BLM opens public comment period for proposed grazing regulation revisions

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ST. GEORGE — The Bureau of Land Management has announced its intent to prepare an Environment Impact Statement to consider proposed revisions on grazing regulations.

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Currently, the agency oversees livestock grazing on 155 million acres of public land and administers almost 18,000 grazing permits. The proposed revisions would update grazing regulations in a way that administrators expect would provide flexibility and more efficient management over public lands and resources.

In 2018, the agency received $81 million for various rangeland management programs, spending $34 million — about 42% — on livestock grazing administration. Likewise, the BLM collected $17.3 million in grazing fees, which state and local governments received portions of in accordance with legislative requirements.

In the process, the BLM is looking to promote land conservation while working to improve existing land use planning and grazing permit procedures. The entity also hopes to improve its management efforts over national rangeland resources by preventing unauthorized grazing, enhancing environmental protection and improving public input opportunities.

As a part of the BLM’s outcome-based grazing authorizations initiative, the agency is managing 11 demonstration projects across six states to provide the entity, ranchers and other partners with the opportunity to improve management practices when issuing grazing permits. Throughout the process, the BLM will also be developing cooperative monitoring plans and land health evaluations that may be incorporated into the regulatory process.

“We continue to seek ways to improve and streamline the grazing permit process to achieve greater efficiencies and service to permittees,” Casey Hammond, assistant secretary of land and minerals management, said in an emailed statement. “This rulemaking effort is designed to strengthen and improve our administration of grazing permits across the West, and we welcome public and stakeholder ideas and perspectives.”

To succeed in the agency’s endeavors, the BLM has listed a number of potential improvements in two categories: streamlining opportunities and management of flexibility opportunities. To streamline opportunities, the entity will be considering different billing schedules, taking advantage of existing coordination requirements to reduce decision issuance time and eliminating a protest period, and increasing the use of targeted grazing authorizations for vegetation management.

The BLM is also considering reducing permit renewal processing workloads by issuing permits without a decision when the only change is the name on the permit or requiring a 10-year minimum over the current 3-year minimum term on the permit. Other permit opportunities, like crossing authorizations or issuing non-renewable leases, might also be subject to immediate decisions.

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To improve flexibility in areas of land and resource management, the agency is considering issuing authorizations without additional analysis and decision time to address permittee needs for livestock movement, or in concert with changing environmental conditions when it comes to issuing crossing authorizations or non-renewable permits.

Other potential changes include providing limited flexibility in season of use for permittees to manage livestock in concert with management needs and creating a consistent approach to documentation, billing and settlement, especially of incidental, and non-willful occurrences.

Comments on the proposed regulation revisions may be submitted in writing until Feb. 28. Those interested in sharing their comments can use the “comment on document” tool on the BLM’s Grazing Regulation website, attend one of the four public open houses, or mail written comments to 3948 S. Development Avenue in Boise, Idaho.

Scoping meetings will be held in February in four locations to further inform the public. The meetings will be held in Miles City, Montana, on Feb. 6; Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Feb. 11; Elko, Nevada, on Feb. 18; and Casper, Wyoming, on Feb. 20.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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