BLM’s Conservation Rule and Conservation as a “Use”
In April, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed new regulations governing land management decisions on public lands. Dubbed the “conservation rule,” this rule seeks to protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat, and manage for ecosystem resilience. Detractors have attacked the rule as lacking statutory authority, particularly the provisions regarding “conservation leasing.” This Article responds by demonstrating that conservation is inherent in BLM’s statutory duties articulated in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and that the proposed rule is an appropriate exercise of BLM’s discretion. The deterioration of public lands, exacerbated by climate change, justifies BLM’s prioritization of ecological resilience, intact landscapes, restoration, mitigation, and land health. Emerging market opportunities for conservation and mitigation also justify BLM’s discretion to develop conservation leases, which are consistent with statutory authority and existing regulations.