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BLM proposal could bring balance to how Nevada public lands are managed 

Alex Gonzalez

(Nevada News Service) Nevadans will have the opportunity to learn more and weigh in on a proposed public lands rule that shifts the Bureau of Land Management's focus to prioritize wildlife conservation and protecting cultural resources. Today, the BLM invites the public to an  in-person meeting in Reno to better understand the proposal.  

Russell Kuhlman, Executive Director for the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said the measure would help the agency put conservation efforts "on par and act as a balance," with recreational and commercial uses of public lands such as grazing, energy development and camping. 

"The land is not built for continuous extraction without some conservation in order to make it sustainable, and what this conservation ruling does is hopefully take a big step in that direction," he said. 

Kuhlman contended the BLM is "getting pulled in a lot of different directions because of the scope of work they're required to do." He says the proposed rule could "open the door," he said, for conservation groups to help out potentially underfunded and understaffed BLM offices, and aid in habitat rehabilitation. 

Kuhlman added the proposed rule adds "another tool box within the conservation community," and takes what he calls a "proactive, boots on the ground approach," to help prevent further habitat degradation. The agency says if they receive an application for a conservation lease that conflicts with an existing grazing permit or lease, that conservation lease would not be approved. Kuhlman said the  proposal aims to level the playing field for the various uses taking place on public lands.

"There are some questions out there from different stakeholders and what they're concerned about is, is this conservation ruling going to be a tool to eliminate grazing or prevent energy resource development from happening on public lands. And that is not the case. "

Kuhlman says he is "excited" about the conservation ruling. He says it could help mitigate the degradation the sagebrush sea is experiencing. According to the agency roughly one-point-three million acres of sagebrush are degraded annually. In addition to today's meeting, the BLM will also hold a virtual meeting on the proposal June 5.