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Biden administration plan prioritizes conservation and restoration on public lands

A stand of old-growth ponderosa pines in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon.
A stand of old-growth ponderosa pines in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has released a plan to more sustainably manage public lands. Officials say it prioritizes conservation initiatives to better respond to a changing climate.

The wide-ranging plan directs the Bureau of Land Management to assess the health of watersheds, forests and wildlife habitats, and identify areas most in need of restoration work. It promotes the resilience of ecosystems like the nation’s old-growth forests, which conservationists say are critical to counter the effects of climate change. Last year, President Joe Biden issued an executive order aimed at protecting mature forests most at risk from logging. The administration’s new framework would also incorporate tribal expertise and Indigenous knowledge into resource management.

As drought and wildfires have ravaged parts of the West, Biden administration officials like Interior Secretary Deb Haaland say it’s crucial to focus on the health of public lands.

“As the nation continues to face unprecedented drought, increasing wildfires and the declining health of our landscapes, our public lands are under growing pressure," said Haaland. "It is our responsibility to use the best tools available to restore wildlife habitat, plan for smart development, and conserve the most important places for the benefit of the generations to come."

Conservation groups including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded the proposal. It’ll undergo a 75-day public comment period and could be implemented within the next year.

The BLM is the nation’s largest land management agency and oversees more than 12 million acres in Arizona along with subsurface mineral rights and other extraction industries.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.