Tracy Stone-Manning speaking at YSE

Bureau of Land Management Leaders Emphasize Balanced Approach to Land Use

Director Tracy Stone-Manning and Principal Deputy Director Nada Wolff Culver in a discussion at the Yale School of the Environment February 22 noted the federal agency's dual mandate of commercial use and conservation — with an emphasis on “protect the best, preserve the rest.” 

Tracy Stone Manning photographed in the American West
Tracy Stone-Manning

One in every 10 acres of land in the U.S. — more than 240 million surface acres — is managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The agency is tasked with the dual mandate of managing public land for multiple uses while conserving natural, cultural, and historical resources. BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning and Principal Deputy Director Nada Wolff Culver recently spoke at the Yale School of the Environment about the challenges of balancing the health of the vast lands the bureau oversees with public and commercial uses, such as energy development, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and recreation. 

During the conversation held at Burke Auditorium in Kroon Hall on February 22, Stone-Manning emphasized that BLM will “fail the future and all of you” if it doesn’t prioritize a balanced approach to land use.  

These are hard-working lands. We have to imbue conservation in all that we do … and ensure that conservation is equal among all uses.”

Tracy Stone-ManningBureau of Land Management Director

“Conservation is a gift to the present and the future. It recognizes that clean water, clean air, wild habitats, and open spaces have inherent value,” she said.

Nada Culver portrait
Nada Wolff Culver

She noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic elevated the desire to preserve natural lands as the public flocked to parks and trails to hike, swim, and recreate in record numbers, BLM’s mission is not the same as the National Park Service.

“These are hard-working lands,” Stone-Manning said. “We have to imbue conservation in all that we do … and ensure that conservation is equal among all uses.”

As it navigates its mandate for multiuse of public lands, Stone-Manning and Wolff pointed out that the bureau’s regulations date back centuries and its history to the beginnings of the nation.  BLM’s roots can be traced to the 1700s when the Second Continental Congress persuaded states to create a public domain of land. The present-day agency was established in 1946, when the General Land Office and the U.S. Grazing Service were consolidated to form the Bureau of Land Management within the Department of the Interior. Its governing regulations include the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the 1872 General Mining Law, and the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act.

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Wolff Culver, who is an attorney, said that finding space in previous policies and decisions in relation to its regulations can be the “golden ticket” for advancing current conservation actions.

The bureau’s priorities, the BLM leaders noted, include recreational access and restoration of lands in the face of climate change — with a focus on “protect the best, preserve the rest.”

“Restoration has the power and promise of fixing mistakes of the past. Nature is remarkably resilient,” Stone-Manning said.

During the discussion, Wolff encouraged YSE students and scientists to share their peer-reviewed research findings with the agency and to make use of its data in their own research.

The conversation was co-hosted by YSE Office of the Dean, the Yale Center for Environmental Justice, as well as the Ecosystem Conservation and Management, Environmental Policy Analysis, Forestry, and People, Equity, and the Environment Learning Communities.

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