The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Ron Stoneberg
Hinsdale, MT 

The BLM's Bias is Showing


I was very disturbed by the interview editor Etherington had with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District Manager Mark Albers as reported in the April 25, 2018 Glasgow Courier. Mr. Albers, “clarified that nothing in the scoping period would determine if the agency would conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS)...” He then went on to clarify, “that the EA would have one of two outcomes: Either the agency would certify a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and move ahead with allowing American Prairie’s request or they would initiate the environmental impact statement.” In other words, we have been asked to be involved in the process but in reality we have no input in the decision. Typical bureaucratic smoke and mirrors!

I was also disturbed when Albers stated, “that he would be the decision-maker for whether the process warranted a FONSI or an EIS” and then went on to state, “this is basically a grazing action and we do hundreds of grazing actions a year. Its different, its odd, and it involves people who are not normally a part of this process, but at the crux of that it is still a grazing proposal and grazing proposals require an EA. So, I think it would be doing everyone a disservice to jump to an EIS.” It sounds to me like he has already made his decision!

If that weren’t enough, Albers tried to address one of the main concerns of ranchers and range professionals. They maintain that switching from rotational grazing to season long, continuous grazing is a step in the wrong direction. Albers counters this concern by stating, “but there is a lot of new science coming out that says that’s not the only way [rotational grazing] to manage these prairies.” Apparently, he has very limited access to range management literature. In fact, much of the new range science is advocating more fencing! From a practical point of view, how often have you heard of a season long, continuous grazing rancher receiving a good stewardship award?

The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 is the basic statute governing grazing on lands administered by the BLM. The BLM claims subsequent environmentally-oriented laws changed or modified much of the Taylor Grazing Act. Individuals that actually read the laws and subsequent court cases argue the details. I do know the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) grandfathered in all existing rights when it stated, “all actions by the Secretary concerned under this Act shall be subject to valid existing rights.”

The Taylor Grazing Act does not list bison when it defines the term livestock. Albers side-steps this issue when he changes jurisdictions and states, “Under current Montana law, APR’s bison are livestock and not wildlife and as such APR can maintain BLM grazing permits by running their bison on those properties irrespective of whether they are engaged in the livestock industry or not.” He is certainly stretching things in APR’s favor on that one.

Historically, the allocation of allotments and permits under the Taylor Grazing Act was for the purpose of establishing economic (i.e. for profit) livestock operations. Albers maintains that, “under current language of the Taylor Grazing Act an applicant is no longer required to be engaged in the livestock industry....” If this is true (the courts may have to decide this one) then changing all these ‘for profit’ livestock operations to ‘not-for-profit’ playgrounds will have huge impacts on the local economies. Therefore, this is much more than, “basically a grazing action” and meets all the requirements for a full-blown EIS.

Unfortunately, Mr. Albers’ blatantly biased comments favoring the APR proposals compromised the decision making BLM process. If anything less than a full EIS is recommended, the general public (particularly those in the livestock industry) will conclude the fix was on and the whole process was a total waste of time.


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