Giant BLM Bovine Mowing Machine ~ photo by Terry Fitch.
Complaints Target BLM Neutral Stance on Livestock Grazing Climate Impacts
By: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Washington, DC April 11, 2016 – Even as President Obama touts steps to address climate change, his U.S. Bureau of Land Management appears not to have gotten the message, according to a pair of complaints filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Despite ample evidence to the contrary, BLM continues to insist that commercial livestock grazing has no impact on climate change or its effects.
This climate change blind spot is no small matter as BLM oversees 21,000 grazing allotments covering 155 million acres of federal rangelands spread across 11 Western states. In complaints filed today with both the White House and Interior Department, PEER documents how BLM steadfastly refuses to even consider, let alone mitigate, climate impacts from its vast grazing program.
“Improbably, Obama’s BLM is a climate denier when it comes to cattle,” remarked PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade who filed today’s complaints. “Most BLM grazing environmental assessments make no mention of climate change whatsoever, while the remainder say that impacts are unknowable and therefore will not be analyzed.”
The PEER complaints cite recent federal orders and policies directing agencies to respond to climate change in their official planning. Yet BLM never even acknowledges grazing’s climate impacts, such as:
– Grazing dramatically reduces soil sequestration of carbon, releasing an estimated 11 million additional tons of carbon annually;
– The livestock sector generates more than one third of all human-induced methane – a gas with global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide; and
– Public lands grazing is the most significant contributor to change in landscape conditions across a vast area of the American West, worsening adverse climate impacts of spreading desertification, degrading vital riparian areas and facilitating introduction of invasive species.
These adverse effects are magnified if grazing is not well managed, and a large portion of allotments fails to meet BLM’s own range health standards. In the last decade as more land has been assessed, estimates of damaged lands have doubled where BLM conducts major livestock grazing.
“For an agency with the words ‘land management’ in its title, the BLM does little to effectively manage this program or prevent overgrazing,” added Stade. “These damaged landscapes create a feedback loop that further aggravates other negative impacts of climate change.”
In its filings, PEER asks the White House Council on Environmental Quality to ensure that all BLM eco-planning include assessments of grazing climate impacts, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The group also urges Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to make BLM begin complying with directives that it mitigate climate effects and adopt policies to promote climate-resilient lands in its grazing program.