NATIVE GRASSLAND HEALTH, USE, and LACK OF SCIENCE CONCERNING LIVESTOCK INTERACTIONS: An example from BLM California.
In May, 1997, the United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their RANGELAND HEALTH STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES FOR CALIFORNIA AND NORTHWESTERN NEVADA Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for comment.
The purpose of this EIS is to analyze potential environmental, social and economic impact of proposed standards for sustaining the health of rangelands and guidelines for the management of livestock grazing activities.
I have reprinted my comments on the rangeland health EIS in this issue. I use them as an example of a what we lack, in terms of science and knowledge about human/livestock/perennial native grassland interactions, to scientifically evaluate grassland health, and other legal issues that the EIS raises about monopoly use of public lands:
COMMENTS ON EIS
1.) I am a citizen of the United States of America and a permanent resident of San Mateo County, California, and over the age of eighteen, and these comments are made on the basis of my personal knowledge of the facts, and if sworn as a witness would be competent to testify to the facts stated.
2.) I have an economic interest in the United States Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (hereinafter "BLM") and their management of our public perennial native grass natural resources, as my business involves the ecological restoration of wild lands utilizing local genetic material, and my business depends on preservation and availability of in-situ native perennial grassland seed resources.
3.) I am a "party" as defined by 5 USC ß 551(3), properly seeking and entitled as of right to be admitted as a party, in an agency proceeding, to comment on this EIS.
MAJOR LEGAL INADEQUACIES OF THE EIS
4.) EIS is inadequate as it violates NEPA 42 USC ß 4321-4347.
5.) EIS is inadequate as it violates Public Rangeland Improvement Act 43 USC ß 1701-1782.
6.) EIS is inadequate as it violates the Sherman Antitrust Act 15 USC ß 1 et seq. , as it grants and maintains a monopoly.
COMMENTS AND INTRODUCTION
7.) There is a severe crisis in the protection and preservation of the entire perennial native grass biome of California and northwest Nevada.
8.) The accidental or intentional extermination of over 90% of the original perennial native grass cover of these two states have created a paradox; the more grassland we destroy, the more we limit our ability to have seed available to harvest from the remaining wild stands for use on large scale restoration or mitigation projects of the severely degraded grassland areas.
9.) There has been widespread extermination of whole populations of the native perennial grass biome, which permanently depletes the genetic structure of the public lands, perhaps making mitigation or restoration of the destroyed areas of the public resource impossible.
10.) Currently, these does not even exist the scientific process in place to conduct large scale mitigation of the California or northwest Nevada grassland biome.
11.) Grazing poses a particularly widespread threat to California's perennial native grass communities, as evidenced by the severe decline in those communities by grazing of livestock.
12.) The native perennial grassland communities are legally (as defined by the Federal Endangered Species Act) "threatened" statewide by grazing, in that the populations will continue to be exterminated by grazing as long as grazing is conducted in California and northwest Nevada.
13.) The native perennial grassland communities reproduction and community diversity, genetics and structure are depauperate under grazing; and once depauperate, the removal of grazing does not repair the damage, because viable seed in the soil bank no longer exists, and exotics have taken up permanent residence.
14.) California's perennial native grasslands contain species of plants and animals unique to California, and BLM's land contains the most genetic diversity within each species of any area in the United States, due to the environmental extremes found in the state; the scale of genetic diversity that occurs in California is only approached by one other state, Hawaii.
15.) The EIS does not discuss the uniqueness and extreme genetic diversity that occurs on BLM's land, and it has never been mapped or measured by BLM; even though the United States Forest Service (hereinafter "USFS") has done so regarding the tree species it manages on USFS public land.
16.) Massive extinction has already occurred of the genetic diversity of the California perennial grassland biome, and BLM does not address what has been lost so far through grazing, and how that destruction will be halted or reversed; diversity must be measured, mapped and monitored in order to manage it.
17.) BLM cannot legally under NEPA justify any continuation of grazing of its public native perennial grassland resources until it has a scientific monitoring method that allows annual health and trend assessments of each grazing allotment.
18.) Current monitoring methods take a minimum of 15 years to complete one monitoring pass within any resource area, and the method is skewed to also count relatively inedible shrubs as a percentage of native forage, even when the grass component/understory has become extinct from overgrazing.
19.) In areas where BLM management has allowed the native perennial grassland component to become completely extinguished, range health conditions are not even conducted, because measurement would show extinction of the entire native biome (i.e. Sacramento valley, San Joaquin valley, and most of what has been allowed to become the deserts of southern California).
