The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is shirking promises it made to crackdown on the misuse of public lands.
Released documents show that the agency has completely shelved planned regulations to root out ranchers engaged in illegal cattle grazing on BLM lands.
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The internal records show that throughout 2017, the agency’s timeline for implementing the new rules on cattle grazing slipped from “ongoing” to “on hold.” The regulations are now missing entirely from BLM’s 2018 regulatory agenda.
The Government Accountability Office previously found that BLM didn’t record the vast majority of illegal grazing incidents.
“Agency staff told GAO that they handle most incidents informally — their preferred practice — and do not record them in databases or consistently in paper files, because, in part, they do not consider it a priority,” a 2016 report found.
Following those findings, the BLM agreed to a number of GAO recommendations to better monitor ranchers illegally exploiting public lands. The newly released documents, however, show the agency no longer intends to comply.
The latest records were released Thursday by the watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). They were obtained following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
“Grazing trespass is a form of theft against the public that BLM chooses to ignore,” PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade said in a statement blasting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“When he suggests that federal grazing programs are well regulated, Secretary Zinke is talking through his hat,” Stade added.
PEER also noted that the lack of rules “compounds the embarrassment” already suffered by BLM at the hands of one of the most notorious ranchers accused of illegal cattle grazing: Cliven Bundy.
Bundy, who had allowed his cows to graze illegally on Nevada public lands for decades, defied Bureau orders to stop, and even rallied an armed standoff at his ranch to intimidate BLM agents in 2014.
Last month, a judge in Las Vegas declared a mistrial in the federal case against Bundy.