This past week marked the starting point for BLM grazing reform. The BLM held a series of listening or scoping meetings throughout the West, mostly in locations with a lot of public land, but with commercial airports. The meetings were intended as listening sessions to hear what cattle grazers and other resource users had to say about making improvements to the Babbitt range reform period, which made things a bit more difficult.

We haven’t heard much yet from cattlemen who attended the meetings and how they went. We received a series of comments from the Public Lands Council (PLC).

“PLC officers and staff have been on the ground for public scoping meetings addressing the BLM administration of grazing regulations. We know livestock grazing on public lands is a key part of sustainable land management on public lands and it’s reassuring to see ranchers engaged in BLM’s process for revising the regulations. We’ve seen great turnout at the meetings so far and expect the same level of engagement from ranchers through the next steps in the rulemaking process,” the PLC said.  

“We’re hearing feedback from ranchers across the West thanking the administration for addressing these outdated regulations. Generally, folks are asking for fewer permitting delays, more flexibility for targeted grazing, and a greater recognition that grazing is an incredibly important tool in managing millions of acres of public land. We aren’t the only voice in this conversation. Other interested parties are also showing up and stating their case, with varied agendas. Many groups use public lands for various purposes, so it just goes to show it’s important public lands grazers remain engaged in the development of these proposed regulations as the BLM moves forward.”

I’m told that the three meetings that have taken place were very well attended by public land grazers with some making very long drives to get there. The meetings were more of an open house and BLM staff were on hand to discuss grazing issues and provide printed information to everyone so they could make informed comments about the changes they wanted to see in the regulations.

Much of the discussion from cattlemen focused on the need for flexibility to manage the allotments and streamline the permitting process. There were wildlife groups there supporting the cattle industry and their use of grazing to manage wildfire. The environmental groups that attended were quiet and not really advocating their cause.

Jeff Glascock, ranch foreman at the IL Ranch, said, “I think it’s absolutely, 100 percent a positive change. They’re creating an atmosphere where all of the stakeholders are coming together for public engagement and we’re coming up with a lot of positive solutions that are working for everybody. You’re not stuck to a rigid, hardened, fast schedule that dictates times and numbers that hasn’t worked. I personally think it’s moving public lands grazing in the correct direction.”

The Martin Fire, the largest in Nevada history, burned across the IL’s permit area. The fire had a very negative impact on business and wildlife in the area, according to Glascock. He said the land is now recovering.

Glascock said it helps to be a part of this movement instead of sitting back and complaining, according to an article in the Elko Daily Free Press.

BLM will gather the information and craft changes in grazing regulations that will be more friendly to federal land grazers. The PLC has been pushing for grazing regulation changes ever since the Trump administration took office.

JJ Goicoechea, chairman of the PLC, is urging every federal land grazer to make comments and ask for everything they can think of because the Trump administration is friendly to public land users and if we see an administrative change next November that it will be “game over” on getting the changes through the rulemaking process.

I would say that this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for public land grazers to see significant changes in land use and the ease of operating a ranching business on public lands. You can make your comments at https://go.usa.gov/xyMqb.

There will certainly be opposition from all the environmental groups. Thirty-seven groups have sent a letter to Seth Flanigan, BLM’s project manager, and cc: William Pendley, acting director at BLM, to extend the comment period and hold more meetings in urban areas so their members can attend. — PETE CROW

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