San Juan Plan Revision

August 26, 2008
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Livestock Grazing on Public Lands: Our National Treasure

July 29, 2008

I am sick and tired of listening to the talking heads spew their lies about livestock grazing on public lands. The far left has spent 25 years trying to disparage and discredit our western heritage in an attempt to sway public opinion in their favor. I  worked on ranches in New Mexico and Arizona from age 11 through my high school years, then began managing quarterhorse ranches and shoeing horses through college; and  I still help with “cow works” when occasion permits and shoe about a 100 head of horses per month . I wear a cowboy hat every day. I wear boots, jeans and believe in the “code of the west” and for someone to say that my “culture” is dead is to say that I have spent my entire life chasing an impossible dream. I have news for those naysayers, and fear mongers who love and make lies in order to advance their agenda; We ain’t goin’ nowhere!!

All of my heroes have been cowboys, stockman, horseman and western folks. They weren’t perfect, but at least you know where they were coming from. I would like for all of you who share the same dream as I do to tell your story. Let’s let the liberals see and hear that the “silent majority” walks softly but carries a big stick.

Conservation Easements…Pros and Cons

May 1, 2008

I recently attended a seminar with one of the themes being conservation easements. I firmly believe that in some instances a conservation easement is a very good thing. But as a legal consultant, I also understand the ramifications and far reaching affects of a conservation easement. I would like to hear what you think.

 

San Juan Plan Revision

April 29, 2008

Subject:  Comments Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Land Management Plan (DLMP) for San Juan Public Lands

 

            The San Juan Public Lands (DEIS and DLMP are very impressive documents in both their content and organization, I have had the opportunity to review many EIS’s and I feel that overall this three volume series was a good faith effort to manage for the future of natural resources under a condition of conflicting demands.

            Our comments will be directed primarily at the forest-range interface and the important role that sustainable renewable resources have played in the custom and culture of the region and the critical role of livestock in the regions future.  The Range Improvement Task Force (RITF) at New Mexico State University (NMSU) strongly supports management goals and objectives that embrace scientific methodologies and implementation of management decisions that are based on “sound science” including quantitative resource assessments, monitoring and coordination.

            The DEIS preferred Alternative B, when viewed from a land allocation perspective is an attempt at “balance”, however, this balance is a marked departure from historic customs and regional culture that will have adverse economic impacts upon traditional consumptive users i.e. range livestock and forest products industry.  The most revealing impact is displayed in Table 1, MA5 where the preferred alternative 529,413 acres are 145,601 less than are allocated to current commodity production in Alternative A.  This transition in management will have an adverse impact on Hispanic and pioneer Anglo ranching (Volume 2, pg. 95).  The economic and social impacts will be borne by a small subset of the population; however, this is the population that has made investments in the resources in terms of water developments and range improvements.  The impacts to the Hispanic and pioneer Anglo ranchers are inconsistent with your goal of recognizing all valid existing rights (Vol. 1, pg. viii).  This small subset of the population will experience a disproportional burden of negative impacts and must be analyzed separately according to NEPA.

            You refer to heritage tourism and recreation on page 221 of Volume 2 this list needs to be expanded to include heritage “ranching”.  The greatest deficiency in these documents are the characterization of livestock grazing as an “over grazing” activity, this negative characterization predominates volume 1 and should be offset with references to the positive aspects of grazing that the literature has documented when managed properly at conservative stocking levels resulting in slight to moderate utilization.  Your desired conditions 20.1 through 20.4 (Volume 2 pg. 67) are attainable with slight to moderate stocking and can be more rapidly achieved with additional lands being placed in the MA5 category.  Intensified management should focus on distribution of wild and domestic ungulates rather than solely domestic livestock removal.  The “Working forest” described on page 1.18 is heavily skewed toward locking up resources from the people not for the people.  Valid existing rights will be prevented from being put to beneficial use resulting in equity losses without compensation. 

