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Our View: Proposed BLM rule conservation timestamp in history

Expect better outcomes with balanced decision-making

In conservation history, pivotal moments stand out when action taken did the most good for the most people. The Bureau of Land Management’s proposed Public Lands Rule that makes conservation equal with multiple uses in decision-making would be one of those moments.

It’s a delicate matter to achieve the right balance between the environment and economies. We have every reason to expect best possible outcomes with this rule.

The Public Lands Rule would be a tectonic shift in safeguarding important places by considering and managing for resilient ecosystems, protecting intact landscapes and applying land health standards, guided by science and data. Not politicians.

Conservation decisions would be built into management of lands – loved and overly loved – by the millions who visit them every year to camp, hunt, fish, hike, bike, boat and more.

And we don’t have time to waste.

Intensifying challenges and pressures caused by climate change, including drought, wildfires, loss of habitat and relentless invasive species, make public lands increasing vulnerable. BLM would be able to respond appropriately to areas overused by recreation, as well as to development on private land that disrupts neighboring habitat.

Something else substantial – no valid, current uses will be undermined or lost. BLM’s mission of multiple use and sustained yield mission is upheld. Grazing, energy development, timber, outdoor recreation, mining all remain. Conservation would just have the same weight in how BLM takes care of business.

By elevating conservation, naysayers of the rule see restrictions or uses taken away. But that won’t happen. Quite the opposite. Without conservation, we don’t see any real future for public lands.

The Public Lands Rule makes good sense.

Regional managers across the U.S. would be given the same clear direction – an ask we’ve editorialized about. Managers would all operate from the same playbook, the same framework. This gives the agency durability. Conservation would have the same level of importance and application in day-to-day dealings.

It’s a simple rule. There’s beauty in this.

Another sensible gain – the rule would weather any change in U.S. presidential administrations.

The BLM would have more tools to restore and mitigate landscapes. One being conservation leasing, for example, with interested parties restoring elk habitat. In particular, we appreciate that the rule defines criteria for Areas of Critical Environmental Concern that protect cultural, natural and scenic resources.

Like the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protected 58.5 million acres of national forest land from logging and energy development, the Public Lands Rule is an investment, a timestamp in history to protect the most intact, healthiest lands.

A shout-out to Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and everyone else who helped bring this rule to the table. More than 80 elected officials in Colorado are behind it.

Clean water, wildlife connectivity, desert bighorn sheep habitat, rare plants, Indigenous sites, old growth trees, the entrance to Mesa Verde, Phil’s World, Dolores River Corridor, the Royal Gorge – all precious and iconic to our state. The final rule would have positive impacts and recommended improvements for all.

Also of note, the BLM would consult with tribal nations for co-management and co-stewardship in ways that honor connections of Native Americans to public lands.

Naturalist John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

If your heart sings on stunning BLM wildlands – 8.3 million acres in Colorado – you have an opportunity to comment on this rule through June 20, https://tinyurl.com/2z633jfh.

Backing the Public Lands Rule is the right thing to do. Join us in the conversation by offering input and, ideally, supporting this rule.