- Implement the assessment, prioritization, restoration, and conservation requirements of the final rule at the watershed scale.
- Establish standards and guidelines to protect watershed health and clean water and create a watershed classification system for all waters on BLM lands.
- Conduct an inventory of intact natural landscapes and high-integrity watersheds and ensure these lands and waters will not be degraded by future management actions.
- Require complete and current inventories of eligible rivers with Wild and Scenic River potential.
- Ensure that all eligible areas that meet the criteria for Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) are designated as such and managed to protect the values for which they were designated.
- Require older and mature forests to be protected and restored.
In the Western United States, BLM is an important steward of public lands and waters, managing more than 250,000 miles of streams and rivers, roughly 8% of the nation’s riverways and associated riverside lands. BLM’s water resources are estimated to provide drinking water to 1 in 10 Americans in the West. In addition, BLM manages some of the best remaining healthy rivers in the West, including 81 designated wild and scenic rivers. While western wetlands have been reduced to just two percent of the land surface, they support around 80 percent of the area’s biodiversity.
“Latino communities hold a strong belief that we have a moral obligation to protect our nation’s iconic public lands and waters,” says Shanna Edberg, Director of Conservation Programs at the Hispanic Access Foundation. “We have a responsibility to future generations to leave a legacy of stewardship, clean air and water, accessible nature, and a livable climate. The Bureau of Land Management’s Rule to put conservation on an equal footing with development is a strong step toward ensuring that we protect our public lands and waters for the benefit of future generations, local economies, public health, access to the outdoors, and our shared history and culture.”
Climate change is driving unprecedented drought and increasingly intense fires, a loss of wildlife, and an influx of invasive species. At the same time, public lands face growing pressure as recreation increases and development on private land disrupts habitat. BLM’s proposal would ensure the Bureau is able to respond to these pressures, managing for healthy lands today so that it can deliver its multiple use mission now and in the future.
“Freshwater is the single most valuable resource coming from our public lands,” states David Moryc, American Rivers’ Senior Director, River Protection. “The protection and restoration of freshwater and rivers as a part of the Conservation and Landscape Health rulemaking is the key to providing for the long-term resilience of BLM lands in the face of climate change and the biodiversity crisis.”
BLM’s proposed Public Lands Rule aims to ensure healthy lands and waters, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water, and balanced decision-making on lands managed by BLM. It puts conservation on equal footing with other uses, while upholding BLM's multiple use and sustainable yield mission. By ensuring protection and restoration, the rulemaking positions BLM to increase the health of its freshwater resources dramatically. Such an emphasis on stream restoration can help the Bureau restore narrow, often incised stream channels, into healthy, functioning riverscapes and return life to rivers.
Rick Lofaro, Executive Director of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, shares that “healthy watersheds reflect a healthy landscape. As water quality and quantity concerns become more prevalent, BLM’s proposed rule which prioritizes healthy lands and waters represents a key step forward in addressing and protecting these invaluable resources.”
The proposed rule also provides important new guidance on the process for designating ACECs when special management is required to protect important natural, cultural, and scenic resources, systems, or processes, or to protect life and safety from natural hazards. It enables maintenance of intact ecosystems to support wildlife migration corridors and functioning watersheds. The proposed rule recommends tools to support building ecosystem resilience including one to classify watershed condition on BLM-managed lands.
“BLM’s proposed rule will balance its management to address the needs of the 21st century, bringing much needed attention to the conservation aspects of its multiple-use mandate. The meaningful conservation measures in the proposed rule have the promise to restore our streams and wetlands, increase our resiliency to drought, and deliver more clean water to communities and Tribal nations,” concludes Helen O’Shea, Director, Protected Areas Project with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Organizations and businesses in support of the Rule:
Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action
Action for the Climate Emergency
Alabama Rivers Alliance
Alaska Wilderness League
Breathe Easy Susquehanna County
Businesses for a Livable Climate
California Institute for Biodiversity
Californians for Western Wilderness
Call to Action Colorado
Capitol Heights Presbyterian
Center for Large Landscape Conservation
Citizen Against Longwall Mining
Clean Energy Action
Clean Water Action
CO Businesses for a Livable Climate
Coalition to Protect America's National Parks
Colorado Farm and Food Alliance
Community for Sustainable Energy
Conservation Lands Foundation
Corday Natural Resources Consulting
Creation Justice Ministries
Earth Ethics, Inc.
Ecuadorian Rivers Institute
Empower our Future
Endangered Habitats League
Endangered Species Coalition
Environmental Defense Fund
Episcopal Diocese of Utah
Farmington River Watershed Association
For Love of Water
Free-flowing Rivers Lab, Northern Arizona University
Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society
Friends of the Kalmiopsis
Friends of the River
Georgia Interfaith Power and Light
Gila Resources Information Project
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association
Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance
Greater Park Hill Community
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
High Country Conservation Advocates
Hispanic Access Foundation
Honor the Earth
I-70 Citizens Advisory Group
Kentucky Waterways Alliance
Kern River Conservancy
Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety and Environment
League of Conservation Voters
Littleton Business Alliance
Los Padres ForestWatch
Mayfair Park Neighborhood Association Board
Mental Health & Inclusion Ministries
Micah Six Eight Mission
Montana Environmental Information Center
Montbello Neighborhood Improvement Association
Mormon Environment Stewardship Alliance
Mothers Out Front Colorado
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
NC Council of Churches
NC Interfaith Power & Light
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
OARS-Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers
Ohio Environmental Council
Oregonians For Wild Utah
Project Eleven Hundred
Rio Grande Return
Roaring Fork Conservancy
San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility
Save Our Foothills
Small Business Alliance
Smith River Alliance
Snake River Fund
Southwest Organization for Sustainability
Spirit of the Sun, Inc.
Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Wild and Scenic
River Stewardship Council
Sunnyside United Neighbors, Inc.
Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy
System Change Not Climate Change
Taunton River Watershed Alliance, Inc
The Earth Bill Network
The Green House Connection Center
The Mind's Eye
The Ocean Project
Together for Brothers
Unite North Metro Denver
Upper Merced River Watershed Council
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Wall of Women
Washington Friends of Wild Utah
Western Slope Businesses for a Livable Climate
Western Slope Conservation Center
Winyah Rivers Alliance
Womxn from the Mountain
Working for Racial Equity
Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve