OPINION — I was appalled to read the recent St. George News article titled “Conservationists sound alarms over initiatives they say shut out public input.”
As more and more Americans seek isolation and solace in our public lands, people need to be aware that great swaths of these public lands are in danger of being severely altered. Just as the Coronavirus has destroyed lives and livelihoods, the Bureau of Land Management is planning on destroying areas as large as 10,000 acres by chaining or masticating them without any public input or scientific review as to the benefit or harm to public lands that belong to all of us.
Recently, the Great America Outdoor Act was passed by Congress. At the same time that our government was being lauded for its foresight in protecting public lands, the BLM, an agency of the U.S. Government, was and is planning on using heavy machinery to destroy pinyon-juniper forests and sagebrush found on millions of acres of public land by arguing that this destruction is good for the land, that it helps to restore watersheds, improves wildlife habitat and yields more forage for cows and wildlife. These large-scale mechanical vegetation removal projects, when evaluated by science, yield inconsistent and mixed results at best and often do more harm than good. The BLM is planning on doing all of this without letting the public know and without any scientific review.
According to the article, the Defenders of Wildlife, after reviewing previous vegetation removal projects, have come to the conclusion “that since 1980, BLM has conducted over 10,000 projects on about 40 million acres, yet ecological conditions, such as exotic grass invasions and sage grouse and pinyon jay populations, are worsening”.
The BLM needs to put a stop to these initiatives and replace them with plans that include site-specific scientific review, public oversight and accountability. If these plans are not altered, the effects on our western public lands will be devastating and irreversible.
Submitted by BARBARA KUEHL, New Harmony.
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