Secretary Bernhardt Shares How He’s Promoting Federalism, Opening Up Land for Hunting

“The Interior Department is relocating the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C., to Colorado. So why move a federal bureaucracy to the other side of the country? Interior Secretary David Bernhardt discusses that, federalism, opening up 1.4 million acres for hunting and fishing, and more.”

On BLM Moving West

Bernhardt: “[The] plan is driven by one simple premise: How do we better serve the American people throughout the Department of the Interior? … Most of Interior’s land, and our responsibilities, are mostly in the western United States. We manage 1 in every 5 acres of land in the United States, and then about 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf. And most of BLM’s land [is in the West].”

On Being a Good Neighbor and Federalism

Bernhardt: “I grew up in a very small town in western Colorado; a community that was virtually surrounded by federal land. And as a result of that, the decisions that the local land managers made carried with them the hopes and dreams of my entire community at times. They also carried with them the hopes and dreams of individual families.

We have grazing permittees that have specific permits to graze cattle on the federal land. And so, you add something as simple as that to a major plant or a wind farm, it can have tremendous benefits, both positive and negative, for a local community.

So from my perspective, what we need to do is—and it’s not rocket science—act like good neighbors. We need to approach our neighbors, visit with them about what we’re doing, get their input, and see if we can come up with solutions that are best for the entire community.”

On Recreational Access, Hunting and Fishing

Bernhardt: “If you ask wildlife recreationists, hunters, anglers, photographers, what leads them to not go hunting or fishing, their No. 1 issue is public access. That’s No. 1. The proximity or lack of access to opportunity really leads to folks not wanting to do those activities anymore.

The other thing is the complexity of our regulations, which you would think is kind of silly, right? But it’s not. The hunting and fishing regulations of states are often very different than the federal government’s.

So what we did is we looked at all of our fish and wildlife property and said, “Hey, are there hunting and activities on these properties that we could be expanding or opening all anew?” And two, “Are there regulations where we and the states don’t line up? Then maybe we ought to try and align them up and make them less complicated.”

We did both of those things over this year. So right now on the street, we have proposed an additional 1.4 million acres that either we’re opening or expanding access to.

In doing that we’ll have many more hunting and fishing opportunities of different stripes for folks. And at the same time, we’ve tried to align our regulations so it’s less complicated for people to get out there.”

On Wildfire

Bernhardt: “[T]he president has given incredible direction with an executive order he signed last year that’s very aggressive on active management.

Last year, we did 2,500 treatment projects. Over 170,000 acres have been managed for resource purposes. I just proposed a firebreak plan that has 11,000 miles of firebreaks proposed. And this year, we’ll be deploying about 4,500 firefighters to continue to fight fires.”

Click here to listen to the full podcast with Daily Signal’s Katrina Trinko.