~ Jonathan Ratner , Wyoming Director
Last week, Western Watersheds Project filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management for failing to act to protect the precious resources of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument (GSENM) from the damages of livestock grazing.
The monument was established by President Clinton in 1996 on 1.9 million acres of BLM land containing stunning geologic formations and unique ecosystems. The proclamation required that the new Monument be managed beyond the usual 'multiple use' approach taken by the BLM.
First and foremost, the Monument will remain protected in its primitive, frontier state. The BLM will safeguard the remote and undeveloped character of the Monument, which is essential to the protection of the scientific and historic resources. Second, the Monument will provide opportunities for the study of scientific and historic resources.
However, 16 years after the Monument was established, the BLM has not even gotten around to put in place a management framework to deal with livestock grazing in light of the purposes for which the Monument was established. Instead of managing the GSENM better than the rest of BLM lands, befitting a National Monument, the BLM failed to even comply with its own national grazing regulations.
Case in point: In 2006, the BLM conducted Rangeland Health Assessments across the Monument and found 21 allotments or more than half the Monument failing Rangeland Health Standards due to livestock. Rather than address these failings, BLM buried the assessments. When word leaked out, BLM was forced to provide all 21 determinations to the public. However, the BLM is also required under its own regulations to take actions to correct Rangeland Health failures before the start of the next grazing season, but in this case, 6 years have ticked by and the BLM has not worked to correct the problems and reverse the degradation that is occurring.
On July 6th, with the representation of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, WWP filed litigation in Washington D.C. to force the agency to implement the actions that the BLM itself determined were necessary to stop grazing damage to this national treasure. The land shouldn't have to wait any longer.
Many thanks to Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, Dr. John Carter, Dr. Jim Caitlin of Wild Utah Project, and WWP's Laura Welp for helping to bring these problems to light!