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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Feb 14 2020

BLM Abandons Multiple-Use Mandate

BLM releases plan giving 95% of central Montana public lands to oil and gas

Update (March 13, 2020): So that we can do our part in helping stem the outbreak of coronavirus, we have decided to cancel the March on the BLM, which was scheduled for March 19 in Billings. To stay informed on other ways you can take action regarding the Lewistown resource management plan and other BLM plans shirking the agency’s multiple-use mandate, click here.


Today, it became clear that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Acting Director William Perry Pendley has stopped abiding by the BLM’s multiple-use mandate.

Earlier today, the BLM released a management plan for the Lewistown Field Office resource area that would open 95% of some of the wildest and most revered public lands in central Montana to oil and gas development. It also released a draft of a management plan that offers little to no conservation measures for public lands the BLM manages in western Montana.

At issue is the Lewistown Field Office planning area, which encompasses 650,000 surface acres of public lands in central Montana, including areas that adjoin the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and the UL Bend Wilderness Area. 

The management plan released today applies no protection to the 200,000 acres that the Lewistown Field Office identified in 2016 as having wilderness characteristics, places that include West Crooked Creek, Dovetail, Cottonwood, Carter Coulee, Horse Camp Trail, Dunn Ridge, Chain Buttes, Carroll Coulee, Fort Musselshell, and Spear Coulee, among many others. 

Last year more than 800 people submitted comments calling on the BLM to offer protection for these areas

The BLM ignored those comments, making it clear the Interior Department, which houses the BLM, has dismissed our values in favor of enriching a few oil and gas executives, who clearly had much more input on this management than the American public did.

This is the sort of management plan we can expect when somebody like William Perry Pendley, an outspoken advocate for selling off public lands, is in charge of managing our public lands. While the RMP does not sell off public lands, it does something worse: it hands our public lands over to oil and gas for pennies on the dollar at the expense of everything we hold dear about these lands.

Also released today was a draft of the Missoula Field Office resource management plan, covering 160,000 acres of public lands in Montana. It too offers little to no conservation measures.

In 2014, the Missoula Field Office identified 25,000 acres in its management area worthy of surveying for wilderness characteristics. We reviewed those 25,000 acres and found that nearly 17,000 of them qualified as lands with wilderness characteristics” (LWCs) and deserved protection. 

Maximizing timber harvest, the management plan released today protects zero acres that have been identified as LWCs.

Moreover, the plan would also no longer offer protection to two areas designated as “areas of critical environmental concern” (ACECs) – Limestone Cliff and Bear Creek Flats.

Like the Lewistown management plan, the Missoula management plan demonstrates that the BLM is shirking, if not abandoning its multiple-use mandate in favor of giving extractive industries everything they could want. 

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: under Secretary Bernhardt and Acting Director Pendley, our public lands are in serious jeopardy. 

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Aubrey Bertram
Eastern Montana Field Director

Aubrey works with communities to protect eastern Montana’s prairies, badlands, and island mountain ranges. She spends her time skiing, hiking, and running, volunteering with civic organizations in Billings, exploring public lands with her two dogs, and napping on the couch with her two cats.

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