Standards and Guidelines Implementation - Status Report
California State Office August 1999
Also available: printer-friendly PDF version (299K, 61 pages)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in February 1995 revised its regulations for grazing on public lands. Included in these regulations is the requirement that each BLM State Office, in consultation with Resource Advisory Councils (RACs), develop standards and guidelines (S&Gs) for healthy rangelands. The regulations allowed states to develop S&Gs that would apply statewide or that would apply to smaller geographic regions of the State. Because of the highly diverse vegetation of California, BLM-California chose the latter approach.
A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) was released in May 1997. This EIS proposed to implement three separate sets of S&Gs, one for Central California, one for northwestern California, and one for northeastern California and northwestern Nevada. These three geographic areas correspond to the areas covered by three of the four California RACs, which were intimately involved in developing the proposed S&Gs. After considering all the comment letters received on the draft EIS the proposed S&Gs were changed somewhat and a final EIS was issued in April 1998. Five protests were received on the S&Gs proposed in the final EIS. Three of these were later withdrawn following an agreement by BLM-California to include additional clarification language in the record of decision. The other two protests were dismissed by the Director of BLM in May 1999. Records of decision for each of the three sets of S&Gs was signed by the State Director in June 1999. They cannot go into effect, however, until approved by the Secretary of the Interior who is currently reviewing them.
Standards and guidelines will be implemented separately for the California Desert District. The California Desert District Advisory Council (equivalent to RACs elsewhere) has been involved in helping develop draft S&Gs. These draft S&Gs will be incorporated into the three coordinated plans currently under development in that district: the West Mojave Plan, the Northern and Eastern Colorado Desert Plan, and the Northern and Eastern Mojave Plan. These plans are expected to be issued as drafts this year.
The regulations at 43 Code of Federal Regulations 4180.2 provide fallback S&Gs that are to be implemented until such time as the above region-specific S&Gs have been approved by the Secretary of the Interior. These fallback S&Gs are the ones currently being implemented by BLM-California.
Soils: Upland soils exhibit infiltration and permeability rates that are appropriate to soil type, climate and land form.
Riparian / Wetland: Riparian-wetland areas are in properly functioning condition.
Stream Function: Stream channel morphology (including but not limited to gradient, width/depth ratio, channel roughness and sinuosity) and functions are appropriate for the climate and land form.
Native Species: Healthy, productive and diverse populations of native species exist and are maintained.
Guideline 1: Management practices maintain or promote adequate amounts of ground cover to support infiltration, maintain soil moisture, and stabilize soils.
Guideline 2: Management practices maintain or promote soil conditions that support permeability rates that are appropriate to climate and soils.
Guideline 3: Management practices maintain or promote sufficient residual vegetation to maintain, improve, or restore riparian-wetland functions of energy dissipation, sediment capture, groundwater recharge and stream bank stability.
Guideline 4: Management practices maintain or promote stream channel morphology (e.g., gradient, width/depth ratio, channel roughness and sinuosity) and functions that are appropriate to climate and landform.
Guideline 5: Management practices maintain or promote the appropriate kinds and amounts of soil organisms, plants and animals to support the hydrologic cycle, nutrient cycle, and energy flow.
Guideline 6: Management practices maintain or promote the physical and biological conditions necessary to sustain native populations and communities.
Guideline 7: Desired species are being allowed to complete seed dissemination in one out of every three years (Management actions will promote the opportunity for seedling establishment when climatic conditions and space allow).
Guideline 8: Conservation of Federal threatened or endangered. Proposed, Category 1 and 2 candidate, and other special status species is promoted by restoration and maintenance of their habitats.
Guideline 9: Native species are emphasized in the support of ecological function.
Guideline 10: Non-native plant species are used only in those situations in which native species are not readily available in sufficient quantities or are incapable of maintaining or achieving properly functioning conditions and biological health.
Guideline 11: Periods of rest from disturbance or livestock use during times of critical plant growth or regrowth are provided when needed to achieve healthy, properly functioning conditions (The timing and duration of use periods shall be determined by the authorized officer).
Guideline 12: Continuous, season-long livestock use is allowed to occur only when it has been demonstrated to be consistent with achieving healthy, properly functioning ecosystems.
Guideline 13: Facilities are located away from riparian-wetland areas wherever they conflict with achieving or maintaining riparian-wetland function.
Guideline 14: The development of springs and seeps or other projects affecting water and associated resources shall be designed to protect the ecological functions and processes of those sites.
Guideline 15: Grazing on designated ephemeral (annual and perennial) rangeland is allowed to occur only if reliable estimates of production have been made, an identified level of annual growth or residue to remain on site at the end of the grazing season has been established, and adverse effects on perennial species are avoided.
Rangeland Health Assessments
BLM-California is in the process of conducting rangeland health assessments on all grazing allotments with the goal of completing these within the next five years. Priority is being given to those allotments known or suspected to be not currently meeting rangeland health standards. For riparian and wetland areas, the proper functioning condition assessment procedure (described in BLM Technical References TR 1737-9 and TR 1737-11) is being employed. For upland health assessments, a similar qualitative procedure is being employed, modeled on the draft BLM Technical Reference, Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health. BLM grazing permittees and lessees and other interested parties are encouraged to participate in these assessments.
In order to help prioritize allotments for rangeland health assessments, allotments were initially placed into one of the following four categories:
Category 1: Areas where one or more standards are not being met, and significant progress is not being made toward meeting the standard(s),), and livestock grazing is a significant contributor to the problem.
Category 2: Areas where all standards are being met, or significant progress is being made toward meeting the standard(s).
Category 3: Areas where the status for one or more standards is not known, or the cause of the failure to not meet the standard(s) is not known.
Category 4: Allotments where one or more of the standard(s) are not being met or significant progress is not being made toward meeting the standards by causes other than (or in addition to) livestock grazing activities. (Those allotments where current livestock grazing is also a cause for not meeting the standards are included in Category 1 in addition to this category.)
Table 1 shows the 56 allotments initially placed in Category 1.
Following the rangeland health assessment a final determination is made on whether the allotment belongs in Category 1, 2, and/or 4. In addition to data collected during the field assessment stage, BLM looks at all existing information in making the final determination.
As of February 1999, BLM-California had completed rangeland health assessments on 67 allotments. Table 2 shows the 8 allotments determined to be Category 1. Table 3 shows the final categorization for all 67 allotments.
Actions Taken to Date on Allotments with Final Categorizations
The grazing regulations require BLM to take action prior to the next grazing season on allotments falling into Category 1. Table 4 shows the 67 allotments on which final determinations had been made as of February 1999 and the actions that had been taken as of that date on Category 1 allotments.
Rangeland Health Assessment Schedule
BLM-California intends to complete rangeland health assessments on all of its allotments by the end of fiscal year 2003. Table 5 shows the allotments assessed prior to FY 1999. Tables 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 show allotments scheduled to be assessed in fiscal years 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, respectively:
- Table 1 - the 56 allotments initially placed in Category 1
- Table 2 - the 8 allotments determined to be Category 1
- Table 3 - the final categorization for all 67 allotments
- Table 4 - the 67 allotments on which final determinations had been made as of February 1999 and the actions that had been taken as of that date on Category 1 allotments
- Table 5 - allotments assessed prior to FY 1999
- Table 6 - allotments scheduled to be assessed in FY 1999
- Table 7 - allotments scheduled to be assessed in FY 2000
- Table 8 - allotments scheduled to be assessed in FY 2001
- Table 9 - allotments scheduled to be assessed in FY 2002
- Table 10 - allotments scheduled to be assessed in FY 2003