Policy Recommendations Prepared by the Public Lands Foundation

Based on the events and discussions at The Nation Possessed conference, particularly the recommendations offered by the Student Congress and the roundtable participants, the Public Lands Foundation has developed seven policy recommendations for the future management and use of the public lands of the United States. The Public Lands Foundation is a nonprofit tax exempt organization that advocates the management, protection, development and enhancement of the National System of Public Lands, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management within the U.S. Department of the Interior. These recommendations are intended to assure that the public lands remain public and continue to serve the American public for generations to come.

  1. The BLM Director and President of the Public Lands Foundation should work with the Secretary of the Interior to charter a Blue Ribbon Panel that will develop and recommend a land ethic to guide future management of the diverse public lands.  The Blue Ribbon Panel, which should include federal policymakers, state and local officials, tribal leaders, youth, futurists, and stakeholders, will be charged with formulating an updated land ethic for the 21st century that encourages engaged citizenship by recognizing humans’ coexistence within a broad ecological community as well as a diverse global society. The land ethic recommended by the panel should guide and be incorporated into policy or appropriate legislation.
  2. The BLM and Public Lands Foundation should sponsor a biennial Student Congress to provide regular assessments of the future of public land management.  The success of the Student Congress at The Nation Possessed conference demonstrated the thoughtfulness of the next generation of users and managers and brought a perspective that only they can provide. The Congress should focus on emerging issues and solutions best addressed by the best and brightest of the next generation and provide recommendations to the BLM.
  3. Public lands should remain in public ownership to meet the current and future needs and desires of the American public.  The public lands are the only federal estate that can effectively fill this role. The value of the public lands – as articulated in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 – must be recognized, reaffirmed, and preserved for all time.
  4. Land management agencies should use current and emerging technologies to reach all sectors of public land stakeholders in soliciting input on land management issues and policy decisions.  Recent trends in technology have demonstrated that traditional methods of connecting with stakeholders become outdated in a very short time span. As was recommended by the Student Congress and the roundtable participants, agencies must stay up to date with the general public in communication methods in order to manage the public lands effectively.
  5. Land management agencies need to use all available methods to consider potential future uses (including protection) of our nation’s natural resources.  This includes considerations of the changing demographics of our population. The change agents that will influence how public lands are managed will continue to change. As was recommended by the Student Congress and the roundtable participants, shifts in uses and attitudes need to be recognized and accommodated in future legislation, policy, and practice to effectively guide public land management for the next century.
  6. The BLM should publicize and support successful outcome-based management initiatives with permitees, particularly in situations where discussions and negotiations revolve around the future desired condition of the landscape after the activity is concluded. The activity might be oil and gas leasing, off-highway vehicle use, or a large outdoor festival. An example of this approach is the Burning Man Festival held in the Black Rock Desert each year, which is guided by – and successfully applies – the principle of “leave no trace.”
  7. Congress and the Secretary of the Interior should continue to ensure that the National Landscape Conservation System remains an integral part of the BLM’s mission.  The NLCS provides a new emphasis on conservation within the BLM’s approach to land management. Units included in the NLCS can be managed in a more flexible manner than similar units managed by other federal agencies and therefore often are more acceptable to state and local governments.