An Insider's Review of BLM Director Clarke's Speech to SRM
The following speech was delivered by BLM Director Kathleen Clarke to the Society for Range Management which represents professional range managers and livestock operators, mostly cattlemen, who graze on the public lands of the 11 western states. Sportsmen/interested publics should pay special attention to page 4.
Comments in red and italicized are those of the reviewer and not those of BLM Director Kathleen Clarke.
Unofficial copy _ Consult BLM for an Official copy
Kathleen Clarke, Director, Bureau of Land Management
Speaking to the Society for Range Management,
Casper Meeting, February 2, 2003
It's really a pleasure to be here today. I've been on the job in Washington now for a year and I'm beginning to appreciate what someone once called Washington they said it's "10 square miles surrounded by reality" and some days that's the way it feels. For me reality is out in the West. That's the best thing about my job, and at it's worst is the imperative that I keep my seat at the table in the affairs of Washington in order to promote the goals and objectives that we have in the BLM. I would suggest that we oughta just move the whole BLM out West because everything we manage is out here. It would feel good to me. The West is certainly where our public lands are; where everything BLM manages, the surface is in the West. It's where we deal with resources and challenges and conflicts, but it's also where we find our partners. It's where our citizens are and it's where we find solutions to problems. I'm a firm believer that two heads are better than one and ten are better than two and it's good to have at least half a dozen that aren't government. So it's good for us to get out and mingle with you folks and meet at the table. I believe that nobody is more vested in coming up with a solution to a problem than those who have something to lose or something to gain by finding that solution, and certainly those of you who use the public lands or risk losing that, have the most reason to come to the table and get creative, and we welcome that.
And, also today I'd like to introduce my Chief of Staff, who is here with me, because he is from Worland, Wyoming. Con Last, it's time to stand up and say hello. Con's been wonderful. He's a good Westerner _ he grew up on a farm here, and has so much insight and understanding about the ways of the West and the good people here and I appreciate his constant support.
Some of you may recall that when I appeared at the Society of Range Management last year I was ... it was such a wonderful experience _ I literally could not get a word out of my mouth, I had laryngitis so bad. It was good of you to invite me back today to talk with you and I wanna tell you that we, at the BLM, are sincerely grateful for the partnership we have with the Society for Range Management our shared commitment to the health and productivity of the Nation's public rangelands.
Today we will have an official signing ceremony, another one, for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding that will strengthen that partnership. Under this MOU, the BLM will establish a liaison position at the SRM headquarters in Lakewood, Colorado. We are providing $25,000 to SRM to support a new concept known as the "Ranchlands Environmental Assessment Program" and we have allocated $5,000 to enable SRM to provide BLM professional assistance in developing our “Vegetative Treatment EIS". This new MOU will help us explore other creative ways to work in partnership to advance the many goals that we have in common. Partnerships like this are critical to the BLM and to our success.
You know, when I first came to BLM, there were a few people that suggested that the one thing I oughta really focus on is trying to fix our broken up land patterns get all our lands conglomerated, that that was just such a horrendous challenge, and indeed it is a challenge. But I've come to also recognize that that land pattern that makes up the BLM has provided the basis and the foundation and the motivation for one of our greatest strengths, and that is learning to be good neighbors. The people that work for us live in those communities, and we may have neighbors on four sides of us that are non-federal partners, and we've had to learn to be a part of a community and a part of a bigger picture and I think that has strengthened us. We also operate on a very tight budget _ the BLM _ a budget that was established in its base back when the BLM was created in the 60's, and BLM was seen to have been put together to manage the throwaway lands that other people didn't want. Some of you may remember fondly the days when BLM was called the, or referred to, as the Bureau of Livestock and Mining, and based on what's happened in the last decade, some people thinks it's much closer to the Bureau of Landscapes and Monuments.
But I'm here today to tell you we're still interested in multiple use and my motivation for coming to this Agency was to secure that mission. I have a firm belief that the public lands are there to support quality of life for the American people, and that that quality of life spectrum extends from those who treasure the great wilderness concept to those who want to recreate, to all of our needs for oil and gas and mineral resources from our public lands. But, it also extends unequivocally to those who have made a living and a livelihood and a lifestyle in the West. And, who came out here with the promises that were extended by their government under the Homestead Act, that if you go out we don't intend to let you buy up all that land, or take that land the way it happened in the East where there is very little public land, so we assure you that if you homestead some property that we will give you access to the public lands to make a living. And, there will be active timber harvesting and mining and ranching opportunities for all of you. And, so you've built a life and a culture and a society in the West that certainly is part of my life and is part of what has drawn me to take this Washington, or this job in Washington _ not because I had any desire to live in Washington but because I so deeply love the West and the values that I think we're all working to protect.
