On April 22, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden will nominate Tracy Stone-Manning to head up the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal agency charged with overseeing national monuments and other public lands, as well as key aspects of energy development.
A longtime conservation advocate, Stone-Manning has worked for the National Wildlife Federation, served as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and advisor to Sen. Jon Tester, and led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality.
If confirmed, she will oversee an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior that was used and abused by the Trump administration, Interior Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, and Acting BLM Director William Pendley, who was removed from the post after serving illegally for more than a year. During the previous administration, the agency shrank national monuments, threw open the doors to fossil fuel extraction, and revoked vital climate and other pressing conservation measures.
As she takes office, Stone-Manning can begin to reverse harmful policies and ensure our public lands are conserved and used in ways that benefit us all.
Here are five priorities she and the agency should act on right away:
- Restore or expand all targeted national monuments. The Trump administration shrank numerous national monuments, with Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante among the most infamous. Stone-Manning should work with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the Biden White House to restore these monuments to their original sizes (if not expand them), safeguard sacred and scientifically important antiquities, and protect key public lands for future generations.
- Restart climate adaptation planning. To curtail and prepare for the worst effects of climate change, the Biden administration must draft and implement climate adaptation plans on our public lands. Protecting public lands from sea-level rise, flooding, wildfires, biodiversity loss, and other climate impacts must once again be at the center of BLM’s mission, as it was before President Trump took office. Making it so will pay other dividends, too, such as safeguarding public health and nearby communities.
- Prioritize renewable energy development and transmission. The Bureau of Land Management administers more land and more subsurface mineral estate than any other government agency. In fact, the 245 million acres account for one-tenth of all private and public land in the United States. Much of the land BLM oversees is designated for multiple uses, including energy development. The agency and others at Interior should assess which types of energy to develop and transmit on these lands, and they should prioritize solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. Any energy development on public lands should be consistent with habitat, antiquities, and other protection goals, and it should continue to allow other land uses.
- Tighten restrictions on oil and gas leasing and fracking. At the beginning of the Trump administration, Trump and Zinke proposed a so-called “energy dominance” agenda — code for allowing dangerous, polluting oil and gas development on as much public land as possible. Haaland and Stone-Manning should take a more prudent approach and restrict fossil fuel leases on BLM lands. Doing so would safeguard vital ecosystems, protect public lands for multiple uses, and help combat climate change.
If the Biden administration insists on continuing to allow hydraulic fracturing on public lands, it must institute strong, effective regulations to prevent methane leaks and underground injections of toxic chemicals and waste, which can taint groundwater and cause earthquakes.
- Require offsets for environmental harms. Millions of acres on our federal public lands are open to grazing, mining, hiking, and camping, including lands that BLM oversees. When these activities degrade or pollute our lands, the agency and Interior should require responsible parties to completely offset damage with environmental restoration projects and other efforts; curtail uses of public lands that generate carbon pollution; and advance the federal government’s efforts to combat climate change.
Trump's Bureau of Land Management violated its obligations as a trustee of the nation's public lands and resources. Stone-Manning can begin to repair the damage and restore the agency's commitment to curb and adapt to climate change. She can also get started on responsibly conserving our public lands and resources to ensure their continued enjoyment. Doing so will restore policies that benefit all people, their communities, and our natural heritage.
Editor's note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform's Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR's website.