QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
re: the Proposed Grazing Rule
of the Bureau of Land Management
What is the basic purpose of the BLM’s proposed grazing
The proposed rule would improve management of public rangelands, and
in so doing would help grazing continue as one of the legitimate uses
of the public lands. The proposal recognizes the many benefits of public
lands ranching, including its economic and social contributions to rural
communities and its preservation of open space in the rapidly growing
How would the proposal achieve its overall purpose?
The proposed rule would improve management and support the continuation
of public lands grazing by improving the BLM’s working relationships
with its grazing permittees and lessees; by advancing the Bureau’s
efforts in assessing and protecting rangelands; and by addressing legal
issues and enhancing administrative efficiency.
What would the proposal do to improve the BLM’s working
relationships with its grazing permit and lease holders?
To improve such relationships, the proposed rule would:
- make clear that BLM managers will document their consideration of
the relevant social, cultural, and economic consequences of decisions
affecting grazing, consistent with the requirements of the National
Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The intent is to ensure that land
managers, before making a grazing-related decision, document the factors
they took into account in assessing the potential impacts of that decision
on the human environment.
- allow the BLM and a grazing permittee to share title of certain permanent
range improvements -- such as a fence, well, or pipeline -- if they
are constructed under what is known as a Cooperative Range Improvement
Agreement. (Such an agreement describes the terms and conditions under
which the BLM and a livestock operator would construct, use, and maintain
specific range improvements.) This provision, which had existed before
the 1995 grazing rule changes, reflects the Administration’s view
that ranchers, when contributing financially to the construction of
such improvements, should be able to share ownership in proportion to
their investment of labor, material, or equipment. Shared title may
also serve as an incentive for livestock operators to undertake needed
- phase in grazing decreases (and increases) of more than 10 percent
over a five-year period unless a livestock operator agrees to a shorter
period, or unless a quicker phase-in is necessary under existing law
to protect the land’s resources. The BLM is proposing the phase-in
to provide sufficient time for ranchers to make gradual adjustments
in their operations, particularly so they can reduce adverse economic
impacts resulting from any grazing reductions. The Bureau retains its
full authority to respond as necessary to drought, fire, and any other
factors affecting grazing allotment conditions.
- expand the definition of “grazing preference” to include
an amount of forage on public lands attached to a rancher’s private
“base” property, which can be land or water. This expanded
definition, similar to one that existed from 1978 to 1995, when the
“Rangeland Reform” rules took effect, makes clear that grazing
preference has a quantitative meaning (forage amounts, measured in Animal
Unit Months) as well as a qualitative one (precedence of position in
the “line” for grazing privileges). The broader definition
of “grazing preference” is intended to ensure that forage
allocations on public lands are associated with private base property;
it is also aimed at ending some of the confusion that resulted from
the 1995 change to the long-standing definition. The expanded definition
of “grazing preference” would make unnecessary the forage-related
term “permitted use,” which was introduced in the “Rangeland
Reform” rules change.
What would the proposal do to advance the BLM’s efforts
in assessing and protecting rangelands?
To advance these efforts, the proposed rule would:
- require assessments and monitoring of resource conditions to support
BLM evaluations of whether an allotment is meeting rangeland health
standards. Currently, these evaluations may be supported by documented
observational assessments rather than by the more in-depth information
collection procedures used in monitoring.
- extend to 24 months, from the current 12 months, the BLM’s self-imposed
deadline for initiating an appropriate course of action to make remedial
changes in grazing practices that significantly contribute to an allotment’s
failure to meet rangeland health standards. This provision recognizes
the BLM’s need for sufficient time in determining the most appropriate
course of action while meeting the requirements of such laws as the
National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
- remove the current three-consecutive-year limit on temporary non-use
of a grazing permit by allowing livestock operators to apply for non-use
for up to one year at a time, whether for conservation or business purposes.
The removal of this limit would promote rangeland health by giving the
BLM more flexibility to cooperate with grazing permittees to rest the
land as needed or respond to changing business needs.
What would the proposed rule do to address legal issues and
enhance administrative efficiency?
To address legal issues and enhance administrative efficiency, the proposed
- eliminate, in compliance with Federal court rulings, existing regulatory
provisions that allow the BLM to issue long-term “conservation
use” permits. The need to eliminate such permits was prompted
by litigation in the case Public Lands Council
v. Babbitt, which led to a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
that the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act does not authorize such permits.
