UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
http://www.blm.gov
 
October 16, 2008
 
In Reply Refer To:
4000 (220) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 10/22/2008
Instruction Memorandum No. 2009-007
Expires: 09/30/2010
 
To:         AFO’s except Eastern States and Centers              
 
From:      Director
 
Subject: Process for Evaluating Status of Land Health and Making Determinations of Causal Factors When Land Health Standards Are Not Achieved
 
Program Area: Rangeland Management
 
Purpose: This policyestablishes requirements for the work that must be completed before the authorized officer signs a Determination Document that identifies significant causal factors for not achieving land health standards. These requirements include:  evaluating whether resource conditions satisfy land health standards; determining causal factors where standards are not achieved; developing appropriate actions when existing grazing management practices or levels of grazing use on public land are a significant factor in non-achievement; completing appropriate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation. This Instruction Memorandum (IM) also transmits a Flow Chart for Making Determinations (Attachment 1) that identifies the steps in the process where it is desirable to provide opportunity for public involvement, particularly when gathering and evaluating monitoring and assessment information, and when developing the appropriate action and alternatives for NEPA analysis.
 
Policy: This policy provides an updated procedure for evaluating land health, making determinations, and developing appropriate actions that will make significant progress toward achieving land health standards developed in accordance with Title 43 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) subpart 4180.2(c). Attachment 1 is a flowchart that graphically depicts this process.
 

Use the following process to assess, evaluate, and document whether land health standards are or are not achieved in designated assessment areas. Permittees and interested publics should be invited to participate in the first three steps of this process. Attachment 2 provides some questions and answers regarding this procedure.

Evaluation Report – Assessing Land Health

  1. Identify assessment areas to be evaluated for achievement of land health standards. The evaluation should be completed primarily at higher levels such as watersheds, landscapes, and groups of allotments. 
  2. Prioritize areas for evaluation. Direction for selecting the area to be assessed and evaluated is provided in Chapter III of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Manual Handbook 4180-1, Rangeland Health Standards, (H-4180-1).
  3. Assemble existing information e.g., monitoring data, inventory data, and actual use information.
  4. Evaluate data to ascertain whether land health standards are achieved.  If additional information is needed to draw conclusions about the achievement of standards, use Technical Reference (TR) 1734-6, Interpreting Indicators of Land Health, or collect additional monitoring data. 
  5. Prepare an Evaluation Report to document whether land health standards are achieved.  The Report can be helpful to identify the appropriate action needed to make significant progress toward achieving the standards where they are not met. 
If all land health standards are achieved or the status of some are unknown (see Attachment 2, question 3), no Determination Document needs to be completed. The Evaluation Report must clearly state the rationale for finding that standards are achieved. The Evaluation Report will include identification of the area evaluated, a reference to information sources used in the evaluation, a summary of the data used to ascertain whether standards are achieved, a list of standards and/or objectives evaluated, indicators used to evaluate whether standards are achieved, and conclusions drawn by the interdisciplinary (ID) team.
 
If the Evaluation Report documents that standards are not achieved in the assessment area, then the authorized officer needs to determine significant causal factors for non-achievement. If existing grazing management practices or levels of grazing use on public land are significant factors, then an appropriate action must be developed and implemented in accordance with 43 CFR subpart 4180.2(c).
 
Use the following process to determine and document causal factors in assessment areas where land health standards are not achieved and to select the appropriate action to take when existing grazing management or levels of grazing use are significant factors for not achieving the standard(s).
 
