U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
EMS TRANSMISSION 03/01/2007
Instruction Memorandum No. 2007-067
From: Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject: Relinquishment of Grazing Preference on BLM Administered Lands
Program Areas: Rangeland Management, Land Use Planning (LUP)
Purpose: This instruction memorandum (IM) clarifies how BLM will process a grazing relinquishment requested by a permittee or lessee. This IM also presents BLM’s policy regarding the potential reassignment of preference for all or some of the livestock forage allocation to qualified applicant(s) using the BLM’s LUP and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes.
Receiving a grazing relinquishment of preference does not, in and of itself, result in the forage allocation becoming unavailable for use by livestock. Reassigning the available forage allocation for livestock grazing due to the relinquishment supports the BLM’s multiple-use mission. When evaluating potential management actions and opportunities following a relinquishment, managers should develop management strategies that allow public lands to be used for livestock grazing while achieving other land use plan management goals and objectives.
Background: Relinquishments are an increasing concern: 1) permitees/lessees are requesting relinquishments, either for personal or financial reasons, as a result of being affected by the expanding urban development or by the other resource use demands on public lands, and 2) there is some expectation that the public land forage associated with the relinquished preference will be devoted to uses other than livestock grazing.
The following is the definition of Grazing Preference (43 CFR 4100.0-5) as recently revised by the July 11, 2006 grazing regulations amendments:
“ ‘Grazing preference’ or ‘preference’ means the total number of animal unit months on public lands apportioned and attached to base property owned or controlled by a permittee, lessee, or an applicant for a permit or lease. Grazing preference includes active use and use held in suspension. Grazing preference holders have a superior or priority position, above others, for the purpose of receiving a grazing permit or lease.”
Both the priority for receipt of public land grazing use and public land forage allocation associated with that priority are attached to the base property owned or controlled by a permittee or lessee (or an applicant for a permit or lease). Simply stated, if a permittee or lessee owns or controls base property then they have a priority position or “preference” for the receipt of the public land forage allocation that BLM has attached to that base property pursuant to 43 CFR 4110.2-2(b) and other applicable regulation. The terms and conditions of how that forage allocation will be used are described, and authorized by, the associated grazing permit or lease.
Processing a Relinquishment: Before the Authorized Officer processes a relinquishment, he/she must follow the guidelines outlined in Attachment 1, Section A.
The Authorized Officer will also inform and discuss with the person that is considering the relinquishment the items in Attachment 1, Section B. If after being informed of these and any other relevant matters a permittee/lessee decides to relinquish all or a part of their preference, they must submit a letter of relinquishment to the Authorized Officer (refer to Attachment 1, Section C for an example).
The processing of a relinquishment is similar to a grazing preference transfer, except that the relinquishment ends the party’s preference instead of transferring it to another party. Refer to Attachment 1, Section D for “Rules of Thumb” that apply to processing relinquishments.
Evaluation of Management Situations and Issues Presented by Relinquishment: If a livestock forage allocation is made available due to a relinquishment, it subsequently maybe allocated to other grazing use applicants by the Authorized Officer under 43 CFR 4110 (Qualifications and Preference) and authorized for grazing use under 43 CFR 4130 (Authorizing Grazing Use).
However, before taking that action, the Authorized Officer should examine and document whether continued livestock use of all or a part of that forage allocation meets rangeland health standards, and if that continued use would be compatible with achieving land use plan management goals and objectives. Such examination may include: 1) the evaluation of relevant monitoring data and standards assessment information, 2) input and comment from state and local government, other Federal agencies, and the interested public, and 3) the consideration of applicable findings and recommendations of the Resource Advisory Council (RAC). At a minimum, the examination must consider the questions found in Attachment 1, Section E.
If after the Section E examination the Authorized Officer determines that additional analysis is needed to evaluate options for other multiple-use values, the BLM will initiate a plan amendment and analyze a range of reasonable alternatives pursuant to the requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and NEPA (refer to Attachment 3, H-1601-1 Appendix C, Section B, Livestock Grazing, Land Use Planning Handbook and this policy memorandum).
Depending on the issues, potential alternatives can range from awarding the available preference to one or more qualified applicants (the No Action alternative), to discontinuing the authorization of livestock grazing on all or part of the affected allotment(s). The analysis should consider the relative values and tradeoffs between other possible land uses within the area with the intent of achieving other land use plan management goals and objectives. Attachment 2 is a flow chart that illustrates this process. As a part of this process, the BLM is not required to analyze whether the area where the relinquished preference was used is “chiefly valuable for grazing” unless a matter under consideration in the analysis is whether to include a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior to remove public lands from, or add public lands to, a grazing district established under Section 1 of the Taylor Grazing Act. This is in accordance with the May 13, 2003, Solicitor’s Memorandum to the Assistant Secretaries for Policy, Management and Budget, Land and Minerals Management and the Director, Bureau of Land Management clarifying the Solicitor’s Memorandum M-37008 (issued October 4, 2002). This memorandum notes that BLM’s LUP decision to graze livestock or to not graze livestock is not permanent and can be revised by plan amendments and revisions. In addition, the FLPMA requires that any management decision or action pursuant to a management decision that excludes livestock grazing for two or more years with respect to a tract of land 100,000 acres or more, shall be reported to Congress (refer to FLPMA Section 202 (e)(2)).
Resource degradation due to currently authorized grazing practices must not be allowed to continue even if a permittee has expressed interest in, but has not yet actually submitted, a relinquishment. The prospect of a relinquishment is not suited for resolving resource issues where current livestock grazing practices are significantly contributing to not meeting Rangeland Health Standards. Issues surrounding these resource conditions need to be resolved as quickly as possible and remedial action to address them should not be delayed based on the expectation of a future relinquishment.
In certain circumstances, it is appropriate to identify areas in the LUP (e.g. urban interface areas) where upon receiving a relinquishment, the manager would be expected to evaluate whether livestock grazing is in the best interest of achieving management plan goals. In such circumstances, a LUP decision to no longer authorize livestock grazing on the subject area should be used only following a BLM determination that there are no feasible and practicable solutions readily available that can resolve livestock grazing issues in a timely manner. If circumstances allow for resolution of the issues, a previous decision may be replaced by a subsequent LUP decision that allows livestock use to resume on the subject area.
Timeframe: This guidance is in effect immediately.
Budget Impact: Costs are dependent on whether or not a LUP amendment is required to address other management opportunities as a result of a relinquishment.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: Qualifications and Preference (H-4110-1), Grazing Management (H-4120-1), and Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1).
Coordination: This IM was coordinated with the Divisions of Planning and Science Policy, Rangeland Resources, and Fish, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
Contact: For further information contact, Bob Bolton, Senior Rangeland Management Specialist (202) 452-7792.
 For example, the Upper Deschutes RMP in Prineville, OR included a process to address relinquishment. Refer to the Prineville District web site (http://www5.or.blm.gov/Prineville/) for more information on this process. Guidance addressing livestock grazing in the planning process is found in H-1601-1, Land Use Planning Handbook (Release 1-1693, 03/11/05), Appendix C, pages 14 and 15.