20.) Without the ability to even monitor grazing allotments, except on a 10-15 year rotation, there is no ability to manage the native perennial grassland public resources.
21.) There is no scientific and physical ability to indicate "trends" in the resource; nor any ability to penalize the licensee for damage; no mitigation or damage assessments are proposed.
22.) The analogy of BLM's past and proposed future "management" of the public perennial grassland resources is like a supermarket which opens its door, and allows the shoppers to fill their shopping carts full with whatever they wish, and they are only charged by the cart-full (i.e. AUMs); and those carts are never checked, and the shelves are never inventoried, and the shoppers are carting away the infrastructure of the store, along with the equally priced resources; and BLM has no idea of the actual cost of restocking the shelves (i.e. mitigation).
23.) To add insult to injury to the poor California and northwestern Nevada perennial native grasslands, BLM is suggesting maintaining a monopoly use of the public resource, with no talk about other uses, i.e. commercial seed harvesting, hay harvesting, etc.
24.) The title "rangeland" is indicative of all the violations and inadequacies that this draft EIS is heir to; that BLM is not attempting to write an EIS or manage a "natural resource," but rather providing a monopoly for a single use by a small minority of the public.
25.) The accurate definition of the EIS should be "Native perennial Grassland Biome and Riparian Standards and Guidelines;" for these are the natural resources at stake in the document, threatened by this document's inadequacies.
26.) BLM's EIS is a fait accompli, in that a tiny minority of the state has complete use of millions of acres of two states without any legal basis; we would expect this in a third world dictatorship, but not in a democracy.
27.) How can BLM write a document that allows the concentrated single-use by only 705 people?; the courts frown on monopolies of any sort.
28.) The EIS is inadequate because the data on the perennial native grasslands is incomplete, twelve years old, and "does not collect certain critical information necessary to whether uplands are healthy or in proper functioning condition." (EIS chapter 3, page 356).
29.) The EIS is inadequate because the grazing of California's and northwestern Nevada's perennial native grasslands is a major federal action, significantly affecting the environment within the meaning of 42 USC ß 4332, and grazing licenses monopolize millions of acres of public land for a single use.
30.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no assessment in this document of what the current remaining cover is for each resource area, and there is no adequate method of measuring the remaining resource.
31.) The EIS is inadequate because it is based on data for the perennial native grasslands that is incomplete, that " slightly less than 1.3 million acres of the 4.4 million acres under grazing..." of the grassland biome's health has been inventoried in detail (Chapter 3, page 35).
32.) The EIS is inadequate because continued grazing without a benchmark measurement as of a particular date, you will have no ability to "manage" a resource, in that you do not have a current and continually monitored inventory or measurement of the resource you are managing.
33.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no method to measure the "infrastructure" that is being carted away along with the grassland resource; the (hereinafter) "infrastructure" is defined as biodiversity, genetics, soil, nutrients, biomass, mulch, stream and water quality characteristics and all of the other items which allows the living resource to thrive in a particular area.
34.) The EIS is inadequate because there is an erroneous inverse payment schedule for resources currently by BLM; areas that can possibly handle grazing and recover quicker because they are in a higher rainfall area, are valued higher per acre because you can run more head of grazing animals; sensitive areas that are easily damaged like arid lands with < 20 inches annual precipitation, where restoration is fantastically expensive and takes decades of mitigation work, payment for that resource is as low as 30 cents per acre per year because you need 1.5 square miles per cow per year.
35.) The EIS is inadequate because grazing licenses are not structured to monitor or measure trends of the resource on an annual basis, including monitoring the "infrastructure;" and the cost of mitigation of damage is not factored in.
36.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no mitigation bond required for mitigation of damage; "damage" needs to have a pre-defined per acre cost calculated; the current cost for each foot of stream cutting, the current cost for riparian restoration including labor and using local genetic material, and for any decrease in the acreage or density of the native grass stand, a current cost per acre of restoring the stand to the previous year's level including labor and materials.
37.) The EIS is inadequate because it maintains the current levels of native perennial grassland "mining," an extractive method of "managing" the resource where you are allowing decline and eventual extinction of the resource.
38.) The EIS is inadequate because it does not advocate suggest ways to do "sustainable" management, which means that you are managing the resource so that it at least is checked in place, at a particular date; and preferably, the resource once it is stabilized at a particular level, you achieve incremental improvements resource-area-wide each year to bring the resource up to as near a level that existed prior to the damage that you allowed from grazing.
