Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed a secretarial order this week directing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adequately weigh public access for outdoor recreation – including hunting and fishing – when determining the appropriateness of the disposal or exchange of public lands. Identifying lands as available for disposal or exchange is required under federal law.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) directs the BLM to identify lands for potential disposal or exchange, using a public process and with state and county involvement. BLM has carried out these provisions revising land use plans and disposal since 1976. However, the BLM’s criteria do not require the agency to weigh public access considerations for outdoor recreation (fishing, hunting, hiking, etc.).
Secretarial Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in BLM Land Disposals and Exchanges directs the BLM to – for the first time ever – formally consider what impact the disposal or exchange of any BLM land will have on the public’s ability to access federal lands for recreation.
“This order will help ensure that the Bureau of Land Management considers public access to public lands,” said Acting Secretary David Bernhardt. “It requires that before the BLM exchanges or disposes of any land, they must first consider what impact the disposal or exchange of land will have on public access. The Trump Administration will continue to prioritize access so that people can hunt, fish, camp, and recreate on our public lands.”
“Sportsmen and women across the West will benefit from this Interior Department action to sustain and enhance recreational access to BLM public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “In some places, there are small parcels of BLM land that serve as the only means of nearby access to hunting and fishing or as the only access points to adjoining public lands managed by other agencies. The Secretarial Order will ensure that key parcels are valued for this recreational access and help keep these lands in the public’s hands.”
“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation commends Acting Secretary Bernhardt for prioritizing hunting and fishing access in BLM land tenure decisions,” said Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “As Chairman of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council, I look forward to working closely with the Interior Department to implement this important Secretarial Order on behalf of America’s sportsmen and women.”
“The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies supports the latest Secretarial Order (SO) for recreation on BLM public lands,” said Ed Carter, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “Getting the American public outside to recreate, on federal public lands, is important to fostering a healthy public and one that supports conservation. This SO ensures due diligence unto that end.”
“Access to our Nation’s vast public lands is of utmost importance, because where hunting and fishing happen, conservation happens,” said Timothy C. Brady, President of the Boone and Crockett Club. “While the founders of the Boone and Crockett Club pioneered the development of the public land system Americans enjoy today, we must constantly work to improve access to public lands for a multitude of shared uses. This order that Acting Secretary Bernhardt has signed will help do just that. We commend him on his efforts in making access a priority. Thanks to his leadership, this necessity is finally becoming a reality.”
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was happy to provide input and enthusiastically supports the decision of Acting Secretary Bernhardt for the BLM to consider recreational public access for hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting in its decision-making process for disposal or exchange of lands,” said Kyle Weaver, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“We applaud this secretarial order by Acting Secretary Bernhardt that ensures access to our public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Recreational access to our public lands is of the utmost importance to sportsmen and women and the future of hunting.”
“Access to quality hunting and fishing lands is always a challenge, particularly in the West where access to some of the best mule deer hunting is blocked due to checkerboard public/private lands,” said Miles Moretti, President and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation. “By requiring the Bureau of Land Management to consider recreational access before making decisions about disposal or exchange, Secretarial Order 3373 will benefit hunters that depend on the agency’s lands for their recreational pursuits. The Mule Deer Foundation appreciates Acting Secretary Bernhardt and his team for their ongoing efforts on behalf of sportsmen and women conservationists.”
About Secretarial Order 3373
Secretarial Order 3373 directs the BLM to ensure that when identifying BLM-managed public lands as available for disposal the increase or decrease of public access for outdoor recreation – including hunting and fishing – will be one of the factors considered in determining the appropriateness of the disposal or exchange.
Secretarial Order 3373 directs the consideration of public access opportunities in all ongoing Resource Management Plan (RMP) revisions to ensure recreation access is evaluated using the following criteria:
- If a tract of BLM land is contiguous to public lands managed by another Federal agency or state, BLM will consult with the respective management agency to coordinate how best to ensure continued or improved public access to the adjoining tracts;
- The BLM will evaluate the benefits of public access when considering future disposal actions, making it a requirement to identify alternatives to the public access that would be lost as a result of the BLM’s final action;
- When a tract of BLM-managed land being is considered for disposal and has been identified as providing public access, the public access will be characterized for evaluation purposes as one of the value criteria supporting retention; and
- The BLM will ensure recreational public access to existing public lands is a factor when considering parcels resulting from an exchange.
Secretarial Order 3373 directs the BLM, when preparing documentation supporting the disposal or exchange of a tract of land, to include a discussion of the following in any decision document:
- Existing recreational access that is utilized by the public or provided by road, trail, water, easement, or right-of-way, on the tract of BLM-managed public land being considered for disposal or exchange;
- The impacts from the BLM-managed public land disposal or exchange decisions on recreational access to adjacent tracts of publicly accessible lands, including lands managed by other federal, state, and county agencies; and
- Potential increased public recreational access to existing public lands resulting from an exchange.