Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy
Protect public lands from livestock grazing!
Comment on BLM’s proposed changes to grazing regulations by March 6
Why we are concerned about BLM’s proposal to revise its grazing regulation:
BLM proposes to authorize grazing to reduce wildfire risk and improve rangeland conditions. There is no scientific evidence that grazing can do either. To the contrary, there is substantial scientific data and literature that grazing is a significant cause of the spread of invasive species such as cheatgrass and increases the risk of larger, more frequent wildfires.
BLM proposes to improve “grazing permit administration” and “permitting efficiency,” increase the use of Categorical Exclusions and streamline the protest and appeals processes. This spells out reduced environmental analysis and an attempt to limit opportunities for the public to be informed about and participate in grazing management decisions.
The proposal states that BLM will promote land health by “Considering where and how the BLM will evaluate the Land Health Fundamentals and Standards.” Currently, the BLM is supposed to do this for all grazing allotments – analyze whether and to what extent each allotment is meeting the land health standards. Unfortunately, the agency has been woefully inept at doing so, resulting in degraded fish and wildlife habitat, denuded streams, and the replacement of native plants and grasses with invasive species. Yet, instead of stepping up and complying with the current regulations, BLM proposes to weaken them even further by allowing the agency to choose when and if to evaluate compliance. This will not promote land health.
Instead of weakening the regulations, we propose a number of ways that BLM should improve them to reduce the risk of wildfire, restore streams and riparian areas that are the West’s arteries of life for almost all wildlife, birds, fish, amphibians and other species, improve conditions on over 155 million acres of public lands, and provide more flexibility in grazing management (from our friends at Western Watersheds Project):
- Allow for grazing permit retirement and long-term non-use for conservation purposes.
- Create no new categorical exclusions and expand use of EAs and EISs.
- Facilitate greater levels of public engagement, including through posting monitoring reports online for public review, inviting the interested public to attend field visits, and notifying the public of all grazing permit decisions.
- Require grazing management to improve carbon sequestration in soils and analyze grazing in context of the climate crisis.
- Ensure grazing management preserves the habitat value of grazed lands for native plant and wildlife species.
- Ensure grazing management does not impede grazed lands from serving as habitat for native predators.
- Ensure NEPA analyses appropriately considers the habitat of species in crisis and the broader extinction crisis underway.
- Honestly evaluate the contribution of livestock grazing to cheatgrass and accelerated fire cycles and provide more opportunity for the public to evaluate site-specific proposals for fire-related livestock actions.
- Forbid destruction of native vegetation to increase forage for livestock.
- Ensure that the Land Health Standards are evaluated at least once a decade using peer-review scientific and quantifiable methods.
- Include water quality monitoring as part of the land health evaluations.
- Include an accurate and site specific economic analysis of grazing with every permit renewal, revealing the money obtained from grazing fees against the cost of administering the permit.
- Disclose underlying Indigenous land claims and address environmental justice issues.
- Require grazing management to maintain and improve wilderness characteristics and other special values of grazed lands.
- Require use of the best available science in livestock grazing decisions.
- Set a fair and equitable grazing fee based on comparable private land prices
The BLM is also holding four open houses where you can make your voice heard:
- Miles City, Montana, February 6, at Sleep Inn and Suites, 1006 S. Haynes Ave., from 4:30-7:30 pm.
- Las Cruses, New Mexico, February 11, at the Ramada Palms Hotel, 201 East University Ave.
- Elko, Nevada, February 18, at the Elko Convention Center, 700 Moren Way.
- Casper, Wyoming, February 20, at the Casper Event Center, 1 Events Drive.
Please, raise your voice for wildness on 155 million acres of public land.