WASHINGTON (June 29, 2015) – The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service recently finalized their Environmental Impacts Statements (EISs) for resources management and land use plans, claiming a need for more restrictive management for sage grouse on federal lands. The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association filed formal protests today after reviewing the plans, which impede on conservation efforts and range management practices already in place.
“Ranchers and those closest to the land are far better equipped to manage resources than bureaucrats in Washington D.C.,” said Brenda Richards, PLC president and Idaho rancher. “These plans disregard all the hard work, money and resources that states already have in place to preserve wildlife habitat and sage grouse in particular. One-size-fits-all requirements on how multiple uses, including livestock grazing, will be managed on public lands is not the answer to conserving sage grouse.”
In early 2014, the organizations filed detailed comments addressing concerns with the draft EISs. With little to no improvement in the final documents, the ranching industry has filed protests in nine states across the West. According to the EISs, expanded grazing regulation is necessary, yet neither the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nor the BLM have found evidence that livestock grazing and current range management pose a threat to sage grouse habitat or populations, in fact, there are numerous studies showing the positive impact grazing has on sage grouse habitat.
Robbie LeValley, chairman of NCBA’s Federal lands Committee said the plans are yet another attempt by the Administration to remove productive uses from the land in an effort to appease short-sighted environmental groups pushing a radical agenda.
“Imposing regulatory change on the grazing livestock industry without any factual basis is arbitrary and capricious,” said LeValley, who ranches in western Colorado. “Ranchers with public land grazing rights work daily to minimize the major threats to sage grouse; removing fine-fuels and providing vast tracts of open space. Wildfire and development are the primary threats to the sage grouse and their habitat, yet this Administration is systematically wiping out multiple-use and ranching through regulatory overreach. It’s clear that these plans are more about managing away from productive uses, rather than actually protecting the bird.”
The BLM and USFS must remove the inflexible and arbitrary buffer zone and stubble height requirements and discontinue the legally questionable and scientifically inaccurate idea that removing, reducing and retiring grazing is the answer to this and any other problem the agency faces on public lands.
PLC and NCBA call on the agencies to withdraw these flawed plans and discontinue the fallacy that restricting livestock grazing is the key to seeing more grouse. Further, the livestock industry will continue working with Congress to block these plans before ranchers are forced out of business.