BLM tells scientists to take grazing out of study of changes to sagebrush ecosystems (Updated)

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is spending $40 million to map ecological trends including disturbances causing changes across the West.

Only it has told its scientists they can’t look at grazing, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility reports. The group filed a complaint with the agency today.

The Rapid Ecoregional Assessments are looking at the impacts of fire and invasive species, urban sprawl, climate change and even rock collecting in each of the six main regions of the sagebrush West. But BLM managers told scientists to exclude grazing at a August 2010 workshop, because of “anxiety from stakeholders,” fear of litigation and, lack of available data on grazing impacts.

“We will be laughed out of the room if we don’t use grazing,” Tom Edwards, a Utah State University and USGS ecologist was quoted in the minutes of the workshop. “If you have the other range of disturbances, you have to include grazing.”

Interior Press Secretary Adam Fetcher responded to calls to the BLM. Earlier this year, the Interior Department, parent agency for BLM, adopted its first scientific integrity policies prohibiting political interference with, or manipulation of, scientific work.

"This allegation will be reviewed under the standard procedures contained in (Department of Interior's)scientific integrity policy," Fetcher said Wednesday.

The BLM eventually removed livestock grazing from all ecoregional assessments, citing insufficient data, PEER said. Now the assessments consider grazing impacts only when combined with other native and introduced grazing animals.

“This is one of the screwiest things I have ever heard of,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

But Edwards, who is in charge of reviewing the Northern Plains ecoregional assessment, said he considered measuring grazing impacts of all species as one of seven change agents was valid scientifically. BLM scientists told them they simply had not gathered the data in 76 years of managing grazing on public land.

"We were surprised this data wasn’t available," Edwards said in a telephone interview.

He said overall the assessments are the best big picture look at the ecosystems since the early 1990s.

BLM has far more data on grazing than it does on other change agents, such as climate change or urban sprawl, that it chose to follow, Ruch said.

“Grazing is one of the few ‘change agents’ within the agency’s mandate to manage, suggesting that BLM only wants analysis on what it cannot control.”

1322683298 BLM tells scientists to take grazing out of study of changes to sagebrush ecosystems (Updated) Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Where is our president and what have you done with him?

Mr. Obama is acting more and more like Mr. Bush. Perhaps there has been an alien mind swap? I don't know what else would explain Mr. Obama's allowing the folks at the BLM to behave like a flat-earthers.

oh yah, it is all Obama's fault

I agree that the grazing should be included but come on you can't blame everything on Obama. There is a whole congress and senate that are supported by the cattle business who most likely had a bigger influence on this than the pres.

Not sure

you're correct on that. I think congress ennacts laws but the Department of the Interior is under direct contral of the administration. I'm not sure how it works, maybe Rocky can wiegh in.

Drako

in part …

BLM is under the DOI, which in turn is directed by Ken Salazar. Though Salazar is a Democrat, he has a pretty conservative history. As a Senator from Colorado, he voted against the fuel efficiency standards act (CAFE), has been a long time supporter of that weasel Joe Lieberman, voted against offshore drilling restrictions, and has been a climate change "doubter". Salazar's lifetime rating with the League of Conservative Voters is 81% (100% in 2008). Obama's choice of Salazar for a cabinet position was likely predicated on the "Team of Rivals" theory along with pressure to do more for the Hispanic community. He was confirmed by unanimous vote. He's a rancher with a PolySci degree, a JD, and a healthy self-interest.

Quite often I agree with the BLM,

but I sure as heck don't in this case. They are waaaaay off base, imho...Sunny...

Congress/Administration Involvement

I wouldnt jump to any conclusions about how high up the chain this decision went at this point. Maybe no higher than staff in the BLM Washington Office. But you can be sure that both western Congressional/Senate reps and the Secty of Interior will be involved now.

Politics need to be kept out

Politics need to be kept out of science. They need to find out the facts using all the data, and then once they know the facts they can make a policy decision on whether to do anything that would affect grazing. It's simply crazy to undermine the fact-finding stage by exclduing critical data for political reasons. When we do the math to build bridges, should we not count the weight contributed by steel beams manufactured domestically?

This is no surprise

The BLM has been ignoring the impacts of grazing my whole life and nothing has changed since Obama/Salazar came into office. In fact it has gotten worse because there isn't anyone watching over them on this issue.

Public lands grazing costs the American taxpayer $500,000,000 per year while the ranchers only pay $25 million in grazing fees. It's not worth it.

Again, Where is the President

Which all comes back around to my point. The President has a lot of say as to how the BLM acts. We have seen their influence over the years. Hopefully he steps up and makes it clear that data must be gathered first then the politicos can act on said data. Looking only for the data that supports your hypothesis is very bad science and leads to catastrophic decisions.

Its all about

money....

and thats it....

noone cares anymore....

The right hand is not watching what the left hand is doing....

If you don't have data on grazing...

Then, why are you leasing public lands for grazing?

Updates

Updates, updates, updates, updates. But no info as to what the update is...