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Guest Editorial 
This page was last updated on January 06, 2009 .

Disillusioned, Beat Down and No Longer in Proper Functioning Condition

by: Raymond Corning. 10/13/02

I purposely held up release of this letter to Jack Kelly, Lander BLM Field Office Manager, until after all Scoping Comments were received regarding the Sweetwater River Rangeland Health Standards on Public Lands in the Sweetwater River Watershed. I did not want to bias any submittals in any way.

Now, you can see that I have been completely disillusioned with the process of BLM Planning and Management. From 1997 to the current time I have worked diligently to make the Green Mountain Common Allotment Management Plan both a reality and a working process. The Plan became a reality, but not the working process.

Raymond V. Corning
Limnologist, Colorado State University
860 South 9th Street
Lander, WY 82520
August 28, 2002

Jack Kelly
Bureau of Land Management
Lander Field Office Manager
P.O. Box 589
Lander, WY 82520-0589

Dear Jack:

This letter is in regard to the Drought Status Update of August 21, 2002 (4120).

It is obvious that the Green Mountain Common Allotment (GMCA) has been woven into the “study the situation” until about normal “take-off” time for cattle, rather than removing cattle from the Range immediately because of extreme summer drought. BLM appears to work under the assumption an infinite time exists for solving the problems of nature. The GMCA is already under a specific management plan that specifies when cattle should be moved. They have exceeded the authorized limit of not less than 3 inches of stubble height on wetlands for a number of weeks with your full knowledge. They could have been moved at any time.

I can only conclude that the GMCA Allotment Plan is now completely defunct and useless because no one is being held accountable for those actions that endanger non cattle resources. The field personnel are guilty of these transgressions, and the managers are guilty. If it was not a professional staff, failure could be blamed on the obvious political pressures emanating from Washington D.C. and from BLM headquarters. For instance; “Kathleen Clarke is in a tough position. For eight years BLM employees were rewarded for anti-grazing antics by an anti-ranching administration. “. . . it will take time to convince field staff of the need to follow. Clarke is committed to that change and to my surprise offered a phone number where grazing permit holders can share their concerns about the way things are going with their local BLM (202-208-3801)”; Aug. 26, Wyoming Livestock Roundup.

For those of us “Interested Public” who have put many weeks and even months into assisting in development of the GMCA plan, and in attempts to see that the goals and objectives were attained, the shoddy way this plan has been translated into action is a bitter blow. Few people will feel that being “given the finger” during public meetings, and other slights without redress, were worth it.

When one reviews goals and objectives of the GMCA plan versus management accomplishments, the lack of accomplishment is shocking. The number one goal of the plan was to restore riparian habitat and riparian wetlands. Preservation of water quantity and quality was another objective. Yet these, and the subjects of most other objectives, are in worse shape than ever, despite a few decreases in cattle numbers and in seasonal decreases in the lengths of time riparian habitat and riparian wetlands are used. Herding was a complete failure, causing much damage. And, apparently no attempt was even made to enforce any herding during the current season. Not once during the many days I spent in GMCA this summer did I see the Range Specialist, and I saw cattle being herded only once (by motorcycle). Three and four pasture rotation of cattle has been a joke since inception of the plan. Use of new techniques has been unheard of (except by permittees, i.e. the motorcycles).

BLM field personnel, rather than adopting new methods to reach riparian objectives, have retained the same time worn methods that “Range Management” text books of the 50's said worked to sustain maximum forage. Of course forage is not the issue, healthy and sustainable riparian habitat, adequate quantities of water and water quality, and vegetation for use and cover by other than cattle are the issues. Sage grouse are another issue left unfaced, along with antelope habitat and a myriad of natural resource problems.

In my own case since development of the GMCA plan began in 1997, I have gone from self doubt, to believing a plan could be developed and implemented that would have meaning, to finally arriving at complete disillusionment six years later. I place failure of the GMCA plan primarily on inertia that is so apparent within BLM at all levels, poor training and supervision, and poor professional backgrounds of BLM personnel regarding use of modern techniques, plus of course a lack of commitment and resolve. I do not blame the ranchers other than for their political activities and their complete lack of adaptability, for primary failure has come from within the agency. This is not to say that interference at the very highest levels of BLM did not play a significant part in plan failure.

It is my own conclusion that meaningful field management changes are only possible in BLM if they are court ordered, with the court looking over the shoulder of BLM. It becomes a near necessity under the most uncaring and politically activated leadership BLM has seen for many years. The only other possibility for positive resource change, other than the courts, is the now ongoing drive to purchase grazing rights so cattle can be removed from the Range. This is a sad but appealing thought process. At least BLM personnel will be forced to learn something about ecology if this became reality.

At any rate, I feel I can no longer put my own effort and energy into supporting a rapidly withering cause. The ultimate outcome of the GMCA management plan is as obvious as that of Granite Mountain Open Allotment, where the terrible conditions of the riparian habitat surfaced more than 20 years ago, were periodically brought up when reports were required., and yet no significant management changes were ever adopted or employed. More importantly, for 20 years no person was ever held accountable for the lack of resource actions.

Further, I find I can no longer recommend to members of the public that they put time and effort into changing the impossible through collaborative efforts with BLM and permittees. The efforts of individuals would be better spent working with high levels of government, with politicians, and with the people who are the true owners of the public lands.

As a specialist in riparian and water matters, I find it is a sad commentary that riparian and water resources on GMCA, and many other allotments, have been frittered away for a few pounds gain in cattle weight. After taking the first wetland core samples from BLM wetlands that I know of in the history of Wyoming public wetlands, I can say the wetlands are in as sorry a condition as BLM itself. Probably no existing wetlands will ever recover earlier water production levels, and water will soon become a very valuable resource on public lands due to sheer and continuous neglect. When it comes to scape goats for ignoring water production and quality, they can be found by the droves within the BLM.

In all fairness, I must say Jack that you have been a better steward of non-cattle related resources than any other Field Manager I know of in Wyoming. Perhaps that shows just how far BLM has to go in the future if adequate protection of natural resources is to become a way of life.


Raymond V. Corning
Interested (Riparian) Public, beat down and no longer in Proper Functioning Condition