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April 10, 2023    By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact News


Big Sky Connection - The federal government is proposing to prioritize conservation more on some of the land that it manages. It's partly an effort to protect these lands against climate change. Comments from Vera Smith, senior federal lands policy analyst, Defenders of Wildlife.


Click on the image above for the audio.  The Bureau of Land Management manages about 8 million acres of land in Montana. (BLM Montana and Dakotas/Flickr)

Eric Tegethoff

April 10, 2023 - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has proposed a rule that would bring more conservation to the lands it manages.

The agency's proposal would ensure that BLM lands are managed for conservation under its multiple-use mission, alongside uses such as recreation and resource extraction.

Vera Smith, senior federal lands policy analyst with Defenders of Wildlife, said this is especially important as the impacts from climate change become greater.

"What this rule does," said Smith, "is it says, 'We're going to make sure that we're checking in on that sustainability part of the equation. We're going to make sure that the way we're managing will be sustainable ecologically and to provide resources into the future for this country.'"

The Western Energy Alliance is among the opponents of this change - saying it goes too far beyond the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which laid out the multiple uses that should be prioritized on public lands.

The public can comment on the rule through June 20.

Smith said this rule would rebalance the scales for protection of the land.

"We've been focusing a lot for the last half century or century on the extraction side of things, the multiple uses," said Smith, "and now we've got to make sure, hey, are we doing this in a sustainable way?"

Smith also noted that BLM lands are home to many threatened and endangered species.

"We do have a responsibility to make sure that we can keep the lands in good, healthy condition," said Smith, "and I'm hoping that this is a good, measured, balanced way to go about doing that."

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