Tuesday, October 06, 2015

BLM plans spark debate over grazing permits

Federal land managers are proposing to reduce livestock grazing within parts of Washington County’s designated conservation areas, citing a need to restore native vegetation and provide habitat for the federally protected Mojave Desert Tortoise but drawing heavy criticism from local leadership. The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comments on its proposed “Resource Management Plan” for two separate parts of the county that Congress designated as National Conservation Areas in 2009. The draft plans, available on the BLM’s website, recommend steps such as a limits on the number and type of grazing allotments available within the conservation areas and the automatic retirement of grazing permits as ranchers give them up.  Grazing creates food competition with species like the tortoise and complicates already difficult efforts to restore the native desert shrublands typical of the two conservation areas, according to documents attached to the BLM’s draft plans. In written comments distributed last week among county leadership and major stakeholders, officials argue the BLM’s proposals come without any substantive scientific evidence and fails to account for the potential harm, such as overgrown grasses that create fire hazards. Wildfires in 2005, 2006 and 2012 wiped out large numbers of tortoises. “The county would urge the BLM to use proper grazing management as a tool to reduce fine fuels,” according to the document. Some local leaders also feel the RMPs represent broken promises. County Commissioner Alan Gardner saying Friday he saw the proposals as a backdoor attempt to violate compromises that were reached after years of negotiation leading up to the 2009 lands bill. “The County’s position was that if there was to be any consideration of reducing grazing, the Lands Bill would not be introduced,” Gardner writes in some of his prepared commentary on the draft RMP. “We were told that the language used in the bill was the standard language and would allow grazing to continue at current levels. We assured the grazers that their grazing rights were safe.”...more

Will do some research on this, but they probably  fell for the language saying grazing is allowed to continue "to the extent it occurred" prior to the designation and subject to the "reasonable regulation" of the Secretary.  


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