Recently, the Bush administration proposed to alter the rules that now govern livestock grazing on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The proposed changes would overturn efforts over the past decade--including 1995 regulations by the Clinton administration aimed at improving public rangeland condition and reducing the impacts of grazing on watersheds, wildlife, and cultural treasures.
The Sierra Club's National Grazing Committee asks for your help in defending our public lands from this attack by the Bush administration. The regulatory changes proposed are part of the continuing pattern of President Bush to line the pockets of his wealthy supporters (including large corporate ranchers) by degrading our public lands and placing the costs on the back of all American taxpayers.
Some Key Problems of the Proposed Rules:
Restricting public input into decisions about public lands grazing
The Bush administration is proposing to limit public participation to generic, broad land use plans which are not designed to correct specific problems. Other changes give increased powers to ranchers at the expense of the owners of the land--the citizens – and the ecological health of the land by precluding challenges from the public to poor decisions by the agency.
Ending the requirement for prompt action to address harmful grazing practices and requiring years of detailed monitoring data before action is taken against damaging grazing.
Together, these two rule changes virtually ensure that necessary changes will not be made. BLM professionals generally know what actions are needed to correct problems from improper grazing because the studies they have done are sufficient to show damage from overgrazing. A U.S. General Accounting Office study showed that BLM had neither the money nor the staff to perform the detailed studies proposed in the new regulations. Lacking funds and staff, these new studies—which are usually unnecessary—will almost never happen, allowing further damage to continue.
Limiting the conditions under which a grazing permit may be revoked.
The Bush proposal would make it easier for livestock owners to violate applicable laws without fear that their permits could be revoked. Grazing permits are not rights. Nevertheless, the Bush administration is taking decisions about public lands from us and giving them to special interests
Giving ranchers ownership of so-called "range improvements" and water rights.
This would give livestock owners clear title to permanent rangeland installations such as wells, fences, and pipelines on BLM public lands even though most of those have been built with money from BLM. This will make it hard to close overgrazed areas to grazing or replace poor ranchers with good ones.
A failure to consider alternatives.
The proposed rules are accompanied by a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS fails to consider an adequate range of alternatives to the terrible proposed rule changes.
In short, the Sierra Club believes that the Bush administration's proposed BLM grazing regulations will have a long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general. Habitat will continue to decline due to the lengthening of an already burdensome grazing management process, the further erosion of the BLM's ability to control illegal and resource-degrading activities on public lands, and an increase in livestock operators' opportunities to acquire rights to livestock range improvements and water rights on public lands. The cumulative effects resulting from all these and other changes will be significant and adverse for wildlife and biological diversity in the long-term and is a step in privatizing our public lands.
What You Can Do
Write a letter to BLM by March 2. Use this alert and your own knowledge to detail problems with the new rules and EIS. Tell the BLM you are commenting on both the rules and EIS. Be sure to include your name and address, and sign those sent by mail. Send your letter US PO to:
Director (220), Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, Virginia 22153, Attn: Revised Grazing Regulations DEIS
visit BLM's website at http://www.blm.gov/grazing. You can express your concerns about the proposed regulations by submitting comments online at this site or at WOComment@blm.gov.
Send a copy of your letter to your Senator or Representative.