Recent Op-Eds

Another Day, Another Regulation

By Sen. John Thune

August 18, 2023

From the plains to the pine forests, South Dakota’s land is intertwined with our way of life. Farmers and ranchers produce the nation’s food on this land. Critical minerals and energy are extracted from it. And hunters, hikers, and campers use it for recreation. South Dakotans know its value and the importance of conserving our land for the next generation. Unfortunately, a new and unnecessary regulation may restrict how South Dakotans interact with it, particularly the hundreds of thousands of acres that are available to the public.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees 274,000 surface acres of land in South Dakota, and it manages another 1.7 million acres of subsurface minerals in the state. A multiple-use approach to land management enables these lands to be used for livestock grazing, mineral extraction, timber, and recreation. Instead of preserving that process, the Biden administration has decided to create a new framework for “protection and restoration activities” that could prevent land from being used for 10 years or more. Like many South Dakotans, I oppose this unnecessary and redundant rule.

The Biden administration’s new rule seems to suggest that land use and conservation are mutually exclusive. The fact is that conservation is a key element of land management practices. No one knows the importance of conservation better than the rancher who wants to pass his operation on to the next generation or the hunter who wants her children to hunt the same land she hunts today. In fact, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act recognizes that public lands should be managed in a way that recognizes the need for domestic sources of minerals, food, timber, and fiber. This rule departs from the decades-old multiple-use approach, and it would allow BLM to close off lands for 10 years or more, keeping out hikers, hunters, grazing livestock, and energy and mineral development.

I support a true multiple-use approach to federal lands, and I’ve taken action to oppose this rule, which was promulgated without a single public meeting in the state of South Dakota. Sen. Mike Rounds, Rep. Dusty Johnson, and I have asked BLM to rescind its misguided proposal. And I support legislation to block the regulation from going into effect, which I hope the Senate will consider soon.

In South Dakota, we know the value of our lands and the importance of preserving them for the next generation, and I am working to include provisions in the 2023 farm bill that support South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. One of the things I’m working on is securing improvements to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP plays an important role in improving soil health and water quality, as well as providing wildlife habitat, but the program’s current structure limits potential forage benefits for producers. Among other improvements, I’m working to make the program a more working lands-oriented option for producers and landowners through greater haying and grazing flexibilities.

I’m grateful for the South Dakotans who earn their living by working the land and who help feed America and the world. I’ll continue working to support this important way of life and ensure that South Dakota’s lands remain healthy, workable, accessible, and free of unnecessary regulations from Washington.