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Weekly Column: Multiple-Use Management Must Remain At The Forefront Of Public Land Decision Making

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Idahoans who live and work on and near the land are best equipped to drive local land management decisions.  The proposed rule change that would have enabled natural asset companies (NACs) to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and thereby acquire “ecological performance” rights on public resources threatened local decision making and multiple uses of public lands in Idaho.  While the proposal was withdrawn, we must remain watchful for similar efforts that jeopardize multiple use and benefits of our public lands and natural resources.

On September 27, 2023, the NYSE filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a proposed rule change to amend the NYSE Listed Company Manual to adopt a listing standard “to introduce a new type of public company called a NAC.”  The proposal defined a NAC as “a corporation whose primary purpose is to actively manage, maintain, restore, and grow the value of natural assets and their production of ecosystem services.”  This vague definition is open to interpretation in ways that would be detrimental to Idahoans’ ability to manage and recreate on our public land, and the document clearly states that existing production activities would not be allowed:

“The NAC will be prohibited from engaging directly or indirectly in unsustainable activities. These are defined as activities that cause any material adverse impact on the condition of the natural assets under its control, and that extract resources without replenishing them (including, but not limited to, traditional fossil fuel development, mining, unsustainable logging, or perpetuating industrial agriculture). The NAC will be prohibited from using its funds to finance such unsustainable activities.” 

Soon after the rule change was proposed, I joined Senators Jim Risch and Pete Ricketts (R-Nebraska) in sending a letter to the SEC outlining concerns with the proposal.  We wrote, “We are concerned that corporate involvement in the stewardship and control of our federal lands would create unintended consequences.  The proposed rule could lead to a preservationist-only approach to federal land management instead of an ‘all-of-the-above’ working lands approach as intended by the creation of our federal land programs.” 

Then, on Jan. 17, 2024, I joined Idaho Governor Brad Little, my fellow members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation (Senator Risch and Representatives Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher) and Idaho Constitutional Officers in calling on the SEC again to halt the proposed listing of NACs on the NYSE.  We wrote:

“Idahoans enjoy and depend upon public lands and the natural resources contained therein for a multitude of benefits, including natural resource-based industries such as forest products and mining, agricultural interests, and hunting, fishing and other recreational pursuits.  Federal law mandates multiple use on national forests and rangelands and Idahoans support multiple use to balance the diverse set of activities and interests that occur on these lands for the benefit of all.”

Our letter was followed closely by the NYSE withdrawing its NACs proposal.  However, this proposal remains an ongoing concern, as at least one news outlet has since reported that backers of NACs are still committed to the effort.  I will continue to push back on related efforts. 

This includes continuing to work with Senator Risch and others to block the Biden Administration’s proposed Public Lands Rule that would upend the nearly 50-year public land policy by adding a restrictive definition of conservation as a multiple use.  The proposed rule would create obstructive “conservation leases” to take productive land completely out of production for 10 or more years.  This rule threatens Idaho’s grazing, ranching, timber, mining and outdoor recreation industries, putting unnecessary stress on Idaho families relying on those industries for income.

Conservation and sustainable resources are a result of balanced management of public lands uses.

I will continue to work to enact land management policies that protect our environment in a manner that ensures the vitality of our forests and rangelands and protects the rights of property owners while maintaining public access and resilient, self-sustaining economies for our rural communities.

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