Back to the Present: The Supreme Court Refuses to Move Public Range Law Backward, but Will the BLM Move Public Range Management Forward?
Joseph M. Feller
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Environmental Law Reporter, Vol. 31, p. 10021, 2001
At least since the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the law has regarded federal public lands as a public resource, managed for the best interests of the American people by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While the BLM has the authority to restrict grazing on public land in order to enhance other public uses, such as environmental uses, in practice the BLM has been reluctant to abridge the permittee’s grazing privileges. This reluctance has engendered ranchers’ expectations that these privileges are their rights, but after the Clinton/Babbitt Administration’s Rangeland Reform failed to satisfy these expectations, the Supreme Court, in Public Lands Council v. Babbitt, upheld the denial of these expectations. This decision was not a major step forward in public rangeland law, but was a reiteration of well-established principles. While the Court’s holding, and other aspects of Rangeland Reform, promise a more enlightened approach to public grazing in the future, a positive ecological result depends upon satisfactory BLM implementation, which may be unlikely. More importantly, the new regulations do not alter the assumption that livestock grazing is an appropriate use of virtually all public lands, regardless of the ecological consequences. Because of this, those concerned about the negative impacts of livestock grazing on public lands should continue to pursue alternative avenues of reform like litigation and market transactions compensating ranchers not to graze on public lands.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19
Keywords: Natural Resource Law, Environmental Law, Land Use
Date posted: September 4, 2009
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