WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management has taken a major step to improve the management of public lands and waterways that sustain fish, wildlife, hunting and fishing through a proposal that would modernize its planning process.
The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition said the BLM’s release Thursday of a proposed rule as part of its Planning 2.0 initiative bolsters efforts to take a more comprehensive approach to decisions about oil and gas drilling and other public land uses. . Public lands across the West include important fish and wildlife habitat, recreation areas and activities that support the economies of local communities, coalition members said.
“The BLM’s Planning 2.0 represents an important step forward in modernizing the way the agency plans for and manages 245 million acres of public lands,” said Joel Webster, director of Western lands with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This process should help the agency increase public participation in land-use planning, better manage for important resources like wildlife and hunting, and enable stakeholders to find common ground in the management of our public lands. Our group remains committed to engaging sportsmen in that discussion.”
The national coalition led by the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited has urged the BLM to fully enact oil and gas leasing reforms unveiled in 2010, including the approval of master leasing plans where needed to balance energy development and important fish and wildlife habitat. Those plans are intended as a “smart-from-the-start” approach, a critical step between the more general, overarching resource management plan and analysis of local sites and individual wells
“Fish and wildlife don’t pay attention to arbitrary lines on a map, so it’s important that BLM planners are encouraged to look beyond their traditional planning area boundaries when weighing the potential effects of development,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director. “The strategies outlined in the BLM’s proposed rule provide planners the opportunity to consider the broader landscape when considering impacts on migrating herds and such challenges as threats from wildfires and invasive species.”
SFRED members welcomed the emphasis on involving the public earlier in the planning process, which will help identify important resources and address potential conflicts before decisions are made.
“It is important to keep the public in public land management, and that is what the Planning 2.0 initiative seeks to do. By focusing on stakeholder involvement and science-based land management, we are hopeful that this effort will keep these public lands great places to hunt and fish, long into the future, said Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s sportsmen’s conservation project.
Sportsmen see BLM's proposal to improve public-lands management as an important step. Image: Lew Carpenter