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Environmental Law Reporter

Journal Abbreviation

Env't L. Rep.


Among the most innovative provisions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 were those called for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)to designate public lands as “areas of critical environmental concern” (ACECs) for protective management. In fact, FLPMA made it quite clear that national policy was to give ACECs priority in public land planning. Nearly a half-century later, the ACEC program has failed to achieve its promise, beset with inconsistent management and lacking even programmatic regulations. BLM did attempt to revitalize the program in revised planning regulations the agency promulgated in 2016, but Congress exercised its veto authority under the Congressional Review Act, so BLM continues to operate under outdated regulations promulgated during the Reagan administration. The Biden administration has an opportunity to modernize and reinvigorate the ACEC program through its recent commitment to preserve 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. This paper suggests that a renewed ACEC program would be a fitting vehicle to help accomplish that “30 by 30” goal. In particular, we suggest that BLM promulgate ACEC regulations that invite tribes to nominate ACECs and promise to structure collaborative management arrangements that would enable tribes to participate as co-managers of their ceded lands.

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Co-author Greg Allen is a student at Lewis & Clark Law School.


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