Determination Document – Identifying Causal Factors
  1. Review the condition(s) that results in finding that standard(s) are not met (see Attachment 3, question 1). 
  2. Ascertain whether the trend is toward achievement of the land health standard. If the apparent trend is determined without monitoring data, the ID team must document the indicators and rationale for the conclusion on the trend. A conclusion regarding the trend needs to be related to the standard(s) not achieved.
  3. Review the uses and levels of use made in the area which is not achieving standards. Review existing grazing management practices for conformance with guidelines developed by State Directors in consultation with Resource Advisory Councils per 43 CFR subpart 4180.2. In order to determine if other activities are significant factors for not achieving land health standards, review other activities for conformance with or deviation from appropriate management practices for those activities.
  4. As directed in H-4180-1 Chapters III and VI, coordinate and consult with the permittee(s) and interested parties to identify changes in existing grazing management or other activities that would make significant progress toward achieving land health standards. Several possible actions may produce a desirable outcome; analyze these alternatives in a NEPA document to identify which action is the most helpful. The purpose and need statement in the NEPA document will indicate that the need is to achieve land health standards, and that the purpose of the proposed action and alternatives analyzed is to make significant progress toward achievement of the standard(s). 
  5. Incorporate this analysis information into the Determination Document. The minimum contents of a Determination Document are listed in Attachment 3, question 6. 
Once the Determination Document is completed, the authorized officer issues decisions to change management as necessary. If existing grazing management or levels of grazing use are determined to be significant causal factors for not achieving land health standards, the authorized officer will take appropriate action by issuing a decision to modify grazing, construct management facilities, or implement treatments in accordance with 43 CFR subpart 4160. As described in Washington Office Instruction Memorandum 2002-124, “appropriate action” under 43 CFR subpart 4180.2(c) has been taken when the decision to implement the action is issued. If the significant causal factors are a result of BLM-authorized activities other than grazing, the authorized officer will take action to correct the situation in accordance with regulations applicable to that activity. If the causal factor is an activity or event outside of BLM’s control, no action is required. However, this may provide an opportunity to coordinate and cooperate to achieve management that will remedy the factors causing the land health standards to not be achieved on public land. In addition, monitor to determine if significant progress toward meeting the standard(s) is occurring.
 
In summary, a Determination Document will be completed only where land health standards are documented as “not achieved” in the Evaluation Report. Determination Documents shall not be signed for areas identified as not meeting standards until the causal factor(s) are listed, conformance with grazing administration guidelines or appropriate management practices for other activities have been reviewed, and, where needed, potential appropriate action(s) are identified. Monitoring to determine if actions taken are resulting in significant progress toward achieving the standard(s) is a high priority. Monitoring is related to the indicators that were used to ascertain non-achievement.
 
Timeframe: This policy is effective immediately. 

Budget Impact: None. 

Background: Since promulgation of “rangeland health” regulations at 43 CFR subpart 4180 in 1995, the BLM has been assessing land health and taking appropriate actions as required. The regulations require the authorized officer to take appropriate action as soon as practicable but no later than the beginning of the next grazing year upon determining that existing grazing management practices or levels of grazing use on public lands are a significant causal factor for not achieving the standards. Appropriate actions are actions that will result in significant progress toward achievement of land health standards. Appropriate actions have included adjusting terms and conditions in grazing permits, implementing vegetation treatments, and constructing management facilities such as water distribution systems or fences. Washington Office Instruction Memorandum 2002-124 clarified the meaning of the phrase “beginning of the next grazing year.” 
 
By the end of Fiscal Year 2007, the BLM had evaluated land health standards on 13,072 allotments, approximately 61 percent of all BLM allotments. Authorized officers have determined that current livestock grazing or levels of use on public lands are significant causal factors for not achieving land health standards on about 14 percent of these 13,072 allotments. Appropriate actions have been taken with minimal public participation and at times with little opportunity for interested publics to participate in development of alternatives. 
 
The purpose of evaluating land health is to identify areas that are not achieving standards. Where land health standards are not achieved, the authorized officer determines the causal factors and takes appropriate action when existing grazing management practices or levels of grazing use are identified as significant causal factors in non-achievement. In order to identify whether existing grazing management is a significant causal factor and identify potential modifications in management, H-4180-1 directs ID teams to ask two questions:

       1) “Is it more likely than not that existing grazing management practices or levels of grazing use are significant factors in failing to achieve the Standards or conform with the guidelines?”

       2)  “Is it more likely than not that existing grazing management needs to be modified to ensure that the Fundamentals of rangeland health are met, or making significant progress toward being met?”  
 
In order to answer the questions, the teams must at least consider and analyze what types of modifications would need to be made to livestock grazing in order to make significant progress toward achievement of standards. This IM incorporates that step into the NEPA analysis and provides opportunity for the interested public to be involved in that analysis.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: This policy modifies Manual Handbook H-4180-1 Rangeland Health Standards

Coordination: Solicitor’s Office, Deputy State Directors, State Lead Range Management Specialists, WO-200 Division Chiefs.

Contact: If you have questions regarding this policy, please contact Dick Mayberry, Rangeland Management Specialist, at (202) 452-7750, or Rob Roudabush, Division Chief, Rangeland Resources, at (202) 785-6569. 

 
Signed by:                                                      Authenticated by:
James L. Caswell                                            Robert M. Williams
Director                                                          Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
 
 
3 Attachments