organization has also highlighted the RTP’s many success stories through its annual awards, recognizing outstanding RTP projects across the country. In short, the RTP thrives due to the collective efforts of the disparate trails communities working together through CRT.

Recently, CRT’s Board of Directors met to once again advocate for CRT as transportation reauthorization looms and changes to the funding structure for transportation infrastructure are anticipated. The CRT remains strong and will continue with its leadership in place to assess and act upon both short and long-term priorities for the RTP. These priorities will include ensuring that this vital program for trails of all types continues to grow and that trails remain top-of-mind as long-term planning for transportation funding discussions begins in earnest in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about CRT and ways you can help support the RTP, visit https://www.americantrails.org/crt

The Department of Interior Announces $161 Million for Landscape Restoration

In early June, the Department of the Interior announced plans to infuse $161 million into ecosystem restoration and resilience on the nation’s public lands as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. The Bureau of Land Management will lead the work and focus on 21 “Restoration Landscapes” across 11 western states ranging from restoring wildlife habitat in the sagebrush steppe of the high desert to re-creating wetland meadows to repairing watersheds on former industrial timberlands.

“With the investment, we will be able to pass these lands to future generations in better shape than we find them today,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We’re thrilled to be able to put people to work to benefit wildlife habitat, clean water, and the overall health and productivity of our public lands.”

The BLM selected the 21 Restoration Landscapes based on ecological needs and community importance. These areas hold significant potential for additional cross-boundary partnerships and investments from sister federal agencies, state, Tribal, and local governments, private landowners, and partner groups, which could increase the scope and scale of restoration work.

This announcement of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will leverage close to $40 million that the BLM has already deployed from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for restoration activities.

More information about each landscape restoration area can be found on BLM’s StoryMap.

Recent Bureau of Land Management Activity

  • Anchorage, Alaska – The BLM published a Public Land Order withdrawing lands around the receding Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska. The order affects approximately 4,560 acres of National Forest System lands within the Tongass National Forest to provide protection for this popular recreation destination. The land withdrawal aligns with the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, which supports the goal of conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
  • Prineville, Oregon – The BLM announced opening new facilities in Maupin for the BLM and partners, including regional Tribes, to coordinate the management of some of Oregon’s most treasured natural resources. The new facilities include an office, workshop, and seasonal housing and will serve as the operations center for recreation staff who enhance the visitor experience on the Lower Deschutes Wild and Scenic River. The BLM manages the Lower Deschutes in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, the State of Oregon, and several local government entities. A decade in the making, this project was made possible through partial funding by the Great American Outdoors Act, a historic investment to address deferred maintenance needs, increase recreational access to public lands, and improve the conservation of our lands and waters. Since the act was signed in 2020, about $45 million has been invested in public lands managed by the BLM in Oregon and Washington.
  • Ukiah, California – The BLM has completed the installation of barriers along the access road that traverse Scott’s Creek, allowing visitors to drive to the South Cow Mountain Off-highway Vehicle Management Area in Lake County once again.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) West Desert District issued a fire prevention order to announce seasonal fire restrictions. These restrictions apply to BLM-managed lands within the counties of Box Elder, Cache, Juab, Millard, Morgan, Rich, Salt Lake, Summit, Tooele, Utah, Wasatch, and Weber. “The 12 counties identified in the fire prevention order contain 86% of Utah’s population and have a significant wildland-urban interface,” said Michael Gates, BLM West Desert District Manager. “While we have received record snowfall and rain over the last seven months, we expect warmer temperatures to dry out the large grass crop and rapidly increase fire danger. We ask that all visitors to public lands be diligent in preventing wildfires.” From June 27 until rescinded, the fire prevention order prohibits using steel component ammunition, steel component targets, sky lanterns, or similar devices and operating off-highway vehicles without spark arresters.
  • Lakeview, Oregon – BLM urged Fourth of July visitors to recreate responsibly. On the Fourth of July, we celebrate and reflect on the freedom and liberty for all Americans. With thousands of visitors expected to spend their Fourth of July weekend enjoying the outdoors, the risk of human-caused wildfires increases. Fire restrictions are in effect across all public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Lakeview District to help reduce the risk of wildfires and protect communities. The BLM also reminds visitors to recreate responsibly this summer for their safety and to protect natural and cultural resources. “Independence Day brings families and friends together to celebrate on public lands,” said Lakeview District Manager Todd Forbes. “We hope everyone enjoys the holiday safely and responsibly by planning ahead and preparing for crowds.”