Montana/Dakotas

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United States Department of the Interior
 
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Montana State Office
5001 Southgate Drive
Billings, Montana 59101-4669
http://www.blm.gov/mt

March 2, 2007

 
In Reply To: 
4100 (923) P                                               
 
 
 
EMAIL TRANSMISSION – 03/05/07
Instruction Memorandum No. MT-2007-035
Expires: 9/30/08
 
To:     Field Managers
 
From:   State Director
 
Subject: Montana/Dakotas Strategy for Managing the Backlog of Unprocessed
         Grazing Permits
Program Area: Rangeland Management and Grazing Administration   

Purpose: The purpose of this IM is to re-affirm the high priority of renewing livestock grazing permits and leases and to clarify the direction for reducing the backlog of unprocessed permits and leases.  In this IM, reference to permits also includes leases.

Policy/Action:  Montana/Dakotas has prepared a strategy to eliminate the backlog of grazing permits that have expired since Fiscal Year (FY) 1999, but have not yet been fully processed as defined in WO IM No. 2003-071. The attached WO IM 2007-053 outlines state strategies to meet the commitment to eliminate the backlog and provides guidelines that states should follow to process grazing permits: 

1. Review definitions and process flowchart in H-4180-1, Rangeland Health         Standards.
2. Use Public Law 108-108 (2004 Department of the Interior and related Agencies Appropriations Act) authority to issue permits that result from transfers of grazing preference.
3. Permits issued under the authority of the Public Law 108-108 must be issued for 10 years unless meeting one of the four conditions in 43 CFR 4130.2(d).  However, the environmental analysis for these permits, and any necessary changes that may be warranted, shall be completed as soon as possible.
4. Land health evaluations are not required to fully process a grazing permit.  In many cases, the information gained from a Land Health Standards evaluation is useful for creating or modifying permit or lease terms and conditions to ensure conformance with subpart 4180. However, expired permits, in some cases, can be fully processed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) using existing information.  If a land health evaluation that is completed after processing a permit, reveals that current livestock grazing management is found to be a significant factor in not achieving standards, and then appropriate action must be taken in accordance with 43 CFR 4180.
5. The assessment and evaluation of Land Health Standards remains a high priority for all programs.  The findings are used to report condition of rangelands, to determine the need to adjust management of various activities, and to qualify for the use of the proposed categorical exclusions.  Consequently, these assessments and evaluations are appropriately funded by a variety of subactivities.
6. Ensure that the quality of our NEPA documentation is maintained.
7. It is recommended that monitoring information be collected and, if necessary, prioritized.  Monitoring information is useful for permit renewals, or where existing livestock grazing is a significant causal factor for not achieving standards.  This includes allotments where appropriate action has already been taken and the data is needed to determine if the action is effective.
8. New range improvement projects should be installed or conducted on high priority areas to achieve or make significant progress toward achieving land health standards. 
While theWO IM provided timely guidelines, specific clarification and direction should be re-emphasized.

WO IM 2007-053 re-affirms the high priority of renewing livestock grazing permits and leases by the end of FY 2009. 

    • Public Law 108-108 (2004 DOI and related Agencies Appropriations Act) authority to issue permits expires September 30, 2008. If Congress does not extend or renew this authority, all expiring permits must be fully processed in order to renew.
    • Existing guidance, WO IM 2003-071, requires that all permits renewed under the Appropriation Act(s) must be fully processed by the end of FY 2009.  While land health evaluations are not required to fully process a grazing permit, it is recommended that every effort be made to ensure that land health evaluations are completed and used to support the renewal of fully processed permits.  It is imperative that Field Managers ensure that this goal is met within the given timeframes.
    • If a land health evaluation reveals that current livestock grazing management is found to be a significant factor in not achieving standards, then appropriate action must be taken in accordance with 43 CFR 4180 of the current regulations.
    • As land health determinations are completed, emphasis for funding and priority work should shift to monitoring to support the renewal process and implementation actions necessary to support significant progress toward achieving land health standards.
    • Field offices that will meet targets and goals should communicate assistance and support opportunities to other offices based on availability.

Timeframe: Effective immediately.

Background:  In FYs 1999 and 2000, almost 7,200 of the 18,000 grazing permits administered by BLM expired.  During this timeframe, in the Montana/Dakotas BLM, approximately 1,800 of 4,500 permits were scheduled to expire.  In FY 1999, Montana/Dakotas BLM established a schedule and strategy to eliminate the backlog of expired permits and is making significant progress in meeting that schedule. 

As a result of the WO Range Review TPR recommendations, MSO initiated a NEPA Review and Permit Renewal Workshop to help offices identify and correct NEPA deficiencies.

The W0 asks each state to prepare a strategy for meeting the commitment to eliminate the backlog of grazing permits and leases that have expired since FY 1999. As a result of that effort, State and field offices were asked to provide a strategy for meeting the commitment by identifying barriers, actions to overcome these barriers, and work that would not be accomplished in order to meet the target date. Key elements of the Montana/Dakotas’ strategy are to:        

-        Review and revise schedule to be more efficient;
-        Combine watershed and allotments into larger units;
-        Combine lower priority allotments and tailor process to meet resource needs;
-        Prioritize available funds for seasonal workforce to gather data and do on-the-ground monitoring; and
-        Utilize offices with excess capability/capacity to provide support to other offices.
 
Budget Impact: Use and distribution of available funds may be affected to various degrees in the coming fiscal years.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  None.
 
Coordination: Field Managers, Rangeland Staff, and state Rangeland Specialists.
 
Contact: Bill McIlvain, at (406) 896-5028.
 
 
Signed by: Gene R. Terland, State Director
 
Authenticated by: Kathy Iszler, Staff Assistant (MT-924)
                             
 
1 Attachment
    1-WO IM-2007-053 (16 pp in its entirety)
 
Distribution w/Attm.
SOMT – 1
Assistant Field Manager, Havre Field Station – 1
Assistant Field Manager, Glasgow Field Station – 1