Critics blast Biden admin’s new ‘conservation leases’ as Illegal

Critics blast Biden admin’s new ‘conservation leases’ as Illegal

“This is a classic example of overreach by the Biden Administration, which has no problem ignoring basic law…” ~Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance

By Kevin Killough

The Biden administration Friday rolled out three decisions aimed at greatly restricting oil and gas drilling, as well as mining activities needed for renewable energy, on public land.

The decisions include shutting down the Ambler Access Road project, which would have opened up part of Alaska to mining needed for renewable energy, and blocking oil and gas drilling on up to 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Conservation Leases

The third action the Interior Department took Friday was the finalizing of the Public Lands Rule. According to a statement from the Department of the Interior, the rule is meant to “guide the balanced management of America’s public lands.”

The rule creates a regulatory structure to facilitate what the department is now referring to as “restoration leases” or “mitigation leases.” These leases were rebranded from the original Bureau of Land Management proposal published in April 2023, which referred to them as “conservation leases.”

Deb Haaland United States Secretary of the Interior/Joe Biden

The leases work just like oil and gas or cattle grazing leases, except the “use” of the land would be to conserve it, which typically means erasing or eliminating human impact on the untouched landscape.

Critics of the proposal said that it would effectively take public lands off the table for any uses, including recreation, but supporters have said it would only allow for restoration and mitigation activities alongside other uses.

The BLM’s final rule, with the renamed new types of leases, describes them as a means to put conservation work on “equal footing” with grazing and mineral development.

“These leases will be issued at the discretion of BLM and must not conflict with valid existing rights or previously authorized uses. Restoration leases are designed to add to the toolbox of management options supporting multiple use and landscape health,” the agency explains in a fact sheet on the final rules.

As an example, the fact sheet puts forth a scenario in which an environmental group or state agency leases land for restoration of mule deer or elk habitat, and with the lease in hand, the owners would “be assured the work could take hold and flourish.”

Multiple use

Conservation groups lauded the new rules. The Wilderness Society accused the BLM of being the “Bureau of Livestock and Mining,” as it seemed concerned with little else.

“That grim era has finally ended with the roll-out of the finalized. A major victory for communities and nature alike,” the group said in a statement.

The National Mining Association said the rule is at odds with the federal government’s legal obligation to manage public lands for multiple uses, which includes protecting the environment and resource development.

“By putting its thumb on the scales to strongly favor conservation over other uses, this rule will obstruct responsible domestic mining projects and compound permitting challenges, further deepening our already grave foreign mineral import reliance,” Rick Nolan, president of the association, said in a statement.

The Functional Government Initiative (FGI), a government watchdog group, said rules like the BLM’s Public Lands Rule impede resource development, which means for most Americans higher energy prices, lower economic growth, and more inflation as has been the case for the past three years.

The group previously, through Freedom of Information Act requests, obtained documents that showed the Interior Department and related agencies met secretly with environmental groups, such as the Wilderness Society, in the lead up to the Biden administration’s decision to block an area of Minnesota off to mineral development.

“Today’s action is a win for China and the radical environmental lobby. For the rest of us, it’s just more of the same,” Pete McGinnis, communications director for FGI, told Just The News.

Legal action

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement emailed to Just The News that the rule seeks to upend the balance that Congress and the Interior Department achieved over many decades on multiple-use public lands that are appropriate for productive uses such as energy, grazing, mining and recreation.

Sgamma said that the rule will be facing legal action. Defining conservation as a use, she explained, is legally vulnerable under the direction of Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which set forth the BLM’s mission as one of “multiple use and sustained yield.” It’s also a violation of the Mineral Leasing Act, which requires the BLM to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales. Sgamma said the Public Lands Rule is contrary to the will of Congress when it overturned a BLM planning rule in 2017 using the Congressional Review Act.

“This is a classic example of overreach by the Biden Administration, which has no problem ignoring basic law, and would be detrimental to rural communities all across the West that rely on responsible economic development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands. We have no choice but to litigate,” Sgamma said.

William Perry Pendley, who headed the BLM under former President Donald Trump, told Just The News that the Biden administration acts with a level of lawlessness that he said is unparalleled. A federal judge, for example, torpedoed Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas leases for violating the Mineral Leasing Act. Despite that, the Biden administration’s five-year plan for the Gulf of Mexico offers only three lease sales over the next five years.

It’s not just matters involving energy, either, Pendley said. Despite the Supreme Court shooting down his plan to cancel student debt, Biden continues to pursue actions to cancel these debts in other ways.

“The Supreme Court has unequivocally told the president of the United states you have no authority to do this. And Biden steps in front of the microphone and laughs, and says the court told me I couldn’t do it. But I’m going to do it anyway,” Pendley said.

The American Exploration & Production Council (AXPC), which submitted comments on the proposed rule, also hinted at the possibility of litigation in a statement criticizing the rule for exceeding the agency’s authority.
“This rule amounts to an attempt by the administration to go around Congress to prevent reasonable mineral development that has been previously directed and authorized by Congress. AXPC is evaluating the next possible steps to address this flawed rule,” Anne Bradbury, CEO for the council, said in a statement.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement that he and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., will be introducing a resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to block finalized federal regulations. “The people of Wyoming depend on access to public lands for their livelihoods – including energy and mineral production, grazing and recreation. With this rule, President Biden is allowing federal bureaucrats to destroy our way of life,”  Barrasso said.

The new rules, like many of the rules the Biden administration has passed, will face legal challenges, but it can sometimes take years for courts to hand down a decision. In the meantime, the three rules the Interior Department passed Friday will be popular with environmentalists. With the presidential election on the horizon, Biden is likely more concerned with their votes this year than court decisions down the road.



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(TLB) published   this report  with permission of John Solomon at Just the News.  Click Here to read about the staff at Just the News

Header featured image (edited) credit: Deb Haaland United States Secretary of the Interior/Joe Biden/open public card pix

Emphasis added by (TLB)



Stay tuned tuned…


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