Skip to main content

ACTION ALERT: BLM Proposed Conservation Rule

| Rose Winn, Cal4Wheel Natural Resources Consultant | Access Issues

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed the Landscape Health and Conservation Rule. According to the BLM, they recently discovered that secret statutory authority has been hiding in plain sight for 50 years in the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that allows them to create and sell conservation leases on the 247 million acres of public land managed by the BLM across the USA.

It is critical for Californians to note that 15.3% of all land within California is managed by the BLM. This means that 16+ million acres of California’s public land would be up for grabs to be stripped away from public access! Through this lease program, the highest bidder would have the authority to ban any/all uses and public access to the leased acreage they are paying for. The leases are intended to be written as permanent contracts – thus once a class of use or access is banned, that leased public land would NEVER re-enter the domain of public use and access, unless the lease holder chose to change their management protocol.

This rule is problematic on multiple levels, and should be withdrawn. Public land users of all types must unite to oppose this rule for the following reasons:

  • The BLM does not have the authority to create this rule. FLPMA does not permit a conservation lease scheme; if Congress wanted the BLM to administer such a program, they would have expressly authorized it. This scheme would also likely raise revenue for the government, which again, is something the BLM does not have authority to do. Only Congress can authorize a new program like this to raise revenue for the government.
  • This rule is unnecessary: the BLM is already required to comply with dozens of other laws and executive orders to prioritize conservation on public lands. Scores of environmental lawsuits that get filed every year ensure that compliance with these laws is taken seriously. Despite the statutory requirement the BLM has to manage public lands for multiple use, conservation is already prioritized above all other uses on a regular basis.
  • This rule expands the 30x30 agenda by requiring the BLM to take a “precautionary approach” when authorizing land uses that may impair “ecosystem resilience.” Given that the Proposed Rule is based, in part, on biden’s 30x30 and climate change Executive Orders (EO), including EO14008, we can conclude that nearly everything impairs “ecosystem resilience” and contributes to climate change. EO14008 opines that only land in its “natural state” meets the 30x30 requirements. Since this administration believes that ecosystem resilience is necessary to defeat climate change and only land in its natural state will meet the country’s climate goals, we can assume that the protection of the natural state means no human use of multiple use lands.
  • This rule will implement Landscape Health Standards that will create confusion and chaos in the BLM permitting process for organized and casual recreational use of BLM lands. Agency staff will not have time to authorize permitted OHV events or do travel plans due to the added bureaucratic sludge created by Landscape Health Standards. Designated OHV sites will most likely see a loss of opportunity including entire areas being closed due to new definitions.
  • This rule could easily lead to unintended foreign intervention in public land management. The opportunity to lease BLM land would be open to both American and foreign entities. Americans are already facing ongoing threats and sabotage of our agriculture and energy industries by Brazilian, Chinese, and other foreign corporations and governments.

As public land access advocates, we are concerned that this rule will be used to limit motorized recreation, dispersed camping, and other forms of outdoor recreation on public lands. This rule will provide a new way for conservation organizations to create de facto wilderness where they have previously failed to get Congress to make wilderness designations. The $800 billion outdoor recreation industry thrives because of the BLM’s careful efforts to balance conservation with other uses. By prioritizing conservation even more than it already is, the BLM will undermine an industry that is fueling the livelihoods of tens of millions of citizens who live in the West.

You can join the effort to oppose the BLM Rule! Public comments will be accepted until July 5. Please take ALL of the following actions:

  1. Submit an individual comment to the BLM (feel free to use the sample letter below):
    1. Where to file electronic comments: Federal Register :: Conservation and Landscape Health
      1. Click on the blue “Comment” button at the top of the page 

comment proposed rule

  1. Where to file written comments: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), BLM 1849 C St. NW, Room 5646, Washington, DC 20240, Attention: 1004–AE92
  1. Submit a comment on behalf of your OHV club (use the same information as noted above)
  2. Get 3 or more of your friends and fellow OHV enthusiasts to submit an individual comment

Sample letter (you can tailor this to fit your interests and experience, see suggestions below):

I am a recreation enthusiast who is passionate about continuing responsible recreational access to federal lands. I am writing to urge the BLM to rescind its proposed rule titled Conservation and Landscape Health.

This proposal seeks to redefine “Conservation” as a unique protected use, and to treat “Conservation” as a use just like recreation and other uses that are outlined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). This change is not appropriate to be implemented through a rulemaking process but should instead be considered by Congress. 

The proposed rule would also implement Landscape Health Standards across all BLM managed lands instead of applying it only to grazing. This creates a vague, first-of-its-kind Conservation Leasing scheme, and creates new categories of lands that can be designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. The impact of this Proposed Rule is far too much to be implemented through a single rulemaking. It is unlikely that even the authors of this rule can credibly claim to understand how all these sweeping changes would interact should the rule be implemented.

As a concerned citizen and avid user of BLM public lands, I urge the BLM to rescind this proposal.

Thank you for your consideration.


Details you may consider adding to tailor your letter:

  • Note the BLM lands where you enjoy recreating (IE: Clear Creek, Cow Mountain, Jawbone, Johnson Valley, find all California BLM OHV areas via this link).
  • Note that the BLM is already required to prioritize conservation through compliance with other laws and regulations, like the Endangered Species Act, and note any specific conservation activity that you’ve observed on BLM lands where you recreate.
  • Note your concern that the newly created Landscape Health Standards will complicate and slow down the permitting process for recreational uses on BLM lands. Note any problems you’ve experienced with securing permits for casual recreational access or OHV events on BLM lands.

We are grateful for the leadership of Congressional Representative John Curtis, who has introduced HR 3997. This legislation instructs the BLM to withdraw this rule. A delegation of representatives has supported this legislation with Senators Lee and Romney supporting a Senate companion bill. We are encouraging everyone who supports public access to public land and a strong American economy to join this congressional delegation in telling the BLM to withdraw this rule by visiting

Our friends and advocates at BlueRibbon Coalition have been working closely with Congressional and Senate representatives to build support for HR 3997 and the Senate companion bill. In addition to submitting your own comment to oppose this Proposed Rule as noted above, you can also join in BlueRibbon Coalition’s efforts to alert Congress and unify outdoor recreation enthusiasts across the US:

a.     Add Your Club to BRC’s Letter Opposing the Bureau of Land Management Conservation Rule

b.     CONTACT YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS: BRC Supports Legislation to Withdraw Proposed BLM Rule “Conservation and Landscape Health”

*** Portions of this information has been drawn from the work and research of BlueRibbon Coalition, and Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA),

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.