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Mojave Desert
Desert Dispatch, December 19, 2008

Feds rework BLM conservation standards
Critics claim new policies work against Mojave preservation
By Charles Nguyen

The Bureau of Land Management announced new land management guidelines that officials hope will strengthen conservation efforts by standardizing identification of rare species, but critics have decried the developments as a continuance of misguided environmental policy.

The revised manual, last updated in 2001, covers conservation policy of more than 300 species listed on 258 million acres of federally owned land across the nation that the BLM manages.

More than 20 animal species on area BLM-managed lands, including those in the Mojave National Preserve, are now protected under the revised “Manual for Management of Special Status Species,” according to BLM spokeswoman Jill Moran. In addition, the BLM California office identified more than 90 special status plants in the Mojave National Preserve that are covered in the revised manual.

The manual also establishes a new policy that gives BLM’s state directors the power to designate a species as “bureau-sensitive,” affording the species “special management consideration to promote their conservation and reduce likelihood and need for future listing under the [Endangered Species Act],” Moran said.

Lisa Belenky, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, argued that the designation process is too wide-ranging and will ultimately hinder conservation efforts.

“The new manual will allow the BLM to ignore conservation of state-listed species unless the BLM state director for each state designates those species as ‘sensitive,’” she said.

Moran said that standardizing BLM guidelines across state lines was needed to, “provide greater consistency across the agency and ensure more effective cooperation among BLM states.”

But federal methods of conservation are still too narrow, Belenky said, and undermine the wholescale “ecosystem approach” needed for effective preservation of endangered species and habitats.

“BLM is stuck in the past,” Belenky stated in a Center for Biological Diversity press release. “The new manual does not even mention global climate change, which is an overarching threat to wildlife and plants that depend on our public lands for survival.”

The new criteria covers only species located on BLM-managed lands and habitats, which Belenkey said was another signal that the federal conservation effort is ineffective on a wide scale.

Copyright © 2008. Freedom Communications, Inc.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton