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This page was last updated on January 06, 2009 .

Do No Harm
by: Larry Walker, 6/7/02

I worked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for nearly three decades, and did my share of time in the agency's "biostitute" cribs! Let me assure you that, even if there may be specific isolated cases in the arid west where some form of managed grazing is as good as, or even better than, no grazing -- the agencies never have had - do not now have - and never will have the funding and manpower necessary to ensure that multiple use (other than livestock) or sustained yield (even for livestock) planning objectives and statutory environmental mandates are being met! 

The bottom line is that sparse resources (vegetation on arid lands) require a disproportionate expenditure of fiscal resources to monitor or determine trends to any statistically supportable level, and that livestock grazing (by any measure) is the least valuable use that can be made of any lands. Having been both a budget and inventory/monitoring coordinator at the BLM State Office level for many years, I came to the inescapable conclusion that there is just no way that BLM (or Forest Service) can both authorize grazing (or any other commercial use for that matter) of public lands, while also doing an adequate job of accounting for their actions (resource monitoring and inventory) under any foreseeable or even conceivable budget. 

These agencies are charged with general health and well-being of our public lands, so they should at least comply with the physician's mandate of "do no harm". They cannot

They are trustees of public resources. Their first obligation as a trustee is accountability for the health and use of those entrusted resources. This, they also cannot do - and frequently do not even give priority to! 

They have not (and cannot) satisfied these basic mandates under present political priorities and misinterpretations of the law - and anemic fiscal resources (past, present, or future)!

This is one of the reasons that I (as a retired agency range conservationist) support the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign's proposal for legislation to establish a VOLUNTARY grazing permit buyout program. If agency budgets cannot be brought up to the level needed to do the job right, then the demand for providing forage from public lands for domestic livestock should be brought down to a level that can be responsibly handled within agency budgets!

My personal feeling is that, in the arid west, such an equilibrium point would ultimately be so low that it would no longer be justifiable to maintain a grazing program on any public lands - but that is another story for some date in the future.