Pg. 2.29           This lack of regard for private sector investments is apparent on pg. 2.29 when the preferred alternatives would “close 11 category “C” BLM allotments on the Pegosa District Field Office due to difficulties of managing small parcels of public land within larger private land parcels undergoing development.  In addition, unstocked “C” Category allotments would also be unstocked.  This destocking decision should be a site-specific decision rather than a blanket removal, southern Colorado has been through a protracted drought with good stewards voluntarily destocking; paralyzing stewardship and failing to recognize permittee investments needs to be questioned.

pg. 2.42.          No alternative, including alternative D, is allowing grazing on unsuitable lands, adequate safeguards currently exist to assure conservative stocking and resulting as long run increase in range condition.  Increasing to 6 acres/AUM is less than 9 head to the section, this is conservative grazing that requires site specific monitoring to determine sustainability and movement toward Desired Future Conditions (DFC) through time.  It isn’t that the SJ rangelands aren’t improving; the issue is how fast are they improving!

Pg 2.70            Table 2.9.2 indicates that permitted AUM’s of F.S. and BLM for both cattle and sheep would be unchanged from current (Alt. A.) to the preferred (Alt. B.) doesn’t match the whole tone of the volume unless the recommended reductions will be to authorized AUM’s.  this would truly be uncompensated reductions if permitted numbers were never authorized.

Pg. 2.81 and 2.82         A direct correlation is made between livestock AUM’s and adverse impact to soils, water, Riparian Areas and Wetland Ecosystems.  Where is the data to support such claims?  Where is the distinction between domestic cattle and wild ungulates?  This negative tone is pervasive throughout the volume.

Pg. 3.33           No positive impacts related to livestock grazing are mentioned.  The citations include much higher stocking rates per unit area than those determined to be appropriate and sustainable in the DEIS/DLMP.  Allotment management plans (AMP) do not allow high stocking per unit area in permitted AUM’s.

Pg. 3.102         Impacts Related to Livestock Grazing.  The first four paragraphs are referring to over grazing.  Over grazing is a practice that is not supported.  Conservative stocking rates are sustainable and the literature indicates that species richness can be enhanced, ground cover increased and ecological integrity improved.  Negative language continued on pages 3.134, 3.179.

Pg. 3.110         Arizona Fescue Mountains Grasslands:  The statement, “as well as the fact that cattle tend to spend a disproportionate amount of their time in this vegetation type…etc” needs a citation for such a strong statement.  If the reference is (Romme et. at all 2006) it is final report that has not had peer review and is not published.

Pg. 3.193 “When grazing is used a management tool in order to restore grassland health, cattle may result in positive influences on elk winter range.”  This statement is a positive management oriented observation that needs expanding to indicate how the cattle had a positive influence, citations are necessary here also.  The cause and effect of slight to moderate grazing to improve vegetation composition, productivity and other positive aspects of soil stabilization and ecological integrity need documentation and expansion into other sections of the DEIS that lead directly into the determination of suitability on page 3.229.  When slight to moderate grazing is recognized as a potential management tool as on page 3.193 then additional acreage will be “SUITABLE” for livestock grazing.

Pg. 3.230         A blanket statement such as “however, resource problems are not going to be resolved by constructing more range improvements.” Is unwarranted; if the author meant that response problems are not going to be solely resolved by range improvements than he/she is correct.  However, most range resource conflicts have a better chance of management response if managers realize that ungulate distribution or redistribution is the root cause, this includes distribution of both domestic as well as wild ungulates.  Statements of this nature reveal an inherent bias that is self defeating in natural resource management. 

Pg. 3.236         The ewe/lamb animal until factor of 0.3 is suspect.  Society of Range Management conversion factors need to be used.  This constitutes a major departure from the 0.20 to standard, justification is necessary.

Pg. 3.237.        Table 3.14.5 displays “Suitable Grazing Acres by Alternative” the figures presented are probably suitable AUM’s rather than acres.  When livestock are considered as a management tool then additional acreage should be classified as suitable.

