Statement: Biden administration announces new plan to restore public lands

Media Contacts
Susan Holmes

Former Director, Save America’s Wildlife Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Steve Blackledge

Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a new plan to protect intact landscapes, restore degraded wildlife habitat, and make science-based management decisions, in response to challenges including habitat fragmentation, climate change and other threats. To achieve these goals, the agency will identify and prioritize habitats in need of protection and restoration, develop land health guidelines, and issue new “conservation leases” to allow for restoration work. Currently, the BLM issues leases for other activities on public lands, including oil and gas drilling, mining and cattle grazing. The announcement also includes an acknowledgment of the importance of mature and old-growth trees and forests. The BLM will launch a 75-day public comment period, during which members of the public will weigh on policies being considered, including the best policies for protecting forests.

President Biden committed to protecting 30% of the U.S. lands and waters by 2030 upon taking office. He has restored protections to three national monuments and designated three others. Last April, the president issued an executive order calling for an inventory of old growth and mature forests and for federal agencies to develop policies to protect them.

In response to these announcements, Environment America Research & Policy Center staff issued the following statements:

“These steps toward protecting our beautiful and special places are welcome,” said Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director. “We are especially encouraged by the opportunity to protect our mature and old-growth forests from logging and other threats. Americans love our forests and want to see our oldest trees growing tall for decades and centuries to come. We’ll urge people to make these views known through the upcoming public comment process.”

“For too long, our public lands, including some of the most jaw-dropping places, have been given up to mining, drilling and other development,” said Steve Blackledge, senior conservation program director. “Whether it’s the Arctic, the Mojave Desert, New Mexico’s Greater Chaco Region or Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp region, we need to choose preservation over the fleeting value of more fossil fuels or minerals. These lands make our country beautiful, and they’re essential to the wildlife we share it with.”

Connecting our public wildlands and waters – especially in the face of climate change –  is key to the survival of a diverse array of treasured species, from the grizzly, to the elk, to the monarch butterfly,” said Susan Holmes, save America’s wildlife campaigns director. “When we disrupt animal habitat with roads, drilling and development, wildlife suffer. We’re encouraged by this proposal to identify and connect valuable habitat. We should allow our wildlife to roam freely in their environments to find food and mates.”