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The BLM's next big shakeup

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Rockies Today

January 31 · Issue #72 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

The BLM's next big shakeup
Trump administration considers changing way it decides how to use public lands Trump administration considers changing way it decides how to use public lands
The Trump administration is considering rewriting the rules on how it decide which public lands can be used for mining, drilling and grazing – and which to preserve for recreation and conservation. 
The move appears to be another way President Trump’s deputies are seeking to change regulations to ease the way for more energy development out West. 
The changes the Bureau of Land Management is considering are intended to cut down on the time and cost of writing plans for managing the 245 million acres of public lands and 700 million acres of minerals the agency oversees. 
The details, outlined in a letter the BLM’s top Alaska official Chad B. Padgett sent to tribal leaders, are unclear. The agency has not yet published any public notice that it wants to revise the rules governing the creation of what are called resource management plans. 
“The BLM is considering regulatory changes that would result in planning efforts that take less time, cost less money, and are more responsive to local needs while continuing to meet the BLM’s legal and resource stewardship responsibilities,” Padgett wrote in the Jan. 7 letter, which was obtained by The Energy 202. 
Clearing woodlands for wildlife?
Op-Ed: Pinyon and juniper woodlands define the West. Why is the BLM turning them to mulch? Op-Ed: Pinyon and juniper woodlands define the West. Why is the BLM turning them to mulch?
The federal government is overseeing a program of massive deforestation on Western public lands. Some 7.4 million acres of pinyon-juniper forest in the care of the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho are targeted for destruction over the next several years — an area larger than the state of Vermont.
Why wipe out millions of acres of thriving pinyon-juniper, trees that are superbly adapted to the heat and drought that climate change will throw at the West? To satisfy the demands of the cattle industry for grazing forage on public lands.
The BLM couches the deforestation as environmentally friendly. The agency claims that erasing large swaths of pinyon-juniper will cut down on fires and create new habitat for the endangered greater sage grouse, a ground-nesting bird whose dwindling numbers in recent years have provoked momentous debates on how to manage public lands. It even claims that destroying pinyon-juniper forest will restore it.
Yet there is little clear evidence showing long-term increases in sage-grouse populations following pinyon-juniper removal. In fact, what happens to wildlife when these forests are cut down, mulched or burned has simply not been researched well enough to allow for definite conclusions, according to a 2016 study out of Colorado State University.
A 2017 study that investigated sage-grouse response to conifer management:
Better living through conifer removal: A demographic analysis of sage-grouse vital rates
For Pendley, nothing's sacred
Tribes decry Pendley's past 'shameful' views Tribes decry Pendley's past 'shameful' views
More public lands news:
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest officials get earful about forest plan
Long and winding battle over Utah roads faces key court test
House Dem renews effort to curb grazing allotments
Will a massive new oilsands mine be built?
Column: Beyond politics, Teck’s oilsands project hinges on partners, pipelines—and prices Column: Beyond politics, Teck’s oilsands project hinges on partners, pipelines—and prices
A political brawl has erupted over a pending federal decision on the massive Frontier oilsands mine, but it’s only one of several barriers facing the mega-project.
As Alberta presses the Trudeau government to approve the venture, the proposed Frontier development has other major hurdles to clear before mining giant Teck Resources would make a final investment decision on the $20.6-billion proposal.
“Frontier, (it) is anyone’s guess on what the federal government is going to do,” Teck Resources CEO Don Lindsay said Wednesday at a CIBC Investment conference in Banff.
“We’ve told the government for it to be developed, we need 3 Ps. The first is the (Trans Mountain) pipeline has to be finished, not just started, finished.
“We need a partner. We need price. So we will just wait to see how that unfolds.”
Pipelines, partners and oil prices — three potential pitfalls to a major project in northern Alberta.
Lindsay’s candid remarks provide insight into the company’s longer-term thinking as the Liberal government is expected to decide by the end of February whether to approve the development.
Across the industry and inside the Alberta government, all eyes are now on that decision.
More on the proposed Frontier Mine:
Trudeau and his climate minister are ‘wrestling’ with a massive oilsands decision
Why the proposed Frontier oilsands mine is a political hot potato
Teck Frontier oilsands mine might not be built even if permit issued, CEO concedes
Decision on Teck’s massive $20B oilsands project could be delayed, environment minister says
Canada's wood bison near proposed oil project face 'imminent threats': minister
Meanwhile…
Federal Court of Appeal to release decision in Trans Mountain challenge
What else we're reading today
Mountain towns face big-city traffic. Maybe it’s time for big-city transit.
The outdoor recreation industry has gone from spunky upstart to economic heavyweight
Report highlights the West’s air quality challenges
Denver among top 10 worst U.S. cities for hazardous air pollution, 2 new studies say
As forests burn around the world, drinking water is at risk
Rethinking land conservation to protect species that will need to move with climate change
Tom Udall: It’s past time we confront the climate and nature crises
Alden Global Capital has sunk its claws into yet another newspaper company: Lee
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana. 
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812