Trump Administration Strips Public Participation, Environmental Safeguards from Public Land Grazing Program

Here’s what the U.S. Forest Service’s federal public lands colleagues are up to the the Bureau of Land Management. The press release is from Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.

Trump Administration Strips Public Participation, Environmental Safeguards from Public Land Grazing Program

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2020

BOISE, Ida. –– In an advance notice of rulemaking published today, the Trump Administration announced plans to further deregulate the public lands livestock industry by proposing a suite of changes to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) grazing regulations. The agency is soliciting public comments on the consequences of the proposed changes.

Livestock grazing is the most pervasive use of western public lands. Public lands grazing is responsible for destruction of wildlife habitat, streams and riparian areas, the increase in invasive weeds across the West, and the subsequent increase in wildfire frequency and severity. Rather than craft new regulations that reduce grazing impacts and improve the health of public lands, today’s notice makes it clear that the BLM intends to further weaken its oversight of grazing impacts, reduce public input on grazing decisions, and promote the false narrative that more grazing is the solution to the problems it has created, such as increased number and severity of wildfires.

Today’s notice also demonstrates that the BLM is more interested in appeasing grazing permittees that break the rules rather than enforcing regulations that require the agency to report trespass grazing and other actions in violation of the permits. This is a clear nod to the Bundy crowd that they can get away with their illegal grazing and the BLM will just look the other way.

“We already see very, very few grazing permits undergoing environmental analysis as it is,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The Trump Administration apparently intends to gut even that level of informed public participation in administering this heavily subsidized handout on federal lands.”

“BLM’s falsehood that increased grazing will reduce wildfire risk is dangerous,” said Judi Brawer, Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Increased grazing with less oversight will inevitably result in more weeds such as cheatgrass spread across public lands, destroying wildlife habitat, and resulting in more and higher severity fires.”

The Bush Administration also tried to gut the grazing regulations in 2006, an attempt that was thwarted by a lawsuit from Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West. These regulatory rollbacks were permanently enjoined by the courts in 2007, but it appears the Trump Administration is going to try again to thwart the public interest and eliminate environmental safeguards on 160 million acres of BLM grazing lands.

13 thoughts on “Trump Administration Strips Public Participation, Environmental Safeguards from Public Land Grazing Program”

  1. It’s scoping…
    “The BLM plans to initiate a rulemaking to address the Congressional amendments
    and the GAO’s concerns, as well as ensure that the CFR reflects the applicable
    regulations governing the grazing program in the continental United States. In addition,
    the BLM is interested in amending 43 CFR part 4100 to address the following:
     Updating and modernizing the regulations, including revising definitions to
    provide more accurate and concise descriptions of the terms, and to align with
    current statutory, and regulatory authorities; rewording certain sections to
    improve readability and understanding; and considering ways to improve grazing

    Permit administration, such as: transfers of grazing preference; provisions that
    allow for greater flexibility for using livestock grazing to address fuel loads and
    protect areas with high quality habitat from wildfire; continued Resource
    Advisory Committee review of rangeland improvements and allotment
    management plans; and emergency public consultation.

     Improving permitting efficiency. This could include, for example, changing how
    the BLM issues decisions for crossing permits, temporary nonrenewable permits,
    and authorizing grazing to reduce wildfire risk, expanded or clarified use of
    NEPA categorical exclusion authorities, and streamlining protest and appeal
     Promoting land health. Considering where and how the BLM will evaluate the
    Land Health Fundamentals and Standards. Explore ways to use livestock grazing
    to reduce wildfire risk and improve rangeland conditions.

     Public participation. The BLM seeks to ensure adequate participation of all
    stakeholders without unduly burdening administrative processes.
    The purpose of the public-scoping process is to determine relevant issues that will
    influence the scope of the EIS, including alternatives, and guide the process for
    developing the EIS”

    Honestly, it doesn’t sound so bad to me. If the Trump administration really wanted to give goodies to public land grazing folks, though, I think they would have started an ANPR before January of an election year…

    • The ability (In-ability? Refusal?) of some folks to not see what clearly is happening before their very eyes (especially in the context of THIS administration and our public lands heritage) never ceases to amaze me.

      • I simply think that if “this admininstration” cared so much about the BLM regs we would have seen an ANPR before now.

