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Blog

Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.

 

Are Public Lands Public If You Don’t Have A Say?

Tania Lown-Hecht

 Photo credit: Holly Mandarich

Photo credit: Holly Mandarich

Part II of our series on the new public land heist. Click here for Part 1!

A few years ago, when the state-led efforts to take over public lands were reaching a fever pitch, we wrote that the public process is a pillar of our national public lands and a reason why it is so important to keep public lands in public hands.

One of the most troubling tactics of this new public land heist is the effort to cut out the public process. The public, especially local voices, deserve to have a say about what happens on public lands.

Sometimes this happens very directly – like when the Department of Interior ignored millions of comments that supported continued protections for Bears Ears National Monument. Sometimes officials curtail the public process by giving the public just 10 or 15 days to comment on new plans. Most of all, we think people who love the outdoors should be concerned about recent attacks on the National Environmental Policy Act which, among other things, guarantees the public the right to comment on major changes to how public lands are managed. There was even a proposal last year that would charge the public to file protests on oil and gas leasing decisions.

There are other ways that the administration is diminishing public input, including setting up sham committees stacked with county officials and letting them make decisions on behalf of all Americans. And, regardless of your opinion on the idea of “regulations,” a lot of the recent rollbacks of regulations have actually just rolled back modern, more streamlined regulations and left the old ones in their place that don’t do a good enough job of soliciting public input. This was true for BLM Planning 2.0, which Congress scrapped so that we’re stuck with a regulation that was last updated in 1983.

Taxpayer dollars fund public lands, so you have a right to have a say about how they are managed. Maybe you think public lands should be producing more non-renewable resources, or maybe you’d like to see more areas protected for conservation, or maybe you graze your animals on public lands and want more of them open to grazing. Regardless of your opinion, you are guaranteed a voice in the decision-making process.

But these recent schemes are undermining the public process, all with the goal of giving industry a pass to the front of the line.

Usually, we like to end these blog posts with a clear idea of what you can do, right now, to make a difference. But right now, the most important thing for you to do is just keep paying attention. We promise to email you when there’s an opportunity to protect public comments, but you can encourage a friend or two to also sign up to get alerts so that you can all stay in the loop.

And we promise it’s not all gloom and doom. There are actually a few things that are going pretty well for public lands lately (we promise to spill all the details next week).