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Multiple-Use Management Cannot Be Lost

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

It seems that in recent years there has been a decreased focus on ensuring multiple use of public lands.   Multiple use of public lands remains the most effective utilization of our natural resources, and it is the guiding law for their management.  It is central to balancing the needs of those who enjoy the outdoors and those who rely on public lands for their businesses.  It allows for the productive use of the land and protection of the environmental services these lands provide.  Unfortunately, it seems that multiple use is being eroded and replaced with other concentrations.  It is not that those focuses are unimportant, but prioritizing multiple use in land management decisions is necessary to maintain the balance that most benefits the public.     

In the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976, Congress declared that it is the policy of the United States that management of our public lands be on the basis of multiple use and that the public lands be managed in a manner which recognizes the nation's need for domestic sources of minerals, food timber and fiber from the public lands.  Further, the statute directed the U.S. Secretary of Interior to "manage the public lands under principles of multiple use and sustained yield." 

When this law was written, the ability of future generations to benefit from the balanced management of public lands was front and center.  FLPMA's definition of multiple use, includes the following, "a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that takes into account the long-term needs of future generations for renewable and non-renewable resources, including, but not limited to, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and natural scenic, scientific and historical values…" 

The public lands management decisions made then and today, especially in terms of limiting uses, will have significant effects on the ability of future generations to meet their needs through balanced use of our public lands.  If we allow multiple use to disappear from current management discussions and decisions, it will have long-term impacts.  That is why it is critically important that we remain active in ensuring that multiple use is not forgotten by public lands agencies. 

In addition to promoting multiple use, we should encourage federal land managers to be good neighbors to the private landowners, state and tribes that border public lands.  Using collaboration to achieve locally-driven solutions to our natural resources challenges is an effective means of problem-solving that helps achieve a balanced approach to public lands management.  Collaboration helps achieve win-win solutions that are better than the status quo for all stakeholders and are better for the environment and the economy.  When all interests are brought to the table, contentious issues are faced head on, productive relationships are developed, everyone sees it through, common ground can be found and solutions are achieved.  I am committed to collaborative problem-solving, because even though it is difficult, it works.  It can ensure that multiple-use considerations are squarely on the table and those most impacted by decisions have a voice.

Although very important, we cannot simply manage our public lands for restoration and recreation, and having open space for recreation, clean air and healthy habitat for wildlife is imperative.  However, we also benefit from productive ranching, mining and timber operations that produce the food, fiber and energy sources that we need.  These industries support our families, communities and future generations.  Multiple use of our natural resources helps ensure that our public lands continue to benefit all of us.  This important management focus must remain at the forefront of public land decision making. 

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