There are too many cows on Western public lands, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mysteriously stopped reporting grazing impact data and PEER sued BLM to release the missing information (BLM later blamed the omission on a faulty computer system). Now PEER has compiled a rangeland heath report for 2013-2015, finding that more than one-third of all BLM rangelands fall below minimum standards for clean water, erosion, healthy streams and wildlife habitat. Furthermore, “the overwhelming portion (more than 70%) of range health failure is due to livestock overgrazing.”
PEER says that the BLM has never even assessed grazing impacts on more than 59 million acres and inappropriately excludes commercial livestock impacts from environmental assessment. BLM also fails to track grazing trespass, as when militant rancher Cliven Bundy let his unauthorized cows roam for years on Nevada public lands. “The reason to keep public lands in the public domain is not so they can be trashed by commercial interests,” says a PEER press release, noting that range reform should become a national priority.
Meanwhile, Congressman Rob Bishop’s (R-UT-1) Public Lands Initiative seeks to lock in current levels of grazing with no possibility to mitigate environmental impacts.
PEER Rangeland Health Data: peer.org/campaigns/public-lands/public-lands-grazing-reform/
Amy Brunvand is an academic librarian who currently works in the University of Utah Sustainability Office, coordinating sustainability education, research and initiatives at the University.