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Governor Cox, along with other Governors, declares opposition to BLM Proposed Rule for Conservation

In a formal letter to Secretary Deb Haaland of the Department of the Interior, Governor Spencer Cox - along with the respective governors of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming - declared opposition to the proposed Conservation and Landscape Health Rule. The letter’s opening stated:


“We oppose the Proposed Rule, and urge the BLM to start over, withdraw its proposal, and instead focus its efforts on working closely with states, local governments and stake- holders on rulemaking that will truly enhance active management and actual conservation of BLM lands within the framework of multiple use and sustained yield.”

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Instituting conservation as the archetypical and over-arching use can have major impacts on BLM lands, like the Monument. Photo courtesy of the BLM.

The wording of “multiple use and sustained yield” will be familiar to those who have engaged in the recent land use debates on BLM land, as it is a direct citation of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which declared those standards as the basis on which federal lands were to be managed. As seen before with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the recent Grand Canyon Monument expansion initiative, the introduction of “Conservation” as a use within that framework is a heavily debated decision, and a common point of contention for those opposing legislature like this proposed rule.


The governors’ letter went on to cite multiple legal concerns, positing that the BLM is violating multiple legal precedents, from both governmental acts and previous case law. One such example is the proposed rule’s exemption from the National Environmental Policy Act. Per the governors’ letter:


“We anticipate the Proposed Rule would have a significant impact on the environment, thus warranting analysis through an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (‘NEPA’). However, the BLM has declared that the Proposed Rule’s ‘environmental effects are too broad, speculative, or conjectural to lend themselves to meaningful analysis,’ and thus the Proposed Rule will be categorically excluded from NEPA analysis. Federal case law requires the BLM to ‘adequately explain its decision’ ‘[w]hen an agency decides to proceed with an action in the absence of an EA or EIS.’ BLM’s rationale for using a categorical exclusion does not adequately explain its position.”


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The letter went on to cite other provisions and practices the governors believe the proposed rule would violate, calling the proposed rule “a solution in search of a problem when so much BLM land in the western United States is already under strict Federal Protection.”


The conclusion of the letter prompts more coordination with local authorities, stating, “The continuation of multiple use and sustained yield mandates for BLM lands is essential for our states. Western states will struggle to grow and thrive without the flexibility and balance Congress requires in BLM management. We urge the BLM to set aside the Proposed Rule in favor of a new, collaborative process with the states, local governments, and stakeholders coming to the table.”


This letter is a strong statement that echoes recent sentiments expressed by local County and City officials; both Kane County and Kanab City have stated similar opposition. Kane County Commissioner Celeste Meyeres stated, “This is a big deal for our area, to have the explicit support of our State and Governor in securing more local authority and input into how federal lands are managed in Utah. We are grateful for the support and assistance, and to know that we are not alone in facing this issue.”


The governors’ letter is available on South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s public page, complete with legal citations and footnotes for reference, with similar access coming on Utah’s public notice sites. Citizens are encouraged to contact Governor Cox’s office via his public page at Governor.utah.gov to express opinions and concerns.

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