Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release June 16, 2005


Contact: Greta Anderson, Botanist, Center for Biological Diversity (520)623-5252 x314
Billy Stern, Forest Guardians (505)988-9126 x151

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Guardians decried the new Bureau of Land Management regulations released today that shift the emphasis on public land management from wildlife, water and environmental quality to the new stated aim of “improving BLM’s working relationships with ranchers.” The regulations give new rights to the livestock industry on the 160 million acres of land that it leases from the American people and make it harder for the average citizen to participate in on-the-ground decision-making. The rules also make it harder for the agency to respond when they find reductions in grazing are needed to protect the environment.

“We are disgusted but not surprised by this administration’s consistent concern for private economic interests at the expense of public awareness and involvement,” said Greta Anderson, Botanist and Range Restoration Coordinator with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These new regulations allow the fox to guard the henhouse, and other interested parties are left without recourse as soils, water, vegetation and imperiled species suffer from the economic exploitation of our public lands.”

These revisions will no longer require the BLM to consult with the public on several key issues: designating and adjusting allotment boundaries, renewing/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 Bush administration is making it clear that they want to take the ‘public’ out of public lands,” said Billy Stern, Grazing reform Program Coordinator for Forest Guardians. “BLM Director Kathleen Clarke claims the ‘regulations will produce long-term rangeland-health benefits’ including ‘increased vegetation along stream banks, which will reduce soil erosion and provide more habitats for wildlife.’ That sounds wonderful. 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 bulk of the regulatory changes give new rights to the industry making it harder to remove livestock from the publicly-owned lands managed by the BLM. Specifically, the regulations:

  • Give the livestock industry title to future structures (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.
  • 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 is increasingly arguing that they have a right to graze on any land near their water rights, even if they don’t own the land.
  • 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 horses, and it opens up the industry to arguing that they can use up all available forage in an area, leaving nothing but dust and bare soil, no matter what the damage.
  • 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.
  • Remove public involvement 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.
  • Call for taking up to two years for proposing management changes, and up to five years to phase in grazing reductions needed to protect wildlife or water quality, rather than requiring a response the following year. This allows for damage to continue up to seven years.
  • State that all management changes must be supported by monitoring data, a change which the environmental community supports. However, after years of budget woes, it is unlikely that the BLM has conducted or will conduct comprehensive monitoring, further limiting the agency’s ability to effectively manage and make timely changes when necessary.
  • Leave current livestock numbers and grazing practices in place while areas are being reviewed under regulatory or legal action.
  • 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 R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity who formerly worked with 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,” “Wildlife, water quality, hunting, and fishing on public lands will suffer great harm if the Bush BLM has its way.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Guardians represent more than 15,000 Americans who believe public lands should be managed primarily for the conservation of fish and wildlife.


more press releases. . .

Go back