Mohave County
June 2024
Volume 24 Issue 4

Jun 2024 | June 2024 | 0 comments

Mohave County Supervisors reject BLM conservation rule

June 2024 | 0 comments

June 2024

KINGMAN – May 23, 2024, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted against the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new Public Lands Rule, igniting a debate over the balance between environmental conservation and economic interests. This decision, mirroring sentiments from various western states, highlights the complex dynamics of managing federally controlled lands, which constitute approximately 70% of Mohave County’s area.
The BLM, responsible for managing 245 million acres of public land nationwide, introduced the Public Lands Rule to prioritize conservation alongside other land uses like mining, grazing, and recreation. The rule aims to address critical environmental issues, including drought, wildfires, climate change, and habitat degradation.
The Public Lands Rule is part of a broader initiative by the Biden-Harris administration to ensure balanced management and conservation of public lands. This initiative is driven by a need to address pressing environmental challenges while maintaining the multiple-use mandate that guides public land management. The rule emphasizes using scientific data and Indigenous knowledge to inform management decisions, aiming to restore habitats and protect areas of critical environmental concern.
Mohave County supervisors argue that the rule threatens the local economy by impacting traditional land uses essential for livelihoods. Supervisor Buster Johnson emphasized the potential economic instability the rule could cause, stating, “This rule, as it stands, could drastically alter the economic stability of our county. We depend on these lands for more than just conservation; they are vital for our livelihoods”.
The board has called for an extension of the public comment period, additional public meetings, and a thorough economic impact analysis to understand the rule’s implications fully. Supervisor Jean Bishop noted, “We need more time and information to assess how this rule will affect our communities”. The supervisors are concerned that the rule’s implementation without proper analysis could lead to job losses and decreased revenue from land-based activities such as mining and grazing, which are significant contributors to the county’s economy.
Mohave County’s stance is echoed by officials in other states. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and U.S. Senator John Barrasso have criticized the rule, arguing it disrupts local economies dependent on public lands for grazing, recreation, and energy production. They argue that the BLM’s focus on conservation undermines the multiple-use principle that has historically guided public land management.
The National Mining Association (NMA) and other industry groups have expressed concerns about the rule potentially hindering domestic mining projects and increasing reliance on foreign minerals. Rich Nolan, NMA President and CEO, stated, “This rule unfairly prioritizes conservation over other land uses, threatening the mining sector and economic development on public lands”.
Utah’s state leaders, including Governor Spencer Cox, have voiced concerns about restrictive land health standards imposed by the rule, potentially hampering effective land management practices such as wildfire mitigation and invasive species removal. They argue that the rule imposes burdensome regulations that could limit the ability to manage lands effectively for multiple uses.
Despite the opposition, the rule has strong backing from conservation groups and some lawmakers. The Center for Western Priorities highlighted that 92% of public comments during the review period supported the rule, reflecting a public desire for sustainable land management. Jennifer Rokala, Executive Director of the Center for Western Priorities, stated, “The overwhelming public support for this rule demonstrates that Americans value conservation and want to see our public lands managed sustainably”.
Conservation organizations like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have praised the rule for its potential to enhance landscape health and address pressing environmental issues. They argue that the rule is essential for ensuring the long-term viability of public lands and the ecosystems they support.
Chris Wood, President of Trout Unlimited, described the rule as a restatement of the obvious: “Conservation is a vital part of the BLM’s multiple-use mandate; just as it has been since the passage of the Federal Lands Policy Management Act in 1976”. Conservation advocates argue that healthy landscapes are crucial for supporting wildlife, clean water, and recreational opportunities, which in turn benefit local economies by attracting tourism and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Public Lands Rule is expected to face significant legal challenges. Opponents argue that it exceeds the BLM’s authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). However, supporters assert that the rule aligns with FLPMA’s provisions by recognizing conservation as a legitimate land use. Legal experts and some state attorneys general believe the rule will withstand these challenges, as it is backed by scientific data and aligns with historical land management principles.
Mohave County, with a significant portion of its land managed by federal agencies, has a long history of balancing multiple land uses. The county’s economy relies heavily on sectors such as mining, agriculture, and tourism, all of which depend on access to these public lands. The introduction of the BLM’s Public Lands Rule has therefore been met with apprehension by local stakeholders who fear that conservation efforts might restrict these traditional uses.
Mohave County’s economy is deeply intertwined with the land, from the mineral resources extracted to the cattle grazing on public lands. These activities not only provide jobs but also support secondary businesses and contribute to the county’s overall economic health. Therefore, any policy perceived to limit these uses is met with significant resistance from the local community and their representatives.
Proponents of the rule argue that it is a necessary step towards sustainable land management. With increasing occurrences of wildfires, prolonged droughts, and other climate change impacts, prioritizing conservation is seen as a way to protect and restore vital ecosystems. Conservation groups assert that maintaining healthy landscapes is not only crucial for the environment but also for the long-term economic stability of the regions that rely on these lands for various uses.
Legal experts note that the BLM’s authority to prioritize conservation under FLPMA has precedent, and the rule’s alignment with scientific and environmental data strengthens its case against legal challenges. As the debate continues, the outcome of this rule could set significant precedents for how public lands are managed in the United States.
–Stephen Lightman

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