Southern Utah News Articles
Legal interpretation of grazing in proclamation now in Washington's hands
Cindy Staszak, GSENM Manager, gave an update on the BLM interpretation of grazing in the Monument Proclamation at the third coordination meeting of Kane and Garfield Commissioners and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Transcripts of Kane County Attorneys’ interpretation have been sent to the BLM solicitor in Salt Lake City, who will then set up meetings with the state and counties. Since the monument language has meaning beyond the GSENM, the decision may affect other monuments. The specifics on grazing in the GSENM are unique. Kane County Commissioner Jim Matson replied, “We don’t want to rush it. We want it right.”
The role of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) in the development of the GSENM Management Plan Amendment and how much power it has, brought many questions from the commissioners. Staszak explained that the BLM directorates are set up with a director and assistant directors. The NLCS is a permanent part of the BLM. GSENM is funded primarily by the NLCS. The review process works through local, state and national BLM leadership. “We look to the NLCS for interpretation of manuals and their expertise. They, like all directors, provide guidance. It is a good two way street. There is help and feedback from all directorates,” said Staszak.
The commissioners wanted to know if the NLCS has regulatory authority over grazing. Garfield Commissioner Leland Pollock stated, “Objects and values could mean anything.”
Staszak replied, “As a monument, we need to look at the impacts of grazing on the resources. We would identify what would be impacts and potential impacts. What degree of impact is acceptable? What level can be mitigated? What kind of practices so we don’t have impacts. We would have to look at analysis before a decision is made.”
Representative Mike Noel stated that Congress never changed the authority of Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) or the Taylor Grazing Act, and Congress never voted on the NLCS.
Consultant Margaret Byfield asked Staszak if she believes the BLM has the authority to eliminate grazing or reduce it. Her answer was, “Yes. We have to look at a full range of alternatives, from no grazing to the maximum amount feasible.”
Kane County Deputy Attorney Kent Burrgraff said, “We are focusing on the wrong thing. The paragraph on grazing in the proclamation does not mention objects and values.”
At this point all were reminded by Brian Bremmer, Garfield, that laws have hierarchy. Some are laws, but some are regulations.
Byfield reminded everyone that when there was concern about grazing when the GSENM was proclaimed, ranchers were told they would be protected by the proclamation. Now it seems that protecting objects and values has become a way to reduce grazing.
Discussion then moved to the language of the purpose and need for the EIS.
Staszak said “The scope of the EIS is grazing, not the entire Monument Plan. If anyone has some language ideas, bring them forward.”
Garfield Commissioner Clare Ramsey offered the reason the GSENM is under the BLM rather than the National Park Service is because the BLM can handle grazing and multiple use.
The final agenda item was a discussion of the five alternatives currently being proposed. Matt Betensen, GSENM, explained each. A short description of each is: A) No Action, continue status quo. B) Discontinue livestock grazing. C) Emphasize restoring native species diversity. Livestock grazing managed to ensure little to no impact to resources. (Lesser use of livestock). D) Recognizes historic and cultural importance of the livestock industry, while emphasizing healthy landscapes to support multiple uses. E) Emphasizes sustainable use through livestock management designed to ensure rangeland health standards are achieved and land health is improved.
Currently there are 45,000 average actual Animal Unit Months (one cow and one calf for 30 days), 76,957 active AUMs and 29,245 suspended AUMs on the GSENM. Prior to the proclamation, there were approximately 75,000 active AUMs and 29,245 AUMs suspended. The average actual AUMs prior to the proclamation were not known.
After a lengthy discussion on each alternative, came the question. Why are we given alternatives before the Analysis of the Management Situation analysis is complete? Analysis brings solutions. According to the NEPA process, we need to have the information to determine the solution. The response was “the review of these preliminary draft alternatives is an extra step we added to the NEPA process. We wanted to get people thinking and to get their input before the analysis begins.”
Commissioner Matson stated, “The coordination meetings have been good, very frank and beneficial.” The Kane County Resource Management Plan is a “work in progress.” The plan covers grazing in Kane County, which even includes zoning in the GSENM Monument. Matson reviewed some elements of Dr. Miller’s economic study of livestock grazing, and said that anything we do affects us culturally and economically.
Commissioner Pollock said we have a better understanding of each other’s goals. “The GSENM has good people who understand grazing. We want science – not science fiction. Litigation is no fun. If we can get through issues without going to court and by working together, the range ends up in better condition.”
Pollock requested law enforcement on the monument be on the next agenda. “We could end up with another situation like the Bundys in Nevada.”
Representative Mike Noel added, “We want our elected sheriff to take responsibility. He answers to the people and the commission.”
Staszak said she will try to have people there to discuss law enforcement on the next agenda. “This is a healthy discussion, but we can’t solve this on a local level.”
The commissioners thanked Staszak for being straightforward. Everyone felt this open discussion was a productive meeting.
The next coordination meeting will be in Panguitch. Requested for that meeting; law enforcement on the Monument and different federal laws that could affect the county ordinances.