Pg. 3.250         The statement made that “big game numbers are expected to increase” is indicative of the management situation throughout the SJPL.  The only control the managing agency has is to control livestock numbers, season of use, and duration rather than the expanding elk herds, this is as if wild ungulates don’t graze or concentrate or are in any way detrimental to resource conditions.  The impacts won’t be ameliorated until both wild and domestic ungulates are recognized as potential sources of impact.

Pg. 3.485         What is the basis behind the statement that livestock production would be generally maintained under Alternative B:  The livestock industry would be relieved, however with 145,600 acres less in the MA5 category of Active Management this will be difficult to sustain unless the suitability criterion is adjusted to include the livestock management tool and the MA5 acres are not reduced from the current 675,014 in alternative A to 529,413 in Alternative B.

Pg. 3.502, 3.497, 3.493           Executive Order 12898 requires that planning alternatives be assessed to determine whether they would disproportionately affect minority and low-income populations.  The Hispanic ranchers in the SJ planning area are both minority and low income.  These ranchers are also the subset of the community being directly impacted by AUM reductions; environmental justice requires an examination of the potential for Hispanic ranches to absorb a disproportional burden.

Pg. 3.517         Statements that “the BLM does not manage, and is not proposing to include, private surface or private mineral estate values as part of the ACES” is inconsistent with the Delores Field Office staff identifying a potential ACEC that would contain 875 acres of BLM – administered lands and approximately 3,500 acres of private land.

Pg. 3.517         Am I reading correctly that the TNC reviewed BLM initiatives to ensure relevant and important “values” were considered, “the CNHP identified PCA’s for target species, which were then evaluated by TNC.”  A total of 35 potential ACES’s were subsequently evaluated and then nominated by CNAP/TNC.  Outsourcing can be economically desirable in some circumstances but abrogating Agency decision making responsibilities to a NGO is highly questionable.

Vol. 2 pg. 30    Historic Range of Variation:  Ecological conditions described in (HRV) includes natural disturbance; this disturbance phenomena seems to be missing in the description of utopia of HRV conditions.  Fifty to seventy-five years of conservative stocking up to the present have certainly contributed to reversing the historic detrimental impacts.  The transition toward native bunch grasses is occurring; the question is if the rate of transition is fast enough.

Pg. 67:             Adaptive management has both a positive side as well as negative for directing change.  The underlying theme used in this manuscript is that adaptive management will be used as the “tool” to reduce livestock numbers to accommodate  “Factors including the increase in big game numbers, the listing of T&E species, the implementation of hazardous fuels reduction projects, the on-going drought, and persistent water quality issues…”

Pg. 75:             resident knowledge of historic land users such as the range livestock industry need to be included n the designation of the area and acreage mapped for the Management Areas (MA’s), particularly for MA3 through MA7 designations.

Pg. 95:             The description of Pagosa Springs with its Hispanic and pioneer Anglo ranching is a depiction of the areas custom and culture which should be included in the Desired conditions.  Your document refers to heritage tourism and recreation on pg. 221; Heritage Ranching should be included.

Pg. 107:           How can the federal government obtain water rights for livestock which are owned by the private sector:  These senior rights need to stay with the permittee.

Pg. 124:           It is reassuring to see that the intent is to monitor and than apply to adaptive management; the 10% monitoring objective might be exceeded if agency-permittee memorandums of understanding are persued where monitoring is conducted together.

Pg. 145:           The corresponding permitted numbers are found in Table 2.9.2 with permitted USFS cattle being 115,312 AUM’s and permitted sheep being 8,754 AUM’s, of course the annual stocking rates will vary by resource conditions and determined in the A.O.I.          

Pg. 179:           The description of the Navajo River RNA matches the D.F.C. and HRV conditions; this was accomplished with livestock grazing; further justification that conservative stocking rates are conducive to maintaining and enhancing resource conditions.     