- make clear how the BLM will authorize grazing if a Bureau decision
affecting a grazing permit is “stayed” (postponed) pending
administrative appeal. This provision is aimed at providing a permittee
with continuity of operation in the event that the rancher or an interested
member of the public appeals a BLM grazing decision affecting the rancher’s
- clarify that if a livestock operator is convicted of violating a Federal,
state, or other law, and if the violation occurs while he is engaged
in grazing-related activities, the BLM may take action against his grazing
permit or lease only if the violation occurred on the BLM-managed allotment
where the operator is authorized to graze. This provision seeks to make
clear that while any illegal acts by a livestock operator are potentially
punishable by various legal authorities, such acts are subject to BLM
sanctions only when the acts affect the rancher’s BLM-managed
- improve efficiency in the BLM's management of public lands grazing
by reducing the occasions in which the Bureau is mandated to involve
the interested public. Under this provision, the BLM could involve the
public in such matters as day-to-day grazing administration, but would
no longer be required to do so. The BLM would continue to involve the
public in the Bureau’s major planning decisions, such as grazing
allotment plans and land-use plans.
- provide flexibility to the Federal government in decisions relating
to livestock water rights by removing the current requirement that the
BLM seek sole ownership of these rights where allowed by state law.
This provision would change the 1995 grazing regulations, which established
a policy under which the BLM would seek full water rights whenever legally
able to do so. This provision would give the BLM greater flexibility
in negotiating arrangements for the construction of watering facilities
in states where the Federal government is allowed to hold a livestock
water right. The BLM would still have the option of acquiring the sole
water right, consistent with state water laws.
- clarify that a biological assessment of the BLM, prepared in compliance
with the Endangered Species Act, is not a decision of the Bureau and
therefore is not subject to protests and appeals. The provision would
also clarify that the BLM must allow permittees and the interested public
an opportunity to review and provide input to biological evaluations
that are used as a basis to change grazing use. This provision would
address issues raised by a 1998 decision of the Interior Board of Land
Appeals, which made it clear that the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act requires
the BLM to provide a permittee with an opportunity to submit information
relevant to a proposed Bureau action described in a biological evaluation
that may affect the rancher’s grazing permit. A biological assessment
or evaluation identifies what action the BLM is considering so that
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can prepare a biological opinion
under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Given the pre-decisional
nature of biological assessments and evaluations, the BLM is proposing
this provision to make clear that such assessments and evaluations are
neither proposed nor final grazing decisions, and thus are not subject
to protest and appeal.
- increase certain service fees to reflect more accurately the cost
of grazing administration. This proposed provision would raise current
service charges as follows:
||Current Service Charge
||Proposed Service Charge
|Issuance of livestock crossing permit
|Transfer of grazing preference
|Cancellation and replacement of grazing billing fee
Would the proposed rule make any changes in the rangeland
health standards and guidelines developed by the BLM’s Resource
Advisory Councils under the “Rangeland Reform ’94” rules?
No. The proposed rule would leave the standards and guidelines as written.
What happened to the idea of “Reserve Common Allotments”?
The proposed rule would not establish forage reserves known as “Reserve
Common Allotments,” a concept that the BLM had been considering
earlier this year. Negative comments about the idea, received after the
Bureau published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on March 3,
2003, came from ranching industry members, who said they would rather
have “regular” allotments, and from environmentalists, who
questioned whether such allotments would be the best use of the land.
The BLM will further examine the concept of forage reserves through its
non-regulatory policymaking process.
What happened to the idea of allowing livestock operators
to lock gates on public lands?
The proposed rule would not allow grazing operators to temporarily lock
gates on public lands. This was an idea, intended to help ranchers protect
livestock or private land, that had been under the BLM’s consideration
when it published its grazing-related Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
on March 3, 2003. Those who submitted comments expressed nearly unanimous
opposition to the locked gates idea, which the BLM is no longer considering.
Would the proposed rule affect the Resource Advisory Council
system established as part of the “Rangeland Reform ’94”
No. The BLM will continue to receive advice and recommendations from
its 24 citizen-based Resource Advisory Councils across the West.
Would the proposed rule affect the Federal grazing fee formula?
No, the BLM’s proposal would make no changes in the way the Federal
grazing fee is calculated, a formula established by Congress in 1978 that
continues under a 1986 Presidential Executive Order.
What happened to the non-regulatory policy ideas that the
BLM was considering earlier this year?
The BLM has gathered input from its 24 citizen-based Resource Advisory
Councils (RACs) concerning several non-regulatory policy ideas, which
the Bureau asked them to examine at meetings over the summer and fall.
The RACs were also free to develop their own grazing-related policy concepts.
The Bureau is now reviewing the advice and recommendations of the RACs
and is considering its next steps in the area of non-regulatory policy
changes. No decisions have been made as to what those next steps will
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