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Prof. Bret Birdsong, Boyd School of Law UNLV and Deputy Solicitor for Land Resources, U.S. Dept of the Interior

BY ERIK HELLING -- UNLV Boyd School of Law Professor Bret Birdsong will put theory into practice in his new role as senior lawyer at the Bureau of Land Management, giving advice to the Secretary of the Interior and members of the BLM. Birdsong says he won’t directly make policy, but in his role as a lawyer, he will directly influence it.

 “It’s a lawyer’s job, and a lawyer’s job is to provide legal advice. But the folks I’ll be giving legal advice to are policy makers,” says Birdsong.

In response to criticisms of the BLM’s slow procedure in approving federal land projects, Birdsong states that most BLM procedures typically take a while.

“The Renewable Development of Public land is subject to a variety of different laws that require consideration of various factors including whether it’s a good use of the land, environmental impacts, and impacts on threatened or endangered species,” says Birdsong.

Another typically slow approval process is the continued development of the traditional energy industry, such as oil and gas. Birdsong says that the time expended is only to make sure the decisions they make are sound.

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“The question of how to make good decisions is just one of the tough spots that I think federal land management agencies find themselves in around the west. The BLM has legal standards; they have to take into consideration environmental impacts. They have to achieve various multiple use objectives, balance things like wildlife habitat conservation with exploitation or economic use of the land,” says Birdsong.

Birdsong believes the lengthy approval process is necessary.

“There’s a saying out there that says multiple use is not for sissies. The BLM is sort of between many different, competing interests who are looking to achieve their own vision of the public lands.”

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