New Grazing Rules Threaten Fish and Wildlife

From: The Center for Biological Diversity Kempthorne Approves New Controversial Grazing Rules Tucson, Ariz. ¾ The first major policy change under the new Secretary of the Department of the Interior does not bode well for the future of America’s public lands: Kempthorne’s Bureau of Land Management today released hotly contested new rules for livestock grazing that limit public participation, make it harder to improve land management, and are aimed at “improving the working relationship with ranchers.” “Secretary Kempthorne is following Gale Norton’s lead in allowing private interests to control our public lands,” said Greta Anderson, Range Restoration Coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The new rules are an unabashed hand-out to the grazing industry.” These revisions will no longer require the BLM to inform or consult with the general public on numerous issues, including designating and adjusting allotment boundaries, renewing/issuing grazing permits and leases, modifying permits or leases, or issuing temporary permits or leases. The new regulations also give ranchers title to new structures built at taxpayer expense on their leased allotments, as well as provide opportunities for private interests to gain new water rights on public land. Additionally, the new regulations call for taking up to two years for proposing management changes and up to five years to phase in grazing reductions needed to protect wildlife or water quality, rather than requiring a response the following year. This allows damage to continue for up to seven years. “Essentially, the new regulations limit the agency’s ability to manage pro-actively, and it reflects the prioritization of the industry agenda,” said Anderson. “They limit the BLM’s ability to implement timely changes, limit public oversight of the process, and thereby impair the quality of wildlife habitat, soils, water and cultural resources on millions of acres of public land.” If this policy change is any indication of Kempthorne’s agenda, there is good reason to worry about the upcoming changes to the Endangered Species Act that Kempthorne is reportedly working on. (end) The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and their habitats.