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Bills in Congress seek to nix conservation in BLM Public Lands Rule

© iStock - Luka Banda
Eric Tegethoff

(Oregon News Service) Bills in Congress would throw out comments for a proposed rule that would prioritize conservation and restoration on U.S. Bureau of Land Management public lands. 

House Resolution 3977 and Senate Bill 1435 would call for the BLM to stop gathering and discard public input on its draft Public Lands Rule, tossing out more than 216,000 public comments. 

Jamie Dawson with the Oregon chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said these BLM lands are valuable for many different reasons.

"This conservation rule will just help ensure that the agency does take the steps necessary to protect fish and wildlife habitat, protect migration corridors, clean water," said Dawson, "all of these other values that are really important."

The proposed rule elevates conservation and restoration in the BLM's multiple-use mandate for public lands. 

It's received pushback from the oil and gas industry, which says it violates BLM's mandate to prioritize the nation's need for domestic minerals, including oil and gas.

More than 90 percent of lands managed by the BLM would remain open for mining and drilling under the new rule. Dawson said Oregon is lucky to have as much public land as it does.

"You don't need to have a friend with a ranch or a private pond who will let you come onto their property," said Dawson. "Having access to BLM lands makes hunting and angling a lot more accessible for a lot more people. So it's important that we make sure they're in good condition."

A vote is expected this month on the two bills tossing out the draft BLM Public Lands Rule.