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New BLM Grazing Rules Released
Friday, June 17, 2005
New BLM Grazing Rules Released
They’ve basically stacked the deck in favor of ranchers – new rules limit public comment on grazing permit decisions and delay action for up to eight years when range managers suspect grazing is harming the land
Contact: Leslie Linthicum Albuquerque Journal
Public lands watchdogs said new federal grazing regulations released by the Bush White House on Thursday will make life easier for people whose livestock graze on public lands and make it harder for others to weigh in on decisions affecting the land.
Environmental and conservation groups said the new rules limit public comment on grazing permit decisions and delay action for up to eight years when range managers suspect grazing is harming the land.
“They’ve basically stacked the deck in favor of ranchers,” said Billy Stern, grazing program coordinator for Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians.
Ranchers were still looking at the rules, which span dozens of pages, to determine whether they got the specific changes they had lobbied for during a two-year public comment period.
“We’ve got ’em, we’re looking at ’em and we’re trying to see how they affect the guys on the ground,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.
The changes affect only the 160 million acres of BLM land that is open to grazing. Other regulations govern grazing in national forests.
A spokesman for the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau was unable to comment.
National Wildlife Federation lawyer Tom Lustig said the rules that will govern grazing on more than 100 million acres of BLM land in the West put decision making in the hands of the federal government and ranchers.
“It cuts out the public from the most important decisions about our public lands,” Lustig said.
The regulations change the definition of “interested public” able to weigh in on grazing permit decisions to individuals and organizations that have commented previously.
The rules will be made final in July and will take effect by the end of the summer.
Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton unveiled the proposed changes late in 2003 at a luncheon meeting of farmers and ranchers in Albuquerque.
At the time, Norton said the changes would help ranchers stay on the land.
The BLM in announcing the changes Thursday said they were “in recognition of the economic and social benefits of public lands grazing, as well as the role of ranching in preserving open space and wildlife habitat in the rapidly growing West.”
Give ranchers an ownership share in improvements they make on the BLM land they graze on. That includes fences, wells, pipelines and buildings.
Consider the social, cultural and economic effects on communities when determining levels of grazing use.
Require an initial monitoring period, then allow up to 24 months for the BLM to take action to correct grazing practices that are damaging the land or other resources.