Agency Records Paint Bleak Picture of Western Landscape

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Monday, March 14, 2022
Chandra Rosenthal

Agency Records Paint Bleak Picture of Western Landscape

New Map Shows Harmful Impacts of BLM Livestock Grazing Program


Washington, DC — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) today announced the release of a comprehensive digital map on the assessments of rangeland health on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This map paints a bleak picture of the Sagebrush West, with huge swaths failing fundamental landscape health standards with current livestock grazing management identified as a significant cause.

BLM administers 155 million acres of leased grazing allotments on public lands in 13 western states. The map creates a visual compilation of the agency’s data on the rangeland health of each allotment and identifies allotments failing to achieve standards where livestock grazing was determined to be a significant factor.

Among the findings:

    • More than 50 percent of BLM acres assessed fail land health standards (LHS) and identify livestock grazing as a significant cause. This means an area of 54 million acres, roughly the size of Wisconsin state, fail to meet LHS standards due to overgrazing.
    • Much of the Greater Sage-grouse Priority and General Habitat Management Area lies within BLM allotments in ecoregions where more than forty percent of lands assessed to date fail to achieve land health standards due to livestock grazing.
    • BLM has yet to assess 27 percent of leased grazing allotments, or nearly 41million acres.

In response to a failure of land health standards, BLM is authorized to change the season of permitted use, change the number of livestock permitted on allotments or even remove livestock.

“BLM has never undertaken an effort to digitize their land health data and create a formal, centralized, integrated data warehouse, and to take full advantage of the gold mine of data they already have,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal. “We hope this map will prompt BLM leadership to use their authorization and make informed management decisions. Lands are failing land health standards and it is time to make changes.”

To create the map, PEER obtained through the Freedom of Information Act the entire set of BLM allotment land health evaluation records three times, each containing information on 21,000 allotments, compiled, corrected errors, and updated them. When draped over high-resolution satellite imagery, the PEER database of BLM records provides both the most recent recorded land health status as well as a birds-eye view of ground conditions for all allotments in 13 states.

Users of the map are able to combine it with other federal GIS mapping layers, including National Wilderness Areas, ecoregions, Greater Sage-grouse management habitat areas and breeding bird densities, wild horse management areas, a recent U.S. Drought Monitor Map, and the BLM Assessment, Inventory, Monitoring (AIM) data, which are collected to understand the status, condition and trend of resources on BLM lands.

“We must all work together to improve conservation practices on public lands,” added Rosenthal. “This map is a wakeup call for BLM to not only improve and modernize their data collection and mapping efforts but also to take action to address the vast amounts of degraded lands.”


Explore the PEER grazing database

See the assessed conditions of the lands in your state

See on the story map of Nevada public land

See BLM Rangeland Health Fact Sheet

See how BLM misuses limited data

View PEER mapping webpage

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