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Know the West

BLM steamrolls another protection for public lands


On Oct. 10, the Bureau of Land Management proposed a rule change that will make it harder for the Department of Interior secretaries and Congress to protect public lands through an “emergency withdrawal.”

In June, the House Natural Resources Committee used the rule that the BLM is attempting to change when it called for an emergency withdrawal of land near the Grand Canyon from uranium exploration. On Sept. 29, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, alleging that he violated federal law when he ignored the congressional mandate. The rule change would prohibit future congressional emergency interventions, and it would let the Interior secretary off the hook for failing to act on the mandate. In the immediate future, this could stymie efforts to slow or halt uranium exploration on about one million acres of public lands near the Grand Canyon.

The BLM opted for just a 15 day public comment period on the proposed change.  This is one more in a long list of policies, plans and changes that federal agencies are rushing through during Bush's final days in office, furthering opening the door for rampant energy and resource development.