DC, June 21, 2005 (ENS): New Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) regulations released last week give
new rights to the livestock industry on the 160 million
acres of public land leased by ranchers and make it
harder for the average citizen to participate in on
the ground decisionmaking, two conservation groups say.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Guardians
say the revisions will no longer require the BLM to
consult with the public on designating and adjusting
allotment boundaries, renewing and issuing grazing permits
and leases, modifying permits or leases, or issuing
temporary permits or leases.
"This means that citizens will no longer be informed
or have opportunity to participate in the management
of our public lands," the groups said.
The agency said the regulations were changed for the
purpose of “improving BLM’s working relationships
“The Bush administration is making it clear that
they want to take the ‘public’ out of public
lands,” said Billy Stern with Forest Guardians.
BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said, “This environmental
impact study shows that grazing management under the
new regulations will produce long-term rangeland health
benefits. These benefits include increased vegetation
along stream banks, which will reduce soil erosion and
provide more habitats for wildlife.”
Under the new regulations, she noted, the BLM’s
grazing management decisions will be based on better
information about rangeland conditions.
"That sounds wonderful," said Stern. "However,
only one of more than a dozen changes to the regulation
has any potential benefit to streams and wildlife, while
the rest move forward the administration’s agenda
of privatizing public lands and limiting public involvement.”
The regulations give the livestock industry title to
future structures, such as fences, wells and pipelines
built at government expense for the benefit of the industry.
This means compensation would be required if the lease
or permit was revoked.
The new rules remove the requirement for the BLM to
seek ownership of the water rights associated with federal
land, when they become available under state law. The
livestock industry argues that ranchers have a right
to graze on any land near their water rights, even if
they do not own the land.
The regulations expand the definition of “grazing
preference” linking it to a specific amount of
forage, rather than a specific area or “allotment.”
This means with any decrease in forage due to drought,
weed invasion or generally declining conditions, livestock
would be given preference to forage over wildlife or
The regulations modify the definition of “interested
public” in a way that would exclude newcomers
to an area from participating in livestock grazing decisions,
since they would have had no chance to comment of previous
decisions, and burdens the rest of the public by requiring
continuing involvement to maintain “interested
public” status even if they are only interested
in specific decisions.
Public involvement is removed from biological assessments
and evaluations done for wildlife, even if they could
have contributed new scientific documentation or evidence.
This leaves such studies to be written “in house”
and reviewed and revised only by government officials
who may or may not have wildlife or ecological expertise.
The new rules allow livestock grazing permit holders
who have violated BLM laws and regulation on one allotment
to continue to hold other permits, leaving these areas
vulnerable to further violations and ecological damage.
“These new regs are an unethical political scam
from Interior Dept. political appointees in Washington
DC," said Daniel Patterson, ecologist with the
Center for Biological Diversity who formerly worked
with the BLM.
"BLM is trying to reverse years of progress on
rangeland restoration to serve a handful of cowmen at
great cost to the public-interest,” said Patterson.
“Wildlife, water quality, hunting, and fishing
on public lands will suffer great harm if the Bush BLM
has its way.”
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights