WASHINGTON, 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 with ranchers.”
“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
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required if the lease or permit was revoked.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 wild
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
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
“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 Reserved.