Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for September 18, 2014
Agreeing on definitions are key at Coordination Meeting
Kane and Garfield County Commissioners met with BLM GSENM Representatives for the second Coordination Meeting on September 15 in Panguitch. An EIS study is underway for an amendment to the GSENM Grazing Plan.
The well attended meeting began with a Power Point presentation by BLM Liason to State and Local Governments, Cynthia Moses-Nedd, on a review of FLPMA (Federal Land Policy Management Act) and NEPA regulations. Federal agencies are required to coordinate. Moses-Nedd said, “The goal of coordination is to balance the mandated land management responsibilities and decision making authority of federal agencies with the needs, responsibilities and authorities of state and local governments.” She concluded, “The BLM is responsible for the final decision on managing the land. The plan needs to be legally defensible.”
New GSENM Monument Manager Cindy Staszak said she wants to understand how Kane County Attorneys arrived at the interpretation of livestock grazing presented at the previous meeting. “There is a fundamental difference,” and Staszak wants to take that information to state and federal staffs for discussion. That information will be provided.
Staszak continued the purpose of an EIS is to provide checks and balances. And the purpose of the coordination meeting is to find where we can mitigate. Grazing will continue according to applicable laws. That factors into how the BLM manages grazing. Adjustments are made to protect the health of the land. “There are regulations other than this proclamation,” Staszak added.
Garfield County Commission Leland Pollock stated that grazing is zoned in Kane and Garfield Counties, and that it is a significant cultural resource. “We want state and county laws respected.” Pollock reviewed that Animal Unit Months (AUMs) prior to the Proclamation were 106,627, and in 2013 the actual AUMs used were 32,012. “Cattle are being eradicated out of the Monument,” said Pollock. “This AUM trend shows gradual elimination of grazing. Grazing has a significant impact on culture and economics. The human environment of culture and economics needs to be addressed in the NEPA process.”
Pollock asked if we can get back to government to government entities dealing with the issue. Both Garfield and Kane Counties want the BLM to look at their county’s plan regarding grazing and apply them to the EIS. The counties’ regulations on grazing come from the Proclamation.
Kane County Commissioner Dirk Clayson said there were many questions regarding grazing when the Monument was created. At that time, the BLM representative said, “don’t worry about ranching and grazing. They are protected.” Kane’s interpretation is it is very clear in that proclamation about grazing.
Brian Bremner, from Garfield, asked, “Where is the conflict? The county ordinances were written with other regulations in mind. Ex. The Taylor Grazing Act, FLPMA.” He requested the BLM provide all of the laws they are referring to, adding, “Our ordinances are strict and in complete compliance for a sustained yield and protection of the land.”
Kane County Commissioner Jim Matson said that both counties are eager to get this clarified, and need to set a date and work out this clarification before the next coordination meeting. Representatives will meet and resolve the different interpretations of the Monument Proclamation on grazing.
Kane County Deputy Attorney Kent Burggraaf said that in the hierarchy of laws, a proclamation is higher than regulations and policies.
Margaret Byfield, Kane Consultant, reviewed that the key issue is to get back to pre-proclamation AUM’s. Ranchers complained about lack of management for healthy range lands and the inability to use some AUM’s. County ordinances are in compliance with the law. They were not written to comply with BLM regulations.
Next came a discussion on grazing and the National Land Conservation Service (NLCS). It was pointed out that grazing was excluded from the NLCS plan, and there was concern that the NLCS would be used against grazing.
Sarah Schlanger, BLM Associate Monument Manager, stated, “there is no prohibition of livestock grazing in the NLCS.” She continued NLCS has no language direct to reduce grazing, only to maintain the ecosystem of a healthy environment. It does talk about managing grazing under applicable laws, and Garfield and Kane have laws.
Matt Betenson, BLM, said they are in the process of drafting five alternatives for the grazing amendment. They are taking into consideration state and county plans.
Julie Suhr Pierce, BLM Economic Specialist, thanked Kane County and Gil Miller for the economic study provided. The study for the EIS will “forage a balance” and will include impact on ranchers, social and cultural impacts, which includes oral histories, recreation industry and different alternatives. Pierce concluded, “Ranchers are good people and deserve to be here.”
Another agenda item was the status of the “3-Step Process” which is 1) assessment and inventory; 2) determination of Rangeland health and what improvements are needed; and 3) development of allotment management plans.
At this point Margaret Byfield asked, “How can you complete an analysis? The Science Plan and Assessments are not done.
Matt Betensen, BLM, replied, “work for a Science Plan is in progress. The hold-up is recreation analysis. There is an evaluation on every allotment. No date has been set for completion.”
The BLM was reminded that objects and values are not a part of the allotment assessment and they should be. The response was the impact analysis will include objects and values in the EIS. Examples would be wildlife and other resources.
Re-seeding was discussed. How do we manage seeding? Is it range improvement or disturbance? “We need to settle that question,” said Schlanger. The Grazing Plan Amendment is specifically looking at seeding.
Garfield Commissioners Dale Lefever and Leland Pollock both spoke that GSENM staff has people who don’t want grazing. “We’re not making this assertion without evidence.” Are they working with environmentalists who want to discontinue grazing?
The BLM interpretation of “Utilization” was discussed. Dr. Lamar Smith, University of Arizona, said that he would discourage the use of rigid numbers referring to data obtained for utilization. “They are only an average. We can’t measure utilization with exact numbers. It varies from year to year. Let’s not set a trap,” said Smith.
Matt Betensen replied, “We are very cautious about the use and the concept of flexibility. It is used as a monitoring tool and is not currently built into the permit process.”
The schedule for EIS dates was distributed. The goal is have the entire process completed by November 2016.
Commissioner Doug Heaton concluded the meeting and told the new GSENM manager and other BLM members present, “We understand you are caught between a rock and a hard place. We appreciate your being here.”
The next Coordination Meeting will be December 8, at 1 p.m. in Kanab at the SARS Building.