New rules add protection for special BLM sites |

New rules add protection for special BLM sites

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Bureau of Land ManagementAn ancient cliff dwelling in Colorado's Canyon of the Ancients. New BLM rules could make such sites safer in terms of their cultural and historic value.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients, near Grand Junction, could serve as a model for the management of other sites with special designations from the Bureau of Land Management.

The federal agency recently released new rules that put an emphasis on the protection of cultural and environmental resources. The BLM has always had an overriding “multiple use” mandate for the federal lands it manages, which has frequently led to conflicts between the development of energy resources and preservation.

The new rules apply to areas set aside by Congressional proclamation, including national monuments and national conservation areas. The wording suggests the specific language designation of those special areas supersedes the broader multiple-use mandate.

“We’ve consistently been disappointed that management plans for BLM national monuments and other conservation areas too often do not prioritize the protection of the very resources these places were created to highlight,” said Wilderness Society attorney Nada Culver. “The BLM has now made it clear that conservation trumps other uses, and that’s good news for everyone who wants to see these special places appropriately protected for future generations, which we know includes many BLM managers.”

The management plan for the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado prioritized protection of the historic cultural resources by establishing guidelines to protect the monument’s archaeological sites. Recreation and other uses are only permitted if they’re consistent wit the values the area was designated to protect.

Similar rules will now prevail at other sites in the Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System, which was made permanent in March 2009 as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act.

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According to Culver, the BLM’s new decision relies on the argument that monuments and national conservation areas are different from other BLM lands and should therefore be managed first and foremost for the conservation of natural and cultural resources over other uses found in the multiple-use mandate.

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