Um, you know my very first week on the job I had a Field Manager come in and lay out for me a plan to reduce about 70 percent of the allotments in that Field Office by anywhere from 50 to 80 percent, and I was just sort of dumbfounded and I asked what was driving that sentiment, and he said "Well, the range is not in good condition." I think for too long there's been an attitude that the only way to address range that is challenged is to remove the cattle. And, we've gotta get way beyond that notion. We have got to work in partnerships. I can work very closely with a gentlemen at the BLM since I arrived ________Wayne ______this year who's taught me a lot about how you can work together and understand and apply good science to a landscape and that you can restore a ranchland to health without ever moving cattle off that rangeland. And, I see evidence of that and I'm confident that there are ways that we need to discover, that we can discover and apply, if we work together, if we apply good science and have respect for the interests at the table, and we're determined to have an outcome that benefits healthy landscapes and that also supports thriving communities.
You know, I was recently at a Boone & Crockett meeting, and before I went to that meeting to talk to them I got onto their website and I was surprised and impressed to find out that under one of their Resolutions was a commitment to working with private agricultural interests, with farmers and ranchers to sustain agriculture in this nation. Their recognition, of course, and their motivator, is that they're a big time hunting and fishing group and they want to have wonderful habitat, and they're starting to recognize that their best hope of preserving the habitat that supports biodiversity in this nation is the maintenance of healthy ranching and agricultural operations in this country. I was impressed by that and impressed by their recognition of it. We feel the same way at the BLM. You know, those public rangelands are there for you, but they're given to you for use when you have an allotment and some base property from which you springboard. And, you've got the critical habitat in many cases. It was referred to by the first presenter this morning as being those foothills. Sometimes it's the riparian areas, but there was great wisdom in your forefathers who came out here and homesteaded because they picked up the good stuff. And, it's the winter range and it's critical to the functioning of the uplands. We need to work together and have common vision and some common goals about how we're going to accomplish it. It's important to all of us. We're very committed to a future of sustainable working landscapes. As I said, healthy, productive lands, multiple use and thriving communities. We need to promote strong partnerships, and again, I'm thrilled to be entering into this partnership with the Society for Range Management. We need good stewardship. We need ranchers on the ground. We need the part they play in stewardship. We'll never have enough BLM employees, and I don't think any of you would want us to have, as many as it would take to steward the 170 million acres of BLM rangelands. But, working with the ranching community, we'll have all the eyes and ears and hands and hearts we need to be successful in the work that we do.
Some things that we are moving forward on, and I want to ask for your participation and support. Very, very soon we will be publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will outline some proposed changes in the BLM grazing program. These are not definitive, there is not a definitive proposal at this time. We're throwing a softball out there saying here's some things that we wanna take a look at. And, then we'd like you to help us make sure we get it right when we come up with a final proposal and a final set of rules. And we need to hear from you to understand the fine nuances and the opportunities that are out there to develop a program that accomplishes that dual goal of healthy, productive lands and thriving communities in an era of conservation and an era that supports the benefits of people using those lands while they're conserving them. We're also going to be publishing a Formal Notice of Intent that we're going to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement on the impacts of these proposed changes.
And, I want to just briefly let you know what some of the areas that are going to be discussed in these two documents, but again I remind you that these aren't definitive and we're asking for input.
One of the changes would eliminate provisions in the existing regulations for strict conservation use grazing permits. As you know these permits that were introduced in 1994 were determined by federal courts to be illegal and it's time to get them off the books.
Another change under consideration would allow livestock operators, in consultation with our BLM Range Conservationists to rest their lands for up to 5 years if they find that that is mutually beneficial. It would give them flexibility in their operations and in their own personal needs.
We are considering, just considering, the designation of a new type of grazing unit called a "common allotment" or "reserved common allotment." These allotments could be held in reserve for temporary use for ranchers who are partnering with us either to implement ranch improvements or to utilize in the event of conditions such as the serious drought that we're in that makes it difficult for them to sustain their operations on their own allotment.
