Rangeland Health Means Fixing the BLM Grazing Program
While the Biden administration renews emphasis on improving the conservation values of public lands, new data collected and analyzed by PEER paints a bleak picture of the conditions on a broad swath of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The data reveal that 54 million acres of BLM’s grazing allotments fail to meet the agency’s “land-health standards.” These standards define the minimum benchmarks land managers need to achieve and maintain for landscapes to function sustainably by measuring conditions such as soil health, water quality, plant species diversity and the quality of habitat.
The data also reveal that more than 50 percent of the BLM acres that failed land-health standards identified livestock grazing as a significant cause, and that BLM has yet to assess 27 percent of leased grazing allotments, or nearly 40 million acres.
Using this data, PEER created an interactive map contains BLM’s most current land health standards status for 21,000 allotments containing 155,000,000 acres of public lands, and a number of useful GIS layers for visualization, exploration, exploratory analysis, and download.
In comments to the Department of the Interior, PEER stated that landscapes that fail to meet BLM’s own minimum standards for ecological health or that have not been assessed cannot be considered conserved and should not be counted toward attainment of the administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, which aims to have at least 30% of our lands and waters protected by 2030 (also known as “30×30”).
This data and mapping project are part of a 20-year effort by PEER to expose BLM’s failure to properly manage its commercial livestock program so as to please private interests. With much of the West entering severe drought conditions, the amount of livestock-induced landscape damage will significantly increase unless BLM dramatically improves the quality of its range management.
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