Biden Administration Finalizes New Public Lands Rule Balancing Conservation and Development

The Biden administration's new public lands rule aims to balance conservation with extractive industries, sparking debate over the future of energy development and habitat protection in the American West.

Hadeel Hashem
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Biden Administration Finalizes New Public Lands Rule Balancing Conservation and Development

Biden Administration Finalizes New Public Lands Rule Balancing Conservation and Development

The Biden administration has finalized a final public lands rule for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that aims to balance conservation with oil drilling, grazing, and other extractive industries on over 380,000 square miles of public land, primarily in the U.S. West.

The rule, issued by the Interior Department's BLM, allows public land to be leased for restoration in the same way that oil companies lease land for drilling. It also promotes the designation of more areas of critical environmental concern, which can restrict development.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the changes would restore balance to how the U.S. government manages its public lands. "Our new rule will help ensure that our public lands are healthy and productive for generations to come," Haaland stated. The rule is part of the Biden administration's broader efforts to use science to restore habitats and guide responsible development on public lands.

Why this matters: The new rule represents a significant shift in public lands management, putting conservation on more equal footing with extractive industries. It could have far-reaching impacts on the vast swaths of federally-owned land in the American West and shape the future of energy development, grazing, and habitat protection in these areas.

However, the rule has faced strong opposition from Republican lawmakers and industry groups. They argue that it violates the mandate for multiple uses of public lands and will obstruct domestic mining, energy, and agriculture projects. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon criticized the rule, saying it subverts the multiple-use requirement under the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

Environmental groups have largely embraced the changes, seeing them as a restatement of the law's requirement to prioritize conservation. "This rule finally puts conservation on equal ground with other uses of public lands," said Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the BLM.

The rule's adoption comes amid a flurry of new regulations from the Biden administration as the president seeks reelection in November. Republican lawmakers have vowed to challenge the rule in Congress and the courts. The fate of the new public lands rule is likely to be decided by the outcome of ongoing legal battles and the 2024 elections, which will determine control of the White House and Congress.

Key Takeaways

  • Biden admin finalizes BLM rule to balance conservation and extraction on 380,000 sq mi
  • Rule allows leasing public land for restoration, designates more critical environmental areas
  • Interior Sec. Haaland says rule will ensure healthy, productive public lands for generations
  • Rule faces opposition from GOP, industry groups who argue it violates multiple-use mandate
  • Fate of rule depends on legal battles and 2024 elections that will determine control of govt