Protect the Future of the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers

Support the BLM’s Public Lands Proposal

Public lands in southwest Montana have been unnecessarily at risk from industrial oil and gas leasing and development under the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) public lands management plans for decades, threatening our wildlife, waterways, and way of life. 

The outdated management plans that cover the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Centennial Valleys in the Dillon area allow speculative oil and gas leasing on 90% of the public lands in the region. It was only a few years ago when an oil and gas company nominated 10,000 acres for leasing in the region. 

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now proposing a new public lands rule titled Conservation and Landscape Health. The proposal would adjust the bureau’s multi-use mandate to better balance the importance of maintaining landscape health, big game and wildlife biodiversity, climate resilience, recreational access, and existing public land uses.

Under this new proposal, the BLM would refocus management efforts on conservation for the benefit of current and future generations and better recognize the cultural and natural resources on public lands. 

This is especially important in the Big Hole and Beaverhead Valleys, where industrial oil and gas development does not reflect the historical, cultural, and current public land uses in the region. As we know, this area offers world-class big game public hunting opportunities, is one of the only remaining intact cold water fisheries in the Lower 48 supporting native Westslope Cutthroat and the threatened fluvial Arctic Grayling, and hosts hundreds of family farms and ranching businesses that support over 1,400 local jobs and generate millions in revenue each year. Fracking and industrial oil and gas development in these valleys would not only cause substantial harm to wildlife habitat, water resources, and the local economy, but both the BLM and independent geologists concluded that economically recoverable oil and gas in the region is so low as to be negligible. 

Supporting BLM’s proposed rule can help lead to critical revisions for the Dillon Resource Management Plan. As it stands, the Dillon RMP unnecessarily exposes sensitive landscapes to development where fluid mineral recovery is highly unlikely and negligible; lacks adequate protections for fish, wildlife, and habitat; and by virtue of incentivizing speculative industrial development, jeopardizes major pillars of the region’s economy. Therefore, we should support BLM adopting the proposed rule, which would level the playing field for protecting all resources equally, and we support BLM taking steps to amend the RMP to remove the availability of public lands for fluid mineral leasing in SW Montana. Doing both of these actions would close the door to the significant threat industrial oil and gas development poses to SW Montana’s residents, businesses, and keynote waterways.

Issues with the Dillon area Resource Management Plan have been brought to the BLM from conservation organizations, local businesses, and community members, but the agency has failed to address nor respond to the concerns. 

The new proposed Conservation and Landscape Health Rule will provide BLM a path for focusing on protecting the health of our public lands now and for future generations, including our special Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers. 

Comment in support of BLM’s new rule that will better balance the multiple uses of our public lands and protect the world-class Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Centennial Valleys.