Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Grazing to continue on parts of Craters of the Moon

WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced that livestock grazing will continue on BLM-managed portions of the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. “By working together with our stakeholders, we can strike a balance of various uses in this iconic national monument while also serving the greater community,” said BLM Acting Director Michael Nedd. “Our multiple-use mission helps ensure that public lands — including Craters of the Moon — work for local communities and visitors alike.”Craters of the Moon, which the BLM co-manages with the National Park Service, covers a total of approximately 750,000 federally managed acres and is known for its geologic features that includes exceptional volcanic landscapes. Today’s decision satisfies a 2012 order of the U.S. District Court of Idaho to complete an amendment for the Monument plan that analyzes a no-grazing alternative and a reduced grazing alternative. “We studied various alternatives, including ones that reduced grazing by three-quarters or one-half of current rates, or eliminated grazing altogether,” said Idaho BLM Twin Falls District Manager Michael Courtney. “We found that we could manage sagebrush landscapes just as effectively with small adjustments to grazing levels that wouldn’t negatively impact the economy of the communities surrounding the Monument.” The plan will have a minimal impact on the actual number of livestock allowed, which will be at about 99 percent of current levels. The plan also establishes protections for sagebrush vegetation within the Monument that provides habitat for more than 100 wildlife species...more

 By Proclamation 7373 President Clinton enlarged the Craters Moon monument.on November 9, 2000. Here is the grazing language in that proclamation:

 Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the Bureau of Land Management in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on all lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Let's compare that with the grazing language in the Proclamation designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument:

Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the BLM in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument, consistent with the protection of the objects identified above. 

Notice the new clause inserted at the end of the language. Here is what I've previously written about this new language:

 A new phrase has been added to the livestock grazing language in the OMDP Proclamation that makes it the most anti-grazing of any Proclamation where grazing is still allowed. The new language is underlined:
Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the BLM in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument, consistent with the protection of the objects identified above.

This “consistency” phrase sets up a two-tiered management system, where other uses (such as wildlife, recreation, science, etc.) are the dominant use and livestock grazing is the subservient use. If a rancher wants to maintain an existing range improvement or continue a current management practice and it is determined to be not consistent, that maintenance or current management practice will be denied or not be allowed. The same would hold true for constructing a new range improvement, as livestock grazing is no longer on an equal footing with other uses.

The environmental community wanted this new language in the Proclamation, as they have not had the success they had hoped for in filing lawsuits against livestock grazing in National Monuments.

Who is responsible for this anti-grazing language? Look no further than Senators Udall and Heinrich. Six months prior to President Obama signing the OMDP Proclamation, they introduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, and therein you will find the “consistency” phrase.

To demonstrate just how anti-grazing the OMDP language is, let’s compare it to a Proclamation signed by President Obama a year later. The Proclamation for the 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada reads:

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect authorizations for livestock grazing, or administration thereof, on Federal lands within the monument. Livestock grazing within the monument shall continue to be governed by laws and regulations other than this proclamation.

The language is clear and precise that the designation does not affect the administration of livestock grazing, and results in livestock grazing being on an equal footing with other uses.

In the New Mexico monument, grazing is subservient to all the other objects to be protected, while in Nevada the monument designation has no affect on grazing.  How can this be?  Where is the “consistency” in that? Why are ranchers in one state treated differently than ranchers in a similar situation in another state? The NM ranchers should not be singled out and discriminated against  and President Trump can remedy this by revising the NM Proclamations accordingly.
 I believe what just happened at Craters Moon is an example of why the enviros wanted the new language inserted. Just read Evolving Presidential Policy toward Livestock Grazing in National Monuments and you will understand their long-standing concerns with grazing in national monuments.

Our fears about the new language were confirmed early on in preparing the management plan for the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument which has consistency language almost identical to ours. There, in the BLM's scoping documents, the first three grazing issues to be resolved were:

What are the potential impacts of livestock grazing on the Monument objects? How can any adverse impacts be avoided or otherwise mitigated?

Should any areas within the Monument be made unavailable for livestock grazing?

Should voluntarily relinquished grazing permits be allocated to other uses?

The new language is having the affect the enviros sought. In the Craters Moon case one wonders what the judge would have ruled and what the BLM's decision would have been had the consistency language been in that Proclamation?

Secretary Zinke and President Trump have a clear choice before them. Either they let the Enviro/Udall/Heinrich anti-grazing language stand, or they do the appropriate thing for the West and the resource by revising the Proclamations to instead have grazing language such as that in the Basin and Range Proclamation. Which will it be?    

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