Corporate Welfare Ruining Natural Resources
U.S. Bureau of Land Management Hit With Lawsuit Over Destruction Of 2.1 Million Acres In Southern Idaho
Here is a news announcement from the Western Watersheds Project. The federal government continues to hand out grazing rights on public land to private ranch corporations at below the market rate, even if it ruins the land.
Forest Guardians, Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for The High Desert have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, alleging the agency has violated the Clean Water Act by allowing livestock grazing to pollute streams and wetlands.
On November 8, 2002 Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for the High Desert sued the Bureau of Land Management for the agency's authorization of temporary grazing permits for nearly 67,000 AUMs (animal unit months) on lands in Idaho already devastated by livestock grazing, fire and drought. This the equivalent of 67,000 cattle grazing on public lands for one month.
"For nearly a decade, BLM has repeatedly authorized grazing above already permitted levels without any meaningful environmental analysis," said Todd Tucci of the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, representing the two conservation groups. "It is patently irresponsible for the agency to authorize additional grazing without analyzing the ecological impacts across nearly 2.1 million acres of public lands."
The lawsuit maintains that the BLM has repeatedly violated the National Environmental Policy Act by routinely allowing ranching corporations such as the J.R. Simplot Co. to increase livestock numbers beyond the limits established under existing permits. The lawsuit also charges that the BLM violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by authorizing land management decisions that violate the BLM's Jarbidge Resource Management Plan.
"The BLM has again put politics above science in permitting the continued destruction of public lands in the Jarbidge Resource Area by some of the nation's most powerful ranching corporations," said Tucci.
The 2.1 million acres of public lands on the Jarbidge RA in south-central Idaho are home to bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, redband trout, red-tailed hawks and well over 300 other species of wildlife. It is familiar territory to hunters, hikers, anglers, birders and other users for its unique natural, recreational and cultural resources. The area includes the remarkable canyons of the Bruneau and Jarbidge rivers.
Jarbidge RA is also the public-lands feedlot for some of the country's biggest ranchers and ranching corporations, including Brackett Ranches and J.R. Simplot, the potato billionaire.
The current condition of native rangelands in Jarbidge is no secret even to the BLM. The agency has acknowledged that 84 percent of the resource area is in "poor" or "recently burned" condition.
Livestock grazing under such conditions profoundly impacts rangeland hydrology and health by removing vegetative cover, compacting soils, reducing infiltration and increasing erosion.
The Jarbidge RMP requires the BLM to improve rangelands in poor condition; improve sage grouse nesting; protect bighorn sheep habitat; and protect and enhance sage grouse habitat to maintain or increase sage grouse populations.
Since 1985, when the Jarbidge RMP was completed, the resource area has suffered significant impacts from grazing. Bull trout were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Slickspot peppergrass was proposed for listing. The U.S. Air Force expanded its military training facilities in the area. Sage grouse populations have plummeted while exotic weed populations and off-road vehicle use has soared.
"BLM, however, has turned a blind eye to the changed ecological conditions within the Jarbidge Resource Area," Tucci said. "Instead, BLM continues to treat our public lands as the private stamping grounds for politically-powerful livestock corporations."
"The BLM continues to subsidize the destruction of our treasured public lands," said Katie Fite, director of CHD. "In fact, ranchers acknowledge that if they were required to pay fair market value for the forage used on public lands, the costs would be nearly 10 times what they presently pay the BLM. This massive federal subsidy is a giveaway that is turning our public lands into feedlot wastelands."
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