| MEDIA RELEASE
INTERIOR DEPARTMENT MOVES TO CUT CONSERVATION AND CITIZEN PARTICIPATION ON WESTERN PUBLIC LANDS
Contact: Greta Anderson, Range Restoration Director 520.227.9275
WASHINGTON, DC – In another giveaway to industry, Bush’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pushing new rules that would limit public oversight of public lands grazing leases across millions of acres of the West. These rules are another administration attack on the influential National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an important law which has protected the public interest for more than 36 years.
Livestock grazing on arid western public lands is a significant environmental threat to wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation. Interior Secretary Gale Norton and BLM want to categorically exclude livestock grazing permits from the NEPA analysis in cases where allotments have been evaluated and the allotments are determined to be meeting land health standards. However, there is no requirement that these determinations involve standard science-based monitoring data, or any quantifiable rationale, and there will be no opportunity for the public to participate in helping to make those determinations. There will be no analysis of cumulative effects, harm to plants and wildlife, or impacts to imperiled species. There is also no limit to the number of these permits that can be excluded in any given year, which could lead to widespread abuses on the ground.
“BLM’s rules are a big threat to western landscapes and we will fight them,” said Greta Anderson, Range Restoration Director with the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona. “NEPA has provided a way to participate in public lands ranching decisions. BLM wants to cut out essential public interest input and concerns.”
The new rules also propose to exclude “temporary non-renewable grazing use permits” from NEPA. Unfortunately, even short-term grazing can have long-term harmful impacts to the western web-of-life, and BLM should be taking a hard look and analyzing all of the impacts of even temporary use. Livestock grazing on arid lands accelerates erosion, pollutes waterways, degrades wildlife habitat and alters vegetation communities. Americans deserve to know what BLM is choosing for our public lands.