By Lilly Platts
In what is being called a once in a generation opportunity, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a Notice of Intent announcing the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement on new grazing regulations. As part of this process, the BLM is holding Public Scoping Meetings throughout the West.
The first of these meetings took place in Miles City, Montana on February 6. Brian Ohs, Montana Stockgrowers Association Director of Natural Resources and Montana Public Lands Council Executive Director, said the opportunity for public comment is a much welcomed step in the process.
“The Montana Public Lands Council has long encouraged the Interior Department to make BLM grazing regulation changes a priority. The scoping process is the first step toward rolling back Bruce Babbitt era changes that haven’t been particularly good for the role of grazing as a multiple use on federal lands,” Ohs said. “There was a great turnout of Montana ranchers and producers as well as many from surrounding states at the meeting Thursday. We are encouraging individual ranchers and local organizations to continue to submit comments about their on-the-ground problems and concerns that they have seen over the past twenty years. It is paramount that folks continue to turn out at the upcoming meetings, as they very well did in Miles City. Comments can be submitted on the BLM website and will direct the amendments the BLM will make to the current grazing regulations.”
Darcy Helmick of Simplot Livestock in Idaho echoed the importance individual producers partaking in the process. Helmick chairs the BLM Committee for the Public Lands Council.
“Having the ability to provide comment on BLM policy changes is something that anyone concerned with the management of BLM lands should take advantage of,” she said. “This particular process is critically important, as the opportunity to change the entire grazing regulation process does not happen frequently. This is the opportunity to identify what has been working, and what could be changed in order to ensure the most efficient and effective way to manage grazing administration on BLM lands.”
Helmick said there are a number of things she would like to see changed during the process but the renewal of grazing permits is at the top of her list.
“This process has become so burdensome for the federal agencies that it can take over 20 years to complete. That is not conducive to effective or efficient management of BLM lands,” she said.
Those interested in learning more about the meeting are encouraged to visit the BLM’s website. In addition to Miles City, meetings will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Elko, Nevada; and Casper, Wyoming. The public can also submit comments on the BLM website for 15 days after the last meeting (February 20). Comments may also be submitted in writing until February 28.
During calving season, taking the time to attend a meeting and talk about the hot-button topic of public lands might not be at the top of a rancher’s to-do list, but as Helmick said, participation is extremely important.
“This is a true opportunity to identify areas where improvement is needed and work together to provide solutions that will help ensure the most efficient and effective way to manage grazing administration on BLM lands.”