The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS/AWS) are excited to announce that the acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to use recommendations provided by RGS/AWS and a number of other partner organizations to update their process for disposing of federal lands by signing Secretarial Order 3373.
Historically, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act directs the BLM to identify lands for potential disposal, and the agency has been completing land use plans with land disposal lists for the past forty years.
RGS/AWS supports BLM efforts to identify small, isolated parcels of federal land that do not provide recreational or conservation value for targeted disposal. However, up to this point, the agency’s criteria have not required the BLM to weigh public-access considerations for outdoor recreation against considerations about a tract’s location or other characteristics that make it difficult and economically challenging to manage.
BLM will now be updating their policies to incorporate our recommendation that they consider how parcels that are not adjacent to other BLM lands may provide recreational access to adjacent tracts of recreation land (including lands managed by other federal, state, and county agencies).
In many cases, federal lands open to hunting and other recreation lack any legal access to reach those lands from passable public roads and trails. This problem could increase if seemingly isolated parcels of BLM land that actually provide important access to lands managed by other agencies are identified for disposal. These new guidelines will prevent that occurrence.
RGS/AWS has been actively working on this issue along with a number of other conservation partners. In particular, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) has provided coordination among a number of organizations with mutual interest in this policy.
“We express our sincere thanks to the Department of Interior for unequivocally recognizing the value of hunting and other recreational access when making crucial decisions regarding ownership of our federal lands,” noted Brent Rudolph, Director of Conservation Policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “The conservationists that make use of these lands benefit greatly, and their activities in turn support the management of our natural resources and financial health of many rural communities.”
Providing hunter access and opportunity is a critical piece of the RGS/AWS mission. Conservation partnerships that result in policy updates and improvements like this are a prime example of how our organization advocates for not only our passionate membership base, but all end-users of our valuable natural resources.