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The Hammond family's BLM grazing permits - an easy target for environmental extremist NGO's
Protect the Harvest 2019
Three notoriously litigious environmental extremist NGOs have joined together in filing a lawsuit to prevent the renewal of four BLM grazing permits held for over 50 years by the Hammond family, near Burns, Oregon and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The lawsuit was filed by Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Western Watersheds Project (WWP), and Wildearth Guardians on May 13, 2019 in the U.S. District Court in Pendleton, Oregon. It names as defendants the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), current U.S. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, and the BLM’s district manager, Jeffrey Rose, in Burns, Oregon.
The permits were reinstated by former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, before he left office early this year. The reinstatement followed the July 2018 presidential pardon of Steven and Dwight Hammond.
Read more about the Hammond case here.
Hammond Allotments Achieve
Rangeland Health Standards
The cattle number, periods of use, and AUMs (animal unit months) included in the Hammond permits have been unchanged since 1994, which demonstrates the effectiveness and sustainability of management practices in place prior to the permit nonrenewal. Over the years, rangeland health assessments repeatedly found that the allotments had “achieved applicable rangeland health standards and guidelines.” In these assessments, five standards are measured by an interdisciplinary team. Standards include upland watershed function, riparian watershed function, ecological processes, water quality, and native, threatened, endangered, and locally important species.
In the event that applicable rangeland health standards are not achieved, or when livestock grazing is the significant causal factor in the non-achievement, the only requirement is a change in “existing grazing management practices or levels of grazing use on the public lands”—NOT the termination of grazing rights being sought in the current lawsuit.
In addition, the nonrenewal decision came after the Hammonds had already served time for the two fires they admitted setting, and two years after their 2012 convictions of “malicious arson,” for which Steven and Dwight Hammond were pardoned by President Donald Trump. Both fires were ignited on the Hammonds’ private land and spread to public land. The total public land burned was approximately 140 acres—less than 1% of about 27,000 acres of permitted land.
“Sue and Settle” Equals Big
Payouts for NGOs – Costing Taxpayers Millions
In a recent DOI Inspector General Report, it was found that during the Obama Administration settlements with environmental non-profits averaged $800 million per year of taxpayers’ dollars, which are made accessible through the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
Abuse of NEPA and APA For
In the lawsuit over the Hammond permits, the plaintiffs state that Administrative Procedure Act (APA) was violated since a full, public environmental analysis was not completed before the permits were reinstated. (read the complaint in its entirety here.
Interestingly, the required environmental assessment was indeed completed this spring. Read here.
Equal Access to Justice Act
– A Cash Cow for Environmental Extremist Groups
89% of Lawsuits Filed By
Environmental Extremist Groups Target Livestock Grazing
In the Hammond case, the plaintiffs waited several months after the permits were reinstated and several weeks after cattle were already turned out to file for a TRO. The TRO was issued on June 4th by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, to prevent cattle from being moved to the Mud Creek Allotment.
The four Hammond allotments had not been used since 2013, since they were not renewed for the 2014 grazing season. However, had the BLM renewed the Hammond permits, the grazing management would have remained current. Since the unsatisfactory performance status with the BLM came two years after the Hammond convictions, and since those very same convictions were overturned by President Trump’s pardon, it would seem that the 2014 performance status would no longer have merit.
In their complaints, the plaintiffs state that cattle grazing had “caused the spread of the fire-prone invasive weed cheatgrass. Cheatgrass continues to impair land health on the permitted allotments to this day.” They also paradoxically state “Vegetation has flourished with five years of rest, providing additional protective hiding cover for sage-grouse that breed and raise their young on the allotments during the spring.”
Fire Hazard Ignored By
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fire is the greatest danger to sage-grouse habitat in the west, and properly managed livestock grazing helps mitigate that risk. The sage grouse was grabbed up by extremist environmental NGOs as a political pawn in their attempts to enact their agenda via the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, after years of studies and deliberation, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service found in 2015 that the species no longer required extra protection. The sage grouse was withdrawn as a candidate for the Endangered Species List. This decision was largely due to a concerted effort by ranchers to manage grazing to compliment sage grouse mating and nesting seasons, and enhance habitat. Meanwhile, NGOs did nothing “on the ground” to help the sage grouse.
Neighbors Express Concern
About Extreme Fire Hazard
The October 2018 rangeland health assessment found that the only standard not being met was habitat conditions for native, threatened and endangered, and locally important species. BLM determined that livestock grazing was not the causal factor. Rather, BLM determined that this standard was not being achieved as a result of western juniper presence, lack of sagebrush, and annual invasive grass contributing to risk of future wildfire as it relates to the sage-grouse.
Interestingly, the environmental extremist plaintiffs state in their complaint that returning cattle to the permits would “harm the area’s special values.” We daresay that a catastrophic wildfire would do much worse than that. Considering the proximity of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to the Hammond allotments, and the potential for fire to start on those ungrazed allotments and spread to and devastate the refuge, it makes it quite clear that the plaintiffs’ supposed concern for wildlife is not their true motivation.
Protect The Harvest is working to provide the public with more details about these organizations, their operations, and those operations’ immense cost to taxpayers.
What are grazing permits and
why are they important to the American West and its Ranchers?
“Congress tasked the BLM with a mandate of managing public lands for a variety of uses such as energy development, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting while ensuring natural, cultural, and historic resources are maintained for present and future use…To do this, we manage public lands to maximize opportunities for commercial, recreational, and conservation activities. This promotes healthy and productive public lands that create jobs in local communities while supporting traditional land uses such as responsible energy development, timber harvesting, grazing, and recreation, including hunting and fishing.”
Water resource development
The Taylor Grazing Act of
Once rangelands were surveyed, the rancher with preexisting vested claims to the range and stock water was issued a grazing permit based on traditional grazing seasons and the carrying capacity of the range. Western ranches which typically included a mix of private land and federally administered grazing allotments, continued to be bought, sold and inherited; mortgages were issued for the value of both the private land and the water rights and range improvements and numbers of livestock the ranch could carry between the grazing allotments and private lands.”
Livestock grazing benefits
environment and economy
Read more about public land ranching and its benefits here: https://www.ncba.org/CMDocs/BeefUSA/Issues/Public%20Lands%20Ranching%20Overview.pdf .
Public Land Ranching: An
Integral Part of the West
The BLM website states: “The federal grazing fee is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. Under this formula, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM); also, any fee increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. The grazing fee for 2019 is $1.35 per AUM, as compared to the 2018 fee of $1.41 per AUM.”
“Welfare ranchers” or “welfare environmentalists”?
In 2014, public land ranchers paid the government over $12 million in grazing fees. Public land ranching actually saves taxpayers money—approximately $750 million per year—because it costs the BLM $2 per acre to manage grazed land, as opposed to $5 per acre to manage ungrazed land. According to the Department of the Interior, public land grazing contributes at least $1.5 billion to the economy each year.
When the EAJA-funded lawsuits of environmental extremist NGOs cost taxpayers an average of $800 million per year during the Obama administration, it’s becomes quite obvious who the real “welfare” cases are.
Clearly, the motives of environmental extremist NGOs have virtually nothing to do with the actual well-being of wildlife and the rangeland ecosystem, and everything to do with filling their coffers at great expense to taxpayers, rural communities, and to the land itself.
Protect The Harvest supports the Hammonds and the responsible grazing of public lands.
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