Ride 'em Cowboy: A Critical Look at BLM's Proposed New Grazing Regulations
Environmental Law, Vol. 34, p. 1123, 2004
20 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2004
On December 8, 2003, the United States Department of the Interior issued proposed amendments to the regulations governing livestock grazing on over 160 million acres of western public lands managed by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM). According to the Federal Register notice proposing the amendments, they are designed to 'improve working relationships with permittees' and to 'protect the health of rangelands.' However, the amendments would exclude the non-ranching public from critical BLM decision making by deleting requirements for consultation with interested parties when BLM issues, modifies, or renews grazing permits. The amendments would also repeal some environmental standards applicable to public rangelands, delay implementation of others, and impose data collection requirements that would render most such standards unenforceable. Finally, by allowing livestock ranchers to hold title to range improvements and water rights on public lands, the amendments would limit BLM's ability to manage these lands for public purposes including wildlife conservation, recreation, and watershed protection. An internal draft of an environmental impact statement (EIS), prepared by BLM staff, revealed some of the negative environmental consequences of the proposed regulatory amendments. However, before it could be released to the public, the internal draft was replaced by a sanitized draft EIS with the critical portions removed. This article exposes the degree to which the proposed regulations close the door to improved management of the public lands, and encourages reconsideration of those regulations before they become final.
Keywords: Environmental Law, United States Bureau of Land Management, rangelands
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