Pg. 233:           You mention that elk are a MIS, however, the population trends did not correlate with habitat trends and changes in elk habitat in the Forest do not appear to affect elk numbers; does this mean the correlation coefficient was zero?  How was this model specified and for what areas?  What was the livestock correlation coefficient?  You mention that the Forest Service is contributing to state objective for elk; What are the state objectives?  Where is the citation? 

Evaluation process:  You mention that “where the desired condition may be conceptual or visionary in mature, the monitoring items are a measurable aspect of the desired conditions.”  If monitoring is not quantitative then you have an ocular qualitative value based monitoring evaluation movement toward a conceptual goal, not exactly a comforting situation.  How are inherent biases prevented from entering such a value-laden arena?

Social and economic impacts were directed from the USFS Washington Office to have equal weight with ecological parameters.  Where is the equal weight in the Annual Monitoring and Evaluation Report (Pg. 234)?

Pg. 238:           Table 40 – Monitoring Strategy (C.3.1) Manage Water Uses.  The table poses the question of “Are Water Rights being beneficially used as required by associated water court decrees.”  Are livestock owned by the private sector a qualified beneficial use for USFS water rights?  If not then water rights must remain with the permittees.  

Pg. 239:           Table 40 F1.  Terrestrial Ecosystems Desired Conditions “All rangelands display satisfactory rangeland conditions.”  The key to the definition included on pg. 5.42  Glossary is that current conditions are meeting or moving toward Desired Conditions in AMP or LHD.  This is not specific on the objective of time to achieve, therefore, simply a favorable movement toward DFC qualifies the rangeland to be satisfactory, the problem is the term “all”.  This term could be micro interpreted in an adverse manner and should be removed.

Pg. 246:           “Key” areas are identified in Table 40 has a potential monitoring items, these key areas need to be representative of the pastures and are best implemented with the permittees cooperation.

Specifying an objective of “eradicating” an invasive species is noble but rarely achieved; it might be more appropriate to control the invasion of invasive species.

General comments on the practice of multiplying 1.32 times the forage consumption rate of 26 lb/day to arrive at 34 pounds per day of consumption.

According to the Society for Range Management, an Animal Unit is “considered to be one mature cow of approximately 1000 pounds, either dry or with calf up to 6 months of age, or their equivalent, based on a standardized amount of forage consumed.”  The SRM defines and Animal Unit Month as, “the amount of dry forage required by one animal unit for one month based on a forage allowance of 26 pounds per day.”

What does rural America think about Global warming?

April 15, 2008

For a number of years environmentalists have been spreading the alarm about global warming. A few years ago a climatologist doing routine research did a comparison of all the weather stations around the globe and discovered an alarming phenomenon; the earth seemed to be getting hotter. Since then numerous scientists  have scrambled for the millions of dollars available for research on global warming.  But here are some interesting facts;

  • one scientist discovered that the time-series data that was used to measure the average temperature was taken from areas that 50 years ago had very little development or population but now are sprawling urban areas with skyscrapers, asphalt, and a high population.  When he investigated further he discovered that some of the weather stations were situated in areas that years before were in the open but now were closed in some fashion or located on the top of asphalt or in one particular instance, was located outside an exhaust vent of a metal factory.  His conclusion was that there was not “global warming” but rather “urban warming” because areas that had not changed as far as urbanization was concerned did not indicate an increase in average temperature.

What do you think? Is global warming real?…and if it is what can be done about it?  We would like to hear what you think.

 

Conservation Easements: godsend… or Ravening Wolf in Disguise?

April 15, 2008

Do you have a conservation easement on your property?

  • What is good about it?
  • What would you like changed?
  • We invite your comments…

Have you lost Livestock to the Mexican Grey Wolf?

April 15, 2008

One of the problems that we often find is the lack of effective communication devices in order to disseminate information. We would like for you to use this BLOG as a medium to report information. This blog is dedicated to Mexican Grey Wolf attacks on livestock.

  • Have you had experience with mexican grey wolves attacking your livestock?
  • What is you opinion of the current criteria for determining wolf kills?
  • Do you agree with the Game and fish departments opinion that wolves do not bother cattle?