The proposed grazing rule of the Bureau of Land Management, to be published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2003, would revise existing Federal grazing regulations in the following ways under three categories of action.



Improving Working Relationships with Grazing Permittees and Lessees


In this category, the proposed rule would:


·         ensure that BLM managers consider and document the social, cultural, and economic consequences of decisions affecting grazing, consistent with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.

·         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 (as was allowed prior to 1995).

·         phase in grazing decreases (and increases) of more than 10 percent over a five-year period whenever possible, consistent with existing law and in full recognition of the BLM’s authority to respond as necessary to drought, fire, and other resource 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).  


Assessing and Protecting Rangelands


In this category, 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.

·         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.


Addressing Legal Issues and Enhancing Administrative Efficiency


Under this category, the proposed rule would:


·         eliminate, in compliance with Federal court rulings, existing regulatory provisions that allow the BLM to issue long-term “conservation use” permits.

·         make clear how the BLM will authorize grazing if a Bureau decision affecting a grazing permit is “stayed” (postponed) pending administrative appeal.

·         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.

·         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 all major Bureau 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.

·         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.

·         and increase certain service fees to reflect more accurately the cost of grazing administration.  (The fees apply to the BLM’s issuance of livestock crossing permits, transfer of grazing preferences, and cancellation or replacement of grazing bills.)


 The proposed rule would make no changes in rangeland health standards and guidelines that were developed by the BLM’s Resource Advisory Councils under the “Rangeland Reform ’94” rules that took effect in August 1995.  The proposal would not establish forage reserves known as “Reserve Common Allotments,” a concept that the BLM had been considering earlier this year, nor would the proposed rule allow grazing operators to temporarily lock gates on public lands (for such purposes as protecting livestock or private property), another idea that had been under the BLM’s consideration.


In addition, the proposed rule would not affect the existing Resource Advisory Council system, in which the BLM receives advice and recommendations from 24 citizen-based Resource Advisory Councils across the West.Also, the 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.


Those interested in submitting comments about the proposed rule will have more than 60 days to do so; the deadline will be the same as that of the related Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which the BLM will publish later this month.  Those submitting comments may do so by regular mail, personal or messenger delivery, or by electronic mail.  For regular mail, the address is: Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, Virginia 22153, Attention: RIN 1004-AD42.  For personal or messenger delivery, comments should go to the Bureau of Land Management, 1620 L Street, N.W., Suite 401, Washington, D.C. 20036.  For electronic mail, the direct Internet response address is: www.blm.gov/nhp/news/regulatory/index.htm or www.blm.gov/grazing. Alternatively, comments may be e-mailed to WOComment@blm.gov.


-- BLM --