Friends applauds critical new BLM conservation rule

April 18, 2024 – Friends of Nevada Wilderness, celebrating its 40th anniversary as a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Nevada’s public lands, is applauding the Biden Administration’s final version of a new rule elevating conservation as a valid “use” of public lands on par with others uses, such as grazing and energy development.

“You could say we’ve been waiting 40 years for this day,” said Friends Executive Director Shaaron Netherton after reading the final language. “For far too long, the Bureau of Land Management has failed to update land use plans and make land use decisions that are in the best interests of all users of our public lands. Now, finally, the vast majority of Nevadans, Westerners, and all Americans who support conservation can expect that more public land will be conserved for wildlife habitat, cultural resource protection and recreation. We would like to see more places like the proposed Esmeralda/Fish Lake Area of Environmental Concern in Esmeralda County protected. We also look forward to more effective mitigation for energy development projects that are overwhelming Nevada right now.”

The new rule will provide greater balance among competing uses as BLM considers how public lands will be used. Until now, conservation was not considered a use of value on par with oil and gas extraction, mining, grazing, alternative energy development and other highly intensive uses. The rule will have a particularly important impact in Nevada, where nearly two-thirds of the land is managed by BLM. The rule does not change the availability of public land for mining and grazing in particular.

"Including natural values when making public land use decisions is long overdue,” observed Glenn C. Miller, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus at UNR’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science. “Disruptive activities including mining and fossil fuel development often cause irreversible damage to lands owned and valued by the public. This proposed rule reflects the importance of protecting public recreation and habitat and other natural values." 

More than 90% of public comments on the rule received by the Department of the Interior were in favor of putting conservation on equal footing with other uses. And the recently-released 2024 Conservation in the West poll conducted by Colorado College concluded: “By the largest margin to date, Westerners want their Member of Congress to place more emphasis on protecting public lands versus allowing more energy production on those lands.”

 “We are incredibly grateful that the Administration and their agency heads are moving forward with implementing this critically important new rule,” Netherton added. “Now all of us who care about protecting public land for its natural values have an obligation to make sure this rule is used as it’s intended - to protect the habitat wildlife needs to thrive, the cultural lands Indigenous people hold sacred and the open spaces we love, where we and generations to come can freely roam.” 



Part of the proposed Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in Esmeralda County.
Guidelines for creating new ACECs are clarified in the new BLM rule.
Photo by Kirk Peterson

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