39.) The EIS is inadequate because BLM cannot answer the question, "is the resource that BLM is managing diminishing, increasing, or staying the same?"; if you cannot scientifically answer that question, then as land managers, BLM cannot legally, morally, or ethically put any impacts on that resource until they can answer that question.
40.) The EIS is inadequate because it fails to discuss the overall potential alternative public use of perennial native grasslands, and uses other than monopoly grazing licenses.
41.) The EIS is inadequate because BLM's grazing licenses are de facto articles of trade or commerce, in that they permit the private commercial exploitation of publicly owned perennial native grassland biome resources including fresh water supplies by a monopoly, single use group.
42.) The EIS is inadequate because these licenses are considered by licensees to be appurtenant to their own privately-owned ranches, and that these licenses are usually transferred along with their real private property as an appurtenance.
43.) The EIS is inadequate because these licenses have been held as a monopoly the perennial native grassland biome resources, by a very tiny minority (less than 800 individuals in a state of over 35 million), single use group, for their own exclusive use, at below market rates, in violation of 15 USC ß 2, and in violation of 37 USC 1901(a) (4), the multiple-use value directive of Congress towards the perennial grassland biome.
44.) The EIS is inadequate because the Sherman Antitrust Act does not allow BLM to conspire to maintain a monopoly, to grant an exclusive use of a public resource for private economic exploitation; and it is plain in the document that it is BLM's intent and purpose to exercise its power to maintain such a monopoly, to continue to allow a small number of individuals to have control over such a vast portion of a public resource.
45.) The EIS is inadequate because has effectively excluded both other public utilization of the resource as well as other private economic use of the resource, coupled with policies and formulations of documents like the EIS, designed to preserve that power and monopoly.
46.) The EIS is inadequate because BLM is granting a privilege or peculiar advantage rested in a small number of individuals, consisting in the exclusive right to utilize the public's native perennial native grasslands for private economic purposes, and with BLM's policies to preserve and protect that exclusive use, only a few families dominate the total public natural resource of California's and northwestern Nevada's perennial native grass resources.
47.) The EIS is inadequate because BLM does not have a policy to freely and competitively price the native perennial grassland resource, or have a system of freely distributing the licenses to that resource on the open market.
48.) The EIS is inadequate because BLM's perennial native grassland resources are transferred whole, pre-selected, for private economic use, in its entirety, in perpetuity; with no ability for the general public to break that monopoly.
49.) The EIS is inadequate because it does not give any maps or indication of the overall plan for grazing allotment locations, thus making it impossible for the public to determine where and when grazing will occur and to what intensity and to assess damage or health; and to independently confirm BLM's assertions.
50.) The EIS is inadequate when it does not give data on each allotment, its acreage, location, recent (past five years) utilization data, current condition; because public needs actual data to be able to inspect individual allotments and confirm BLM's assessment, or confirm that BLM actually has no data upon which to be able to determine trends in health, especially on upland native perennial grassland sites (Chapter 3, pages 33-38).
51.) The EIS is inadequate because details of each of the current monopoly licenses are unknown; the public to make an informed decision needs to have an appendix to know the details of each of the 705 grazing licenses: who holds them, their addresses, acreage, location of allotment, name of allotment, when first established, license renewal cycle and date of next renewal, number of head run, type of livestock, number of violations, types of violations, mitigation of any, penalties, cost of license, current health condition of allotment, needed improvements or needed mitigation to bring allotment to a self-sustaining and not declining state of health, cost of that mitigation, and will the licensee be charged for that mitigation?
52.) The EIS is inadequate because it appears to a reasonable person that BLM is hiding the details of the grazing licenses to the greatest extent possible, so the public cannot examine each of these licenses more closely.
53.) The EIS is inadequate because it does not give enough information to aid in a substantive decision of what the environmental consequences are from the "project" of granting monopoly licenses for grazing; and the public does not have adequate information to be able to participate in the process.
54.) The EIS is inadequate because characters used to determine "health" only measure the resource within the narrow perspective of use for domesticated animal grazing, and does not measure the resource as a functioning ecosystem; with a requirement to maintain genetic integrity, species diversity, and low levels of exotic establishment, in order to be self-maintaining into the future,
55.) The EIS is inadequate where statements mention mitigation measures but do not explain the proposed mitigation measures in detail or explain how effective those measures would be.
