Multiple Truths About Multiple Use

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Facts About Conservation and our Public Lands

Public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are commonly referred to as “multiple use” lands. This simply means that the majority of our public lands are valued for the many benefits that they provide to Americans. Recently, the term “multiple use” has been widely misused by some industry representatives and politicos in an attempt to undermine the conservation of any of our public lands. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and in this case, those who misuse “multiple use” should be eating their words.

Truth: Conservation and wilderness management ARE part of multiple use management.

Contrary to what some would have you believe multiple use, by statutory definition, includes protecting some areas for conservation values, such as fish and wildlife, clean air and water, scenic qualities, and wilderness. Conservation of public lands (including designating Wild Lands) and multiple use management are not mutually exclusive.

Truth: Multiple use means balancing the values of each place; NOT every use on every acre.

Of course, it would be impossible for any land manager to permit all uses on every area of public lands. So, taking into account comments from the public, the BLM routinely decides how many and what uses are allowed on certain lands, including mining, grazing, conservation, and other uses. Wilderness is being lost every year largely because it has been the least prioritized value when you look at how these lands are being used.

Truth: Multiple use takes into account ALL of the values of public lands, including ecological and economic benefits.

Some may have you believe that “multiple use” applies only to marketable commodities produced from our public lands. This ignores the plain language of statutes and a longstanding history of protecting nonmarket benefits of our public lands including watershed protection, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and outdoor recreation which are part of the total economic value of public wild lands.

A Few Questions to Ponder:

  1. How can BLM do its job under the multiple use mandate without inventorying and considering the conservation of wild lands?
  2. How can the conservation of wild lands not be a multiple use of public lands when it has been the law of the land for decades?
  3. Doesn’t energy development often exclude access to other uses of our public lands, such as backcountry hunting and fishing experiences?
  4. Doesn’t conservation of wild public lands contribute a healthy amount to local economies?


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