FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Chandra Rosenthal firstname.lastname@example.org (303) 898-0798
Permit Renewal Shows BLM Not Serious on Range Reform
Despite Horrid Conditions, No Recognition of Overgrazing or Climate Impact
Denver, CO —A proposed blanket renewal of a big livestock permit with badly failing landscape health indicates U.S. Bureau of Land Management pledges of improved range conditions is empty talk, according to comments filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Today marks the end of the public comment period on the BLM plan to remove wild horses but no livestock based upon an assessment that fails to even mention, let alone analyze, direct and indirect climate change impacts from large commercial livestock operations.
Straddling the Utah-Nevada border approximately 45 miles northeast of Ely and 140 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, the Indian George allotment covers more than 52,000 acres. The combined permits allow for 2,360 sheep to graze.
The allotment is operated by the Need More Sheep Company, owned by White Pine County (NV) Commissioner Hank Vogler, a rancher with a history of protracted struggles with BLM over allegations of grazing trespass. In one case now pending before BLM’s Hearings Division, the Bureau’s counsel described his violations as “willful, then repeated and willful. The objective facts in the record show that NMS did not act with good faith or innocent mistake, but rather… was so lacking in reasonableness or responsibility that it became reckless or negligent.”
On this allotment, the BLM found that the land was failing their own land health standards and –
- Falls short of minimal conditions for wildlife habitat, riparian quality, and spread of invasive vegetation;
- No longer provides suitable habitat for Greater Sage-grouse; and
- Much of BLM’s range data was collected before the last three-year drought period, meaning that landscape conditions are likely even worse than reported.
Nonetheless, BLM is recommending zero reduction in the number of sheep allowed to graze. Instead, the agency blames poor conditions on wild horses and elk, although these animals are only a fraction of the number of sheep on the allotment.
“BLM’s position that every sheep remains while every horse must be removed makes no sense,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal, noting that BLM’s own experts point out that wild horses and domestic sheep eat different forage, creating different ecological impacts. “BLM appears to be relying on political science, not actual science, as the basis for pretending that overgrazing by thousands of livestock is having no impact on these lands.”
In addition, despite repeated pledges by leadership to consider the climate change impacts of all its decisions, the determination documents in this case do not mention the topic. PEER has been pressing both BLM and its parent agency, the Interior Department, to start recognizing the well-documented direct and indirect effects of livestock grazing on resilience and health of streams, soil, and vegetation.
“This permit is being handled the same way as permits were under Trump; there is no evidence that BLM is under new leadership,” added Rosenthal. “How this allotment is being handled makes a mockery of any suggestion that America’s rangelands will be better protected from commercial abuse.”