BLM rule update would improve emergency response on public lands

Public invited to comment on proposed changes



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Photo of Amboy Crater Area of Critical Environmental Concern

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bureau of Land Management is taking public input on proposed updates to regulations for announcing temporary closures or restrictions on public land uses. The proposed changes are designed to better protect public lands, resources, and human health and safety, and will align BLM procedures with those of the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service.

“From time to time, BLM needs to issue orders to temporarily close or restrict the use of public lands to protect people, property, public lands, and resources, or to avoid conflict among visitor uses,” said Tom Heinlein, BLM Assistant Director for National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships. “Our aim is to balance our responsibilities for protecting people and the places and resources found on BLM-managed public lands while ensuring the safe and sustainable use and enjoyment of these lands now and in the future.”

If adopted, the rule changes would remove the requirement to publish temporary closure and restriction orders in the Federal Register and instead direct BLM to use modern communications tools, such as social media, to notify the public of temporary closures or restrictions.

BLM already uses similar techniques to communicate information about fire prevention orders and during wildland fires, when actions including closures and restrictions are necessary to protect life, property, safety, and resources.

Another proposed change would allow closure and restriction orders to take immediate effect upon signature. The need for BLM to issue temporary closure and restriction orders often arises in response to emergency incidents or unforeseen events that require prompt responses, such as public health emergencies, flood or fire damage, hazardous material incidents, unexploded ordnances, or changes in public land use that create a hazard to the public.

“In a law enforcement emergency, every minute counts. This proposal will allow quicker action by law enforcement agencies when necessary to respond to emergency and unforeseen events, and improve collaboration and support among BLM, state, county, local, and Tribal law enforcement organizations,” said Jason O’Neal, Director of the BLM Office of Law Enforcement and Security.

The proposed rule would allow exemptions for Tribal members for traditional uses of public lands, as appropriate. It would also specify that any closure or restriction on BLM public lands in Alaska must follow the procedures and limits on subsistence use established in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Requirements from the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act for public feedback on closures to hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting would be unaffected.

Occasionally, the BLM also closes public land or restricts its uses to protect resources, implement management responsibilities, or avoid conflict among visitor activities. Specific examples of these types of closures are the closure of the King of the Hammers racecourse, the Reno Air Races, and the Best in the Business Parker Racecourses.

The Bureau is taking public input on the proposal until Jan. 22, 2024, beginning once the rule publishes in the Federal Register tomorrow.

For more information on the proposed changes to the BLM rules, including how to submit comments, visit and search "RIN 1004-AE89". 

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.