EMA voices support for small businesses in face of new BLM rule

Arlington, VA, June 15, 2023 – The Essential Minerals Association (EMA) voiced its support for action taken by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to a proposed rule by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would negatively impact small businesses who lease land from the federal government for the purposes laid out in the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA).

On Tuesday, June 13, the SBA’s Office of Advocacy sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland asking BLM to consider the impact of its proposed “Conservation Land Health” rule on small businesses. Cited in SBA’s letter were several concerns about major changes to BLM’s current land management practices, including the provision for new conservation leases and the impact they would have on other land uses such as grazing, mining, and timber.

EMA and several members spoke with SBA about the industry’s concerns, specifically raising three concerns that are identified in SBA’s letter. First, the proposed rule does not properly explain how conservation leases are compatible with the multiple use land management goals laid out in FLPMA. EMA agrees with SBA’s assessment that BLM does not have the statutory authority to create a new lease category that would make the other principal uses, such as mining, incompatible.

Secondly, the proposed rule offers too much discretion to BLM that may result in elevating conservation above the other principal land management uses. Conservation is not a finite land use, and the ability to indefinitely extend conservation leases may impede other land uses explicitly stated in FLPMA. Additionally, under the proposed rule, BLM could restrict leases that impair “ecosystem resilience,” which includes mining and a number of other principal land management uses.

Finally, BLM’s proposal does not account for required actions that lease holders already take with respect to conservation goals and does not consider alternatives. Mining companies are already undertaking NEPA compliance measures to mitigate the impacts of their activities and restore lands once their activities have expired.

Depending on the type of mining operation, mineral production companies are classified as a small business if they have 1,500 employees or fewer.

EMA urges BLM to reconsider their rulemaking in accordance with the measures identified by the Small Business Association. Any new proposed lease categories must fall under the regulatory authority created under FLPMA, which lays out provisions for BLM to follow in its management of federal lands within the United States.


The Essential Minerals Association (EMA) is the representative voice for companies that extract and process a vital and beneficial group of raw materials and minerals, which are the essential ingredients for many of the products used in everyday life. Formerly, the Industrial Minerals Association – North America, EMA ensures that the voices of its member companies and the socio-economic benefits they provide – from mining to end-use products – are heard by government leaders as well as the general public. Visit essentialminerals.org to learn more.