Federal Grazing Lands as 'Conservation Lands' in the 30 by 30 Program

Date01 April 2022
AuthorMichael C. Blumm, Kacey J. Hovden, Gregory A. Allen
by Michael C. Blumm, Kacey J. Hovden, and Gregory A. Allen
Michael C. Blumm is Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law
School. Kacey J. Hovden is a 3L and Gregory A. Allen a 2L at Lewis & Clark Law School.
On January 28, 2021, President Joseph Biden issued
Executive Order No. 14008 initiating the “30 by
30” program to “conserve” 30% of the nation’s
lands and waters by 2030.¹ e Administration proceeded
to produce the “America the Beautiful” report in May
2021, which laid out some principles for the conservation
eort but did little to clarify the standards dening “con-
servation” lands.²
A year after the Executive Order, the Administration
has yet to supply a denition. Conservation lands could
possibly include multiple use grazing lands mana ged by the
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. For-
est Service, rai sing questions about whether these lands are
suciently protective of the environment to qualify as con-
servation lands.³
e 2021 report prompted responses from various par-
ties interested in multiple use lands. A coalition of 55
hunting and shing organizations, as well as the Ameri-
can Farm Bureau Federation, urged the Administration to
include federal grazing lands in the conservation count.
1. Exec. Order No. 14008, 86 Fed. Reg. 7619, 7627 (Feb. 1, 2021).
2. See U.S. D   I  ., C  R-
 A  B 3 (2021), https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/
les/report-conserving-and-restoring-america-the-beautiful-2021.pdf (es-
tablishing eight “Principles for a Locally Led Eort to Conserve and Restore
America the Beautiful”).
3. See id. at 15:
President Biden has recognized and honored the leadership role
that .. . ranchers .. . already play in the conservation of the na-
tion’s lands ... and has made clear that his administration will
support voluntary stewardship eorts that are already underway
.. . includ[ing] a clear recognition that maintaining ranching in
the West—on both public lands and private lands—is essential to
maintaining the health of wildlife, the prosperity of local econo-
mies, and an important and proud way of life.
4. A S A  ., S C
C R 15 (2021), https://aws.boone-crockett.
ommendations.pdf; Letter from Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm
Bureau Federation, to President Joseph R. Biden (Apr. 22, 2021), https://
FLTR.04.22.21.pdf (“Farmers and ranchers are seeking assurance that
multiple-use management of federal lands as well as actively managed and
working lands in state or private ownership will be recognized for their con-
servation and open space benets.”).
Twenty-two Republican members of the U.S. Congress
warned Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to not let
the conservation eort aect existing gra zing practices on
multiple use lands for economic reasons.
In September 2021, Nada Culver, the acting director
of BLM, and Chris French, the deputy chief of the Forest
Service’s National Forest System (NFS), speaking at the
annual Public Lands C ouncil meeting, conrmed that they
believe the nation’s grazing lands “should [be] include[d]
in the 30 by 30 count. BLM and the Forest Service cur-
rently lease hundreds of millions of acres for livestock gra z-
ing, and studies show that at least one-third of these lands
are “faili ng land health standards.” But unless the Admin-
istration evaluates grazing lands under proper rangeland
health standards to ensure the lands meet minimum stan-
dards, the Administ ration should not include grazing la nds
as conservation lands in t he 30 by 30 program.
BLM denes “rangeland health” as the “[d]egree to
which the integrity of the soil and the ecological processes
of rangeland ecosystems are sustained.” According to the
agency, proper ra ngeland health exists “when ecological
processes are functioning properly to maintain the struc-
ture, organization and activity of the system over time.”
e Forest Service, on the other hand, conducts rangela nd
suitability analyse s in its land planning and determines the
amount of land in proposed grazing area s that is suitable
for grazing without invoking r angela nd health standards.¹
Since neither BLM nor the Forest Service conduct proper
rangeland assessments and evaluations, neither agency can
accurately determine whether the majority of their lands
meet current health standards.
5. Letter from Bruce Westerman et al., Members of Congress, to Debra Haa-
land, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior (Apr. 14, 2021), https://
man_et_al_to_haaland_doi_re_30_x_30_engagement_session.pdf (“[T]
here are concerns that the 30 by 30 initiative will ignore the multiple use
mandates of our federal lands ... [G]razing [is] vital to ensuring we have
healthier, more productive lands.”).
6. Jennifer Yachnin, Biden Ocials: Grazing Lands Could Count for Conserva-
tion Goals, EE N (Sept. 28, 2021), https://www.eenews.net/articles/
7. Id. (quoting Western Watersheds Project Deputy Director Greta Anderson).
8. BLM, U.S. D   I, BLM M: H-4180-1—
R H S I-7 (2001) [hereinafter BLM M].
9. Id.
10. 16 U.S.C. §1604(g)(2)(A) (emphasis added).
Authors’ Note: We thank Josh Osher of the Western Wa-
tersheds Project for comments on a draft of this Comment.
Copyright © 2022 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®, http://www.eli.org, 1-800-433-5120.

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