Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New BLM rules could help national parks in AZ

Photo 1: Hart Mine Marsh Photos 2-4: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge Unit 1 Conservation Area
Tim Dewar
Bureau of Reclamation
Photo 1: Hart Mine Marsh Photos 2-4: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge Unit 1 Conservation Area

Alex Gonzalez

As opponents to the Bureau of Land Management's new rules push back, public lands advocates are praising the agency's decision to put conservation on par with other uses, such as oil and gas extraction and development.

In Arizona, the BLM manages just over 12 million acres of public land.

Daniel Hart, director of clean energy and climate policy with the National Parks Conservation Association, said the state's 22 national parks share boundaries with those public lands and considers them an interconnected landscape. In Arizona, Hart cites Grand Canyon National Park, run by the National Park Service, as having an intersection of differently managed public lands.

"You have NPS-managed Grand Canyon National Park, you have the jointly-managed two monuments that BLM has its hands in, so it is already doing its conservation piece there," Hart explained. "But then, you have all that other BLM public land surrounding it, touching it, and it's been open to all kinds of extractive development over the years."

Hart added oil and gas extractive developments have led to issues with water, wildlife, Tribal nations and the national parks themselves. He contends the BLM, by implementing its public lands rule -- as well as its oil and gas rule, which revises outdated fiscal terms for leasing operations --will ensure that landscapes are looked at holistically.

Matthew Kirby, senior director of energy and landscape conservation with the NPCA, argues the two rules will bring what he calls a "semblance of balance back to public lands," allowing the BLM to manage those lands with a multiple-use approach in mind. He added the oil and gas program was an example of how unbalanced management has been until now.

"Industry was allowed to lock up land for less than a price of a cup of coffee," he said. "They could speculate, they could develop, all at the expense of the taxpayer and the public that was no longer actually able to use that land, to recreate on that land. But thanks to this new rule, we are really on the path to fixing that broken system."

Kirby said the oil and gas rule will help enshrine what he terms "critical updates" that were a part of the Inflation Reduction Act, including increases on the royalties, rental rates and terms for leasing public lands for development.

Arizona News Connection - a bureau of the Public News Service
Related Content