July 1, 2007

NLCS Legislation to Move BLM Toward More "National Park-Like" Management

BlueRibbon Magazine

Legislation that would codify the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), a Clinton-era initiative the Bureau of Land Management uses to manage "protective designations" such as National Monuments, is moving quickly through the 110th Congress.

The Bureau of Land Management established national guidelines through the NLCS for the management of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Study Areas and other protective designations.

The legislation was formally introduced in both the House and Senate this last April. The bill's champion in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), expects it to move quickly, saying, "Given the broad public support for these areas, I expect this bill to be non-controversial and it is my hope that it will be able to move quickly through the Congress and enactment into law." Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy Committee.

The Bush administration is supporting the bill, and BLM's Acting Director, James Hughes, said in Congressional testimony that the NLCS is "a significant part of the BLM's conservation efforts and is integral to the agency's overall multiple use mission."

But a look at some of the new management plans developed under the NLCS show quite a different story. Recent management plans for National Monuments in Utah, Arizona and Idaho focus on preservation far more than conservation. Recreational access, even non-motorized access, has been significantly reduced in these new plans.

Most stakeholders, including motorized advocacy groups, believe the NLCS is a fait accompli and see little change in future plans should the President sign the bill. "The agency has been moving away from multiple-use/sustained yield management for many years now. The NLCS legislation probably won't have any affect on future management one way or another," said Brian Hawthorne, BRC's Public Lands Policy Director.