BLM Veteran Decries Diminishing Range Protection

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Thursday, May 9, 2024
Melissa Shawcroft (719) 580-6499
Chandra Rosenthal [PEER] (303) 898-0798
Jeff Ruch [PEER] (510) 213-7028


BLM Veteran Decries Diminishing Range Protection

Inattention to Livestock Program Drives Deteriorating Land Conditions


Washington, DC — One of the Bureau of Land Management’s most senior range specialists is leaving the agency in disgust over its declining ability and willingness to protect the lands entrusted to it, according to her exit memo posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Her central concern is that a shrinking cadre of BLM range staff are not allowed to stem the damage caused by chronic overgrazing and rampant grazing trespass.

For more than 32 years, Melissa Shawcroft has been a BLM Range Management Specialist working in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. She had been responsible for administering 70 grazing allotments and 50 grazing permits. In 2012, BLM gave her its Outstanding Rangeland Management Specialist Award. She resigned from the agency effective April 30th of this year.

In her exit memo to BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning, Shawcroft points to a combination of factors that have lessened the ability of the agency to safeguard lands, including –

  • Far fewer range staff spending far less time in the field directly observing conditions;
  • Systemic failure to enforce landscape health standards to address the need to improve degraded lands and reduce destructive overgrazing; and
  • Unwillingness to address ruinous grazing trespass no matter how egregious the violations.

“The BLM I am leaving today is a sorry outfit that is far less effective than the agency I went to work for in the early 1990s,” commented Shawcroft. “Unfortunately, agency managers being brought in all seem to be trained to avoid conflict rather than solving problems.”

Recently, BLM adopted a public lands rule that would elevate conservation to an official use along with mining, grazing, drilling, and other energy development.  To fully implement this rule, BLM managers and staff would need to assess and monitor actual landscape conditions in a manner that Shawcroft sees in sharp decline.

“Melissa Shawcroft is pointing out that BLM has lost its connection to the health of the land,” added Rocky Mountain PEER Director, pointing to BLM’s own data showing that large portions of the West fail the agency’s own minimum standards for soil conditions, vegetation, water quality, and wildlife habitat. “If BLM fails to enforce basic land health safeguards, western landscapes will continue to suffer even with these new rules in place.”

PEER is also part of a coalition currently suing BLM to induce the agency to better manage its vast commercial livestock program.


Read Melissa Shawcroft’s exit memo

Look at challenge posed by rampant grazing trespass

See BLM routine renewal of failing allotments

See PEER’s current suit vs BLM on livestock mismanagement

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