Another potential change that allowed the BLM and its permittees to share title of range improvements that are done under the Cooperative Range Improvement Agreements. Title should reflect the investments made by those working to improve the range. The improvements of putting in fences, water wells, pipelines and the like. Range improvements are paid for by a portion of the $1.35/month grazing fee that is returned to the grazing district for so-called range improvements (in reality, they are livestock management facilities). Once the permittee (rancher) has ownership of these improvements, any change in their grazing program (livestock numbers, season of use, etc.) will qualify them for TAKE. That is, they will have a legal argument that any change in their way of doing business is causing them harm and they therefore have a right to be compensated for that change or loss. Remember, these are public lands !!
We are considering modifications and streamlining of the administrative appeals process as it relates to grazing decisions. The appeals process within BLM and the Department of the Interior for any decision that adversely affects any permittee (rancher) is already so cumbersome as to be almost not worth the effort.
Another change would clarify the kinds of non-permit violations the BLM may take into account in penalizing a permittee. This provision would make it impossible for the BLM to penalize a permittee for violating any other federal law, such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, etc. The permittees (ranchers) desire complete freedom to do whatever they want on public lands.
We also want to give BLM Managers the opportunity, under certain circumstances, to allow temporarily locked gates on public lands when it meets the needs of the livestock operators. It has always been illegal to block or lock gates on public lands. There are, however, illegally locked gates on public lands in all western states. This provision would help make it legal to block public access to public lands, all to the benefit of the ranchers. Sportsmen should think of all of the “no trespassing” signs they see on private lands. The great value of the western public lands is access for sportsmen and all other recreationists.
We will consider changes to distinguish between access on public and private land.
We are considering revising administrative fees for permit applications, billings and preference transfers. And, while we're on the topic of fees, I do want to assure you that we are not considering any change in the existing grazing fee formula. The current grazing fee is approximately $1.35 for a 1,000 pound cow and calf or 5 sheep for 1 month. Anyone who can feed their dog or cat for $1.35 a month should please let the rest of us know.
Another potential regulatory change will clarify that the BLM will follow State Law in the acquisition of water rights. The insidious nature of this proposed new regulation will be that state legislatures can easily pass laws giving preference to livestock operators over that of the federal land managers or wildlife interest groups who wish to reserve water for wildlife. In the west, if you have control of ALL of the water, you have control of EVERYTHING. If you think that is not the intent of the current administration, you are wrong. They are attempting to put control of the water, therefore the land, 9in the hands of the livestock operator, the privileged few.
We are also considering a regulatory provision that would emphasize that reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act would consider the economic, social and cultural impacts of BLM's decisions.
A couple of other items that would not be involved in the rule making that's proposed, but that are policy options for us that we would welcome input on. One of the policy changes would provide more flexibility for BLM Resource Managers, Ranchers and Conservation Groups who choose to work in partnership to promote conservation and healthy grazing allotments. We have had some experiments in this arena that have been very positive, that have helped us have sustainable ranching operations, but right now it's not easy to get into those setups and we're looking for some feedback on whether we ought to further evaluate that opportunity.
Another policy option would authorize the creation of an administrative mechanism that would help grazing permittees meet mitigation requirements for protecting threatened and endangered species.
The BLM will soon publish all these ideas as a starting point. We're hoping to be published next week. Again, we need your comments and your advice and counsel at this time. After publication, there will be a 60_day comment period, and I'm going to encourage all of you who have an interest in healthy rangelands, sustainable ranching operations, conservation of rangelands in the West, to work together to get your input on the record. Those who would promote "Cattle Free in '93" or '03", that would like to abolish ranching, will get their selves together and will make their concerns known and they will be on the record.
And, it's important that if you care, that you take the time to share with us your ideas and help us come up with a good set of proposed regulations that will serve these joint goals that we have. Ranching has been a proud and very important part of America's past and the BLM's. The Homestead Act did open the doors for you and your forebears to be here. Ranching has become a way of life and it still is. It's important to the livelihood of many people, to the cultural and social identity of the West, to the economic vitality of rural communities. It WILL be a part of our future. This is the commitment of this administration certainly of the BLM, and myself, personally, as Director.
When President Bush last year visited BLM lands in Oregon, he said the following: "Times are tough, and so is America. Our economy has strengths to equal those challenges. After all, we've got the most productive farmers and ranchers in the world." The President said this administration is committed to helping people stay on their farms and ranches. He has directed us to find solutions based on common sense and common ground.
Secretary Norton has directed the entire Department of Interior to work on what she calls "The 4 C's _ to promote consultation, cooperation, and communication, all in the service of conservation." These are our guiding principles.
In summary, our message today is that we have much to do. We cannot do it alone. We need you to help us. Help us to find common sense, common ground, creative partnerships, citizen centered community based solutions. Healthy, working rangelands now and for the future.
Thank you very much.