BLM Grazing Lands Largely Fail Health Assessment

Grazing lands under the agency’s management are not meeting its own criteria for ecosystem conservation and sustainable use.

1 minute read

May 19, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Herd of cattle grazing in field with cowboy on horse watching them.

Cattle grazing on a Western grassland. | Daisuke Ito / Adobe Stock

An analysis from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reveals that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is failing to meet agency standards in caring for the 56.7 million acres of rangeland under its purvey, writes Jimmy Tobias in High Country News. “Particularly hard-hit are the high, cold deserts of Nevada, Wyoming and southern Idaho; In Nevada alone, approximately 22 million acres of public grazing land do not meet health standards.”

The report found that the BLM did not conduct health assessments on 24 percent of its grazing lands between 1997 and 2023, and half of those that were evaluated failed to meet standards for water quality, watershed protection, and conservation. “It’s not just overgrazing; invasive weeds, wildfires, off-road vehicle use, drought and more all contribute to the deteriorating health of the public domain,” Tobias explains. Bureaucracy, too, plays a part: “Thanks to a loophole embedded in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the agency isn’t required to complete environmental reviews before reissuing grazing permits to ranchers.”

Historically, the BLM has bowed to pressure from ranching interests, doing little to combat illegal grazing and other destructive practices. A new rule issued by the Biden administration last month expands the land health evaluation program to include “all surface acreage under the agency’s purview.”

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