Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concluded a public comment period for its “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule. The policy proposal was launched by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to elevate the importance of conserving public lands to a position equal to resource extraction and exploitation. Although BLM lands are managed for multiple uses, in practice, extractive activities like logging, grazing, and mining take precedence over conservation and broad public values like clean water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, and recreation.
Included in that rule was the BLM’s vision for protecting mature and old-growth forests as a climate solution.
By the close of the comment period, activists like you from across the country had submitted over 350,000 comments supporting forest conservation! Over 500,000 comments were submitted to the Forest Service a few weeks later!
Pushback from politicians beholden to logging and mining industries has been fierce. Despite the fact that the BLM is tasked, in law, with managing the land for conservation purposes, some Republicans have argued that conservation is not a “use” like commercial logging, mining, and oil and gas development that degrade the landscape.
“Public lands are multi-use,” Haaland said at a hearing defending the rule. “It’s putting all of those uses on equal footing.”
“They’re not supposed to be on equal footing,” Republican Montana U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale responded.
In politics, this is often referred to as “saying the quiet part out loud.” We know many politicians prioritize the industries that strip-mine public lands for profit and leave the public to clean up the mess, but rarely is the sentiment expressed so openly.
While the BLM comment period has ended, there are still ways to take action to safeguard mature and old-growth forests. Industry lobbyists and their allies in Congress are pushing for “maximum discretion” to continue logging the trees that are largest, oldest, most fire resilient, and best at fighting climate change. We've told the White House, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Interior, but the work isn't done. We also need Oregon's politicians to know directly from us that conservation is not only appropriate on BLM lands, but if we are to fight climate change and the extinction crisis, it's vital!
More voices supporting protecting these forests will demonstrate just how out-of-touch those politicians are and that the public values conservation on our public lands.
If you live in Oregon and haven’t already, send a comment to your Representative and Senators and tell them to protect our mature and old-growth trees on BLM lands!