WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 2016 - While the greater sage grouse may have avoided an Endangered Species Act listing, the Bureau of Land Management is still working to conserve the bird’s habitat. But those conservation efforts aren’t sitting well with cattle ranchers.
On Tuesday, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council submitted a report detailing their grievances with BLM’s Instruction Memorandums on greater sage grouse habitat. Ethan Lane, PLC’s executive director, said on NCBA’s Beltway Beef audio program that the IMs are “disproportionately affecting ranchers.”
“We want to make sure that just because we’re the easiest to regulate and that we’re the target of opportunity, that we don’t become the first place BLM and the Forest Service go to make sure they check that box,” he said.
The report itself strikes a similar tone. It says that livestock grazing “remains an inappropriate focal point” for BLM and other involved agencies despite grazing not being “in the top 10 list of threats” to habitat. (Rangeland wildfire, invasive weeds, and development pressure make up some of the other threats).
BLM Director Neil Kornze said the IMs “respond to state and stakeholder desires to see clear and consistent application of our management activities across the western greater sage-grouse states while providing the flexibility needed to respond to local situations and concerns.”
Two of the seven IMs deal specifically with grazing issues: one on grazing permits and leases and another on grazing management thresholds. BLM says through the IMs, they will prioritize review of grazing permits that are within “the highest quality habitat” for breeding populations of the sage grouse. Renewal or modification of grazing permits in priority habitat “must consider and may incorporate specific indicators of land health.”
NCBA and PLC request in their letter that BLM, the Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “provide clear instruction at the field level that livestock grazing is not a significant threat” and that grazing “should not be held to a standard” beyond ecological limits in some sites. They also ask that the appropriate authorities cease application of the Resource Management Plans on permits “until these critical issues have been adequately addressed and mitigation refocused on primary threats to the species.”
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