Standards for Healthy Rangelands & Guidelines for Livestock Grazing Management for the Public Lands Administered by the BLM in the State of WyomingAccording to the Department of the Interior's final rule for grazing administration, effective August 21, 1995, the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management (BLM) State Director is responsible for the development of standards for healthy rangelands and guidelines for livestock grazing management on 18 million acres of Wyoming's public rangelands. The development and application of these standards and guidelines are to achieve the four fundamentals of rangeland health outlined in the grazing regulations (43 CFR 4180.1). Those four fundamentals are: (1) watersheds are functioning properly; (2) water, nutrients, and energy are cycling properly; (3) water quality meets State standards; and (4) habitat for special status species is protected.
Standards address the health, productivity, and sustainability of the BLM administered public rangelands and represent the minimum acceptable conditions for the public rangelands. The standards apply to all resource uses on public lands. Their application will be determined as use-specific guidelines are developed. Standards are synonymous with goals and are observed on a landscape scale. They describe healthy rangelands rather than important rangeland by-products. The achievement of a standard is determined by measuring appropriate indicators. An indicator is a component of a system whose characteristics (e.g., presence, absence, quantity, and distribution) can be measured based on sound scientific principles.
Guidelines provide for, and guide the development and implementation of, reasonable, responsible, and cost-effective management practices at the grazing allotment and watershed level. The guidelines in this document apply specifically to livestock grazing management practices on the BLM administered public lands. These management practices will either maintain existing desirable conditions or move rangelands toward statewide standards within reasonable timeframes. Appropriate guidelines will ensure that the resultant management practices reflect the potential for the watershed, consider other uses and natural influences, and balance resource goals with social, cultural/historic, and economic opportunities to sustain viable local communities. Guidelines, like standards, apply statewide.
Quantifiable resource objectives and specific management practices to achieve the standards will be developed at the BLM Field Office level and will consider all reasonable and practical options available to achieve desired results on a watershed or grazing allotment scale. The objectives shall be reflected in site-specific activity or implementation plans as well as in livestock grazing permits/leases for the public lands. Interdisciplinary activity or implementation plans will be used to maintain or achieve the Wyoming standards for healthy rangelands. These plans may be developed formally or informally through mechanisms available and suited to local needs (such as Coordinated Resource Management [CRM] efforts).
The development and implementation of standards and guidelines will enable on-the-ground management of the public rangelands to maintain a clear and responsible focus on both the health of the land and its dependent natural and human communities. This development and implementation will ensure that any mechanisms currently being employed or that may be developed in the future will maintain a consistent focus on these essential concerns.
These standards and guidelines are compatible with BLM's three-tiered land use planning process. The first tier includes the laws, regulations, and policies governing BLM's administration and management of the public lands and their uses. The previously mentioned fundamentals of rangeland health specified in 43 CFR 4180.1, the requirement for BLM to develop these state (or regional) standards and guidelines, and the standards and guidelines themselves, are part of this first tier. Also part of this first tier are the specific requirements of various federal laws and the objectives of 43 CFR 4100.2 that require BLM to consider the social and economic well-being of the local communities in its management process.
These standards and guidelines will provide for statewide consistency and guidance in the preparation, amendment, and maintenance of BLM land use plans, which represent the second tier of the planning process. The BLM land use plans provide general allocation decisions concerning the kinds of resource and land uses that can occur on the BLM administered public lands, where they can occur, and the types of conditional requirements under which they can occur. In general, the standards will be the basis for development of planning area-specific management objectives concerning rangeland health and productivity, and the guidelines will direct development of livestock grazing management actions to help accomplish those objectives.
The third tier of the BLM planning process, activity or implementation planning, is directed by the applicable land use plan and, therefore, by the standards and guidelines. The standards and guidelines, as BLM statewide policy, will also directly guide development of the site-specific objectives and the methods and practices used to implement the land use plan decisions.
Activity or implementation plans contain objectives which describe the site-specific conditions desired. Grazing permits/leases for the public lands contain terms and conditions which describe specific actions required to attain or maintain the desired conditions. Through monitoring and evaluation, the BLM, grazing permittees, and other interested parties determine if progress is being made to achieve activity plan objectives.
Wyoming rangelands support a variety of uses which are of significant economic importance to the state and its communities. These uses include oil and gas production, mining, recreation and tourism, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, and livestock grazing. Rangelands also provide amenities which contribute to the quality of life in Wyoming such as open spaces, solitude, and opportunities for personal renewal. Wyoming's rangelands should be managed with consideration of the state's historical, cultural, and social development and in a manner which contributes to a diverse, balanced, competitive, and resilient economy in order to provide opportunity for economic development. Healthy rangelands can best sustain these uses.
To varying degrees, BLM management of the public lands and resources plays a role in the social and economic well-being of Wyoming communities. The National Environmental Policy Act (part of the above-mentioned first planning tier) and various other laws and regulations mandate the BLM to analyze the socioeconomic impacts of actions occurring on public rangelands. These analyses occur during the environmental analysis process of land use planning (second planning tier), where resource allocations are made, and during the environmental analysis process of activity or implementation planning (third planning tier). In many situations, factors that affect the social and economic well-being of local communities extend far beyond the scope of BLM management or individual public land users' responsibilities. In addition, since standards relate primarily to physical and biological features of the landscape, it is very difficult to provide measurable socioeconomic indicators that relate to the health of rangelands. It is important that standards be realistic and within the control of the land manager and users to achieve.
Implementation of the Wyoming standards and guidelines will generally be done in the following manner. Grazing allotments or groups of allotments in a watershed will be reviewed based on the BLM's current allotment categorization and prioritization process. Allotments with existing management plans and high-priority allotments will be reviewed first. Lower priority allotments will then be reviewed as time allows. The permittees and interested publics will be notified when allotments are scheduled for review and encouraged to participate in the review. The review will first determine if an allotment meets each of the six standards. If it does, no further action will be necessary. If any of the standards aren't being met, rationale explaining the contributing factors will be prepared. If livestock grazing practices are found to be among the contributing factors, corrective actions consistent with the guidelines will be developed and implemented. If a lack of data prohibits the reviewers from determining if a standard is being met, a strategy will be developed to acquire the data in a timely manner.