        E.g. even the FS NEP ANPR was a year ago, and seems like it has more of a chance of being completed before the end of the Administration.

  2. Perhaps instead of uncritically re-posting a press release from stalwart anti-grazing organizations you should read the ANPR for meaning and opportunity and respond to the purpose for this public scoping process? The reasoning for undertaking this project at this time is of some interest:

    “Since the first adoption of grazing regulations after passage of the TGA, the BLM
    has periodically modified, revised, and updated its regulations in response to legislative
    and policy changes and implementation challenges. The BLM comprehensively revised
    its grazing regulations in 1995 and 2006. In 2007, the U.S. District Court in Idaho
    permanently enjoined implementation of the 2006 amendments. The U.S. Court of
    Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the permanent injunction in 2011.

    The BLM has managed public land livestock grazing activities in conformance
    with the regulations that were in effect immediately before the 2006 amendments were
    adopted (October 1, 2005 edition of 43 CFR part 4100), except for the conservation use
    permit provision previously struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth
    Circuit in 1999. The 1995 regulations without the provision for conservation use permits
    have never been published in the CFR. Despite the injunction, the 2006 amended version
    of the grazing administration regulations still appears in the CFR. This has created
    significant confusion for grazing permittees and lessees, BLM staff, the public, and the

    Essentially, the current state of affairs is that BLM is required to manage grazing according to the 1995 version of the rule while the stricken 2006 version is the one that is presently published at CFR Part 4100. This does indeed create considerable confusion for all stakeholders AND the courts.

    The scoping process is opening on January 21st to give ALL stakeholders the opportunity to provide input as to their ‘druthers for the upcoming revised version. It has nothing to do with the preferences of the Trump administration, which may or may not be in charge of the executive branch when the final rule is adopted.

    Accusing the Bush administration of trying to “. . . gut the grazing regulations in 2006” is very much a non-starter for me because the Obama administration had eight full years to revise them, and failed to even bother to initiate the effort.

    Blame and aspersions enough to go all ’round and beat both political parties severely about the head and shoulders, but there’s a huge opportunity here for those who care to pick up the baton. We’d all be better served to do that, don’t you think?

    • Perhaps I have great respect for both Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians and have next to zero trust in the motivations of the Bureau of Land Management in general, but especially under the direction of the Trump administration and “Acting Director” William “The Sagebrush Rebel” Perry Pendley (who according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility [PEER]) is serving in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s “advice and consent” of the Senate, under Article II, Section 2).

      Also, perhaps these groups are experts on the impacts of public lands grazing. And perhaps these groups aren’t so much “anti-grazing” as they are pro-public lands, pro-native wildlife and pro-clean water.

      Finally, I’m a political independent and am certainly not a democratic and wasn’t a support of the Obama administration. So attempts to paint us into that corner fall pretty flat, as many of us actively were pushing (and very critical) of the Obama administration (and the D party) on a host of public lands issues, including the grazing program.

      Finally, regarding “a huge opportunity here for those who care to pick up the baton.”

      The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act is expected to be introduced in Congress next week and many pro-public lands, pro-wildlife and pro-wilderness groups support the concept. Other folks are welcome to join the cause. Thanks.

  3. “Essentially, the current state of affairs is that BLM is required to manage grazing according to the 1995 version of the rule while the stricken 2006 version is the one that is presently published at CFR Part 4100. This does indeed create considerable confusion for all stakeholders AND the courts.”

    If that were the only problem, it sounds like book-keeping – BLM should be able to just formally withdraw the 2006 regulations. So it sounds like a Trojan horse – “we’ll just clean up a few other things while we’re at it.” Not unlike what BLM did with the results of a minor court loss on sage grouse, turning that into a complete rewrite that was not good for the species. Though I’ll admit that some of the Trump Administration’s anti-environmental regulatory changes have not gone as far as I feared they might, there just isn’t a lot of trust there. It’s fair to assume the worst and start the pushback early.

    For example, the ANPR is an opportunity to disagree with the basic premise that grazing reduces fires – and put the scientific evidence in a place where they can’t ignore it.

  4. According to Western Watersheds Project:

    “Something like an average of 70 percent of all grazing permits are currently renewed [on federal public lands] without an environmental analysis. Varies by state, but it’s a huge problem already.”


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