Wyoming, Utah First To Sue BLM For Putting Conservation Over Mining

Wyoming and Utah have become the first states to sue the BLM over an obscure rule that weighs conservation over mining interests in how 245 million acres of public lands are managed.

Pat Maio

June 19, 20243 min read

Gov. Mark Gordon, left, and President Joe Biden.
Gov. Mark Gordon, left, and President Joe Biden. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming and Utah have become the first states to challenge in federal court an obscure rule touted by the Bureau of Land Management that marks a major shift in how 245 million acres of public lands are managed in the United States.

The rule was designed by BLM to strike a balance between conservation and extractive mining for natural resources like coal, gold, silver, nickel and uranium, all of which are big undertakings in the Cowboy State.

However, the rule effectively gives the BLM power to kill off mining projects before they even get off the drawing board.

The rule provides BLM with leverage to allow for more complete consideration of land uses, including conservation uses or restoration projects, especially for culturally rich landscapes and the ability to keep intact wildlife migration corridors, such for as pronghorn, in parts of central Wyoming’s Red Desert.

The two states announced Wednesday that they have jointly filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah in Salt Lake City challenging the BLM’s final “public lands rule.”

The BLM’s final rule was announced April 18.

‘Abomination Of A Rule’

The lawsuit claims that the rule isn’t needed, and that the preferred path to preserve public lands would have been the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which gives states like Wyoming and Utah a shot at mining proposals.

Instead, the states wrote in their lawsuit, the rule represents a fundamental “change in how the agency will carry out its mission moving forward,”

Despite the objections of several states, BLM sidestepped NEPA requirements and unreasonably concluded that no “extraordinary circumstances” would ever warrant a NEPA review, thus bypassing the federal law completely, according to the lawsuit.

“Ever since this abomination of a rule raised its ugly head, demonstrating the Biden administration’s disregard for the law, I have fought it tooth and nail,” said Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon in a statement.

Wyoming has a lot at stake with the BLM’s approach to managing public lands and could see a further clamping down on mining should the public lands rule tilt in favor of keeping land untouched for conservation purposes instead of being mined and later reclaimed under federal mining rules.

Overall, the BLM manages about 18.4 million acres of public lands and 42.9 million acres of federal land with mineral deposits in the state of Wyoming.

“This legal challenge ensures that this administration is called out for sidestepping the bedrock federal statutes which guide public land management by attempting to eliminate multiple use through a corrupted definition of conservation, and for doing so with impunity,” Gordon said. “I look forward to our day in court and putting the BLM back on the right path.”

A draft of the BLM’s public lands rule, formally known as the “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule, was unveiled for public comment initially April 3, 2023.

Gordon testified in opposition to the draft rule before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources in Washington, D.C., on June 15, 2023, and challenged the direction of the rule’s new powers in comments filed with BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning nearly a year ago.

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Pat Maio


Pat Maio is a veteran journalist who covers energy for Cowboy State Daily.