The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a subsidiary of the Department of Interior, is leaning heavily on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles for its newly-unveiled “Blueprint for 21st Century Outdoor Recreation.” The 28-page strategic document isn’t a formal management plan. However, the Blueprint emphasizes progressive social values like environmental justice and “equity” that are hallmarks of ESG’s S (social) prong. When it comes to conservation, a key part of the BLM’s actual mission, this obsession with racial ideology and skewed concepts of inclusivity actually stand to undermine related environmental progress.

The blueprint, in demanding “urgency” at the BLM to undergo a “transformational” shift in outdoor recreation, desires to “shift from reactive recreation management to a proactive approach,” purporting to promote “equitable access to outdoor recreation opportunities while conserving, protecting and enhancing” the agency’s available resources and experiences.  

It boasts four strategic pillars: Grow and Diversify Resources for BLM Recreation;  Prioritize and Embrace Partnerships; Expand Outreach and Establish a Culture of Inclusion; and Meet the Demand, Protect Resources, and Improve Access. 

Despite the Blueprint pledging to “provide exceptional and one-of-a-kind recreational experiences that invite all to share in the enjoyment and stewardship of their public lands,” the Biden administration has favored partnerships with preservationist environmental groups (Principle 2) and enacted policies that aren’t inclusive (Principle 3) of longstanding conservation stakeholders like hunters and anglers. 

For instance, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland failed to commit to a “no net loss” policy that maintains current levels of hunting and fishing access on federal public lands. Her reluctance to adhere to this simple principle has already had implications. Additionally, Biden’s Fish and Wildlife Service is now conditioning future national wildlife refuge openings for fishing and hunting opportunities on lead phaseouts—a move that will price underserved communities out of these activities. Moreover, the Alaska Federal Subsistence Board closed off over 60 million public land acres to sheep and caribou hunting since March 2022.

The BLM is also finalizing a rule that goes squarely against the agency’s multiple-use mandate of public lands ascribed by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). Why? Existing commercial and recreational activities on public lands aren’t guaranteed by the proposed rule.

Where did the BLM Blueprint derive from? It was born out of an April 2022 Department of Interior Equity Action Plan stemming from one of President Joe Biden’s Day One executive orders on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

While there are many troubling aspects of DOI’s “Equity Action Plan,” one notably sticks out: the aggressive emphasis placed on environmental justice—a principle that fails to deliver justice for nature and the people it purports to help—to be carried out by projects like the Justice40 Initiative through its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Council

The Justice40 Initiative is the first “whole-of-government effort” tasked with collaborating with states and localities to push environmental justice and economic growth “by delivering at least 40 percent of the benefits from Federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.” This initiative was also born out of the aforementioned Day One Executive Order on Racial Equity. 

Back in March, I analyzed President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget at IWF and its focus on advancing environmental justice: 

Equally concerning is the budget’s push to fund so-called environmental justice and equity initiatives—or the S in ESG—to the tune of $1.8 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency and $150 million to the Department of Energy. Race shouldn’t be considered when allocating resources for environmental programs and initiatives; it should be needs-based and equally applied to all Americans regardless of demographics or zip code.

Initiatives purportedly advancing justice and equity, including proposals to ban per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, ultimately hurt disadvantaged communities. For instance, the EPA has deemed Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) as hazardous substances per the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The agency claims this rule change will shield vulnerable populations from exposure to toxic Superfund sites. But such PFAS and PFOS remediation efforts, as presented, would ultimately create a ‘community pays’—not ‘polluter pays’—model that passes down clean-up costs to minority, low-income areas. This isn’t justice; it’s virtue signaling that stands to cause more harm to the very communities these programs were purportedly created to protect.

The Great Outdoors is welcoming and open to all—as it should be. Important strides have been made to get more Americans camping, fishing, hiking, and hunting. Unfortunately, Team Biden’s actions stand to undermine this progress.

Outdoor recreation doesn’t need reimagining from a whole-of-government approach as the proposed 21st Century Blueprint recommends. Weaponizing conservation through ESG will undermine public access and insert unnecessary division into these relaxing activities.

To learn more about environmental justice, go HERE.