56.) The EIS is inadequate since substantial questions exist concerning potential adverse effects of grazing perennial native grassland communities on the quality of the human environment, and BLM failed to account for factors necessary to determine whether significant impacts would occur.
57.) The EIS is inadequate because the severe environmental impacts in California and Nevada on those states' perennial native grassland communities is not discussed, and those damages are not remote or highly speculative consequences, but are very certain and well known.
58.) The EIS is inadequate because it must contain all feasible alternatives to the proposed monopoly grazing licenses for the utilization of the public's perennial native grassland resources for private economic use.
59.) The EIS is inadequate because there has not been a good faith attempt to identify and discuss the known environmental consequences of the monopoly grazing licenses.
60.) The EIS is inadequate because the known and potential magnitude of environmental damage by monopoly grazing licenses, and those known damages are sufficient to warrant complete rewriting of the draft environmental impact statement; so the public can have BLM consider specific solutions to problems in greater detail than the initial evaluation of the tentative, general, and too broad first approach.
61.) The EIS is inadequate because it is too general, vague, and contains conclusionary statements which are not backed up by scientific studies or facts; environmental assessment must offer more than "checklist" assurances and alternatives; and alternatives [other than use of resource by public through monopoly grazing licenses] must indicate that the agency has taken a searching, realistic look at the potential environmental degradation and mitigation, and, with reasoned thought and analysis, candidly and methodically addressed those concerns.
62.) The EIS is inadequate because of its failure to offer alternative use other than exclusive monopoly license of public's perennial grasslands; licenses to use these resources are tightly controlled by the monopoly and other potential licensees are shut out of the process [i.e. a conservation organization offering to pay the same license fee, or more, for a particular grazing allotment, to utilize the grassland for wildlife use, is barred from participation; or a commercial seed company paying the same license fee for a grazing allotment to harvest the native grass seed crop; or that all licenses for the public's resources are not available to the general public on the same free-market basis].
63.) The EIS is inadequate because BLM has no ability under the EIS to protect the resources mentioned in the EIS.
64.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no discussion about cumulative impacts of monopoly grazing licenses.
65.) The EIS is inadequate because there are no provisions to police licensees, and no penalties for damage to the resources.
66.) The EIS is inadequate because it does not discuss the Clean Water Act and the cumulative impact of non-point source water pollution caused by erosion due to grazing and nutrient flows into waterways from domesticated animal manure.
67.) The EIS is inadequate because data on the perennial native grassland health is completely lacking.
68.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no effort to analyze, interpret or evaluate the data BLM does possess on their collected monitoring data, to determine trends (Chapter 3, page 16) in perennial native grassland health.
69.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no ability by BLM to implement their proposed mitigation measures; i.e., if a range is overgrazed, there is no penalty, enforcement measures, mitigation requirements to be completed by the licensee, nor any ability to protect the resource that BLM is charged to protect.
70.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no outline on how BLM suggests that they can complete the assessment of the perennial native grassland health; without those assessments, the EIS is inadequate.
71.) The EIS is inadequate because it suggests that the native indigenous species may be "incapable of maintaining or achieving properly functioning conditions and biological health;" biological health and function of a natural system does not include the introduction of exotic species, and indeed in every case, exotic species interfere with natural system function (Chapter 2, page 10, guideline 8).
72.) The EIS is inadequate because there is no plan or outline on how BLM suggests that they can take "appropriate corrective action immediately upon the standards and guidelines taking effect;" since BLM cannot currently assess the health of the public perennial grassland biome; and that BLM is currently unable or unwilling to take appropriate corrective action, there is no evidence presented that any new standards and guidelines taking effect will improve BLM's ability to assess health or take appropriate corrective action on their 4.4 million acres.
73.) The EIS is inadequate, and the EIS was intentionally written knowing that it was inadequate and that the data is incomplete; because a complete assessment of the total impacts on the resource and the negative health trends caused by the 705 monopoly grazing licenses on the 4.4 million BLM acres could cause that particular use of the public resources to be severely curtailed, excluded or banned in the future, as a prohibited monopoly and too damaging to the resource.
74.) The public is entitled to relief, prohibiting California BLM from granting any grazing licenses, and prohibiting BLM from maintaining a monopoly regarding a public resource; pending the completion of an adequate EIS and establishing a program to make licenses available to the entire public on a free-market basis.
Craig C. Dremann
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