Biden Admin Environment

Tracy’s Travesty: New Boss Same as Old Boss at Bureau of Land Management

Photograph Source: Qfl247 – CC BY-SA 3.0

By Mike Garrity / CounterPunch

It’s too bad for conservationists and all Americans, but Tracy Stone-Manning, Biden’s new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director, is continuing the Trump administration’s policy of destructive public land grazing. The BLM administers 246 million acres of public land, mainly in the intermountain west, with the mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Investigation finds the BLM is “failing public land health standards across the west”

To find out if the BLM was achieving its mission of “sustaining the health of public lands, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sent Freedom of Information Act requests to gather data on 21,000 grazing allotments covering 155 million acres of public lands administered by the BLM.

Although BLM has yet to even assess the health of 41 million acres, about half of all the assessed grazing allotments in the American west – 54 million acres – are severely degraded, finding livestock grazing as “the significant cause” on 72% of those lands. The results are contained on a very interesting interactive map.

BLM’s “solution” – drill wells in the desert for more widespread cattle grazing

Prior to the release of PEER’s damning report, BLM director Tracy Stone-Manning told High Country News that: “Cattle grazing can be used as a tool on the landscape to help restoration practices. Our overall work is to pass on lands better than we found them. That’s what conservation is to me.”

Given her words, it’s very difficult to explain why the agency she oversees is planning to drill 40 new livestock watering wells in or near the recently restored Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah. This is particularly concerning since the PEER report found the most unhealthy grazing allotments are often in cold deserts in the rain shadow of mountain ranges characterized by lack of moisture and extreme temperature swings. That’s a perfect description of the fragile landscape in the Bear’s Ears National Monument.

Stealing water from native vegetation, fish, and wildlife

Drilling new wells for livestock tanks significantly alters the hydrology and is antithetical to improving the health of the land. For one thing, such wells often cause natural springs, upon which native wildlife rely, to go dry as the water table is lowered. When that happens, the tiny streams they feed also disappear and any vegetation — such as cottonwoods and wetlands that line and cool the canyon bottoms – will likewise die.

Disrupting the natural springs steals the water that would otherwise provide for fish, wildlife and other downstream vegetation. In the end, there will be less or no water in the Bears Ears National Monument for frogs, deer, and anything else that requires water to survive — which is just about everything.

The BLM claims – with no scientific evidence – that drilling water wells for cattle improve the health of the land by moving cows away from riparian areas. But a published paper found drilling wells for livestock tanks failed to relieve pressure on riparian areas, which makes sense since the riparian areas are cool, shady, and vegetated, which is why the cattle go there.

Although decades of range science research show the best way to improve the health of riparian areas is by reducing or eliminating cattle, the BLM did not consider this as an alternative. Instead, director Tracy Stone-Manning proposes to have cattle grazing destroy even more of the Bears Ears National Monument.

If this sounds like something the Trump administration would have proposed, it’s because it is – especially considering the southwest is currently experiencing a 20-year mega-drought that has already severely depleted water supplies.

What you can do about Tracy’s travesty

The BLM is taking public comment on the proposal to water wells for cows in the 146,131 acre Slinkhorn grazing allotment and 623,013 acre Red House pasture grazing allotment in or near the Bears Ears National Monument. Please tell the BLM to reduce or eliminate grazing in these two allotments instead of drilling water wells for cattle that accelerate the destruction of these fragile, already-stressed desert ecosystems. And THANKS for your much-needed help!

To Comment:

Slickhorn Allotment Water Wells

Red House Pasture Water Wells

“Select “Participate Now” on the left-hand side to submit comments or mail to: Bureau of Land Management, Attn: Jed Carling, PO Box 7, Monticello, UT 84535

Mike Garrity

Mike Garrity is the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.


  1. Up is down, lies are truth, war is peace. This is what happens when you have “The Lobbies” run amuck.

    “Cattle grazing can be used as a tool on the landscape to help restoration practices. Our overall work is to pass on lands better than we found them. That’s what conservation is to me.”

    This is almost retarded. This is it for the mentality of our elites, our leaders. Cattle is good for land. Cattle is good for streams and lakes. Cattle spreads great benefits to the land they eat down to the root and the vast millions of acres of killing fields against the few apex creatures still alive.

    And, journalism, does it push back? Or are they all stenographers?

    Shame on this statement floating in the air without pushback from the supposed environmental journalist.

    These Marlboro guys and gals need to go the way of the Dodo: CBD,

    Cattle destroy native vegetation, damage soils and stream banks, disrupt natural processes, and contaminate waterways with fecal waste. After decades of livestock grazing, once-lush streams and riparian forests have been reduced to flat, dry wastelands; once-rich topsoil has been turned to dust, causing soil erosion, stream sedimentation and wholesale elimination of some aquatic habitats; overgrazing of native fire-carrying grasses has starved some western forests of fire, making them overly dense and prone to unnaturally severe fires.

    Keystone predators like the grizzly bear and Mexican gray wolf were driven extinct in southwestern ecosystems by “predator control” programs designed to protect the livestock industry. Adding insult to injury — and flying in the face of modern conservation science — the livestock industry remains the leading opponent to otherwise popular efforts to reintroduce species like the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.

  2. I am thankful that the author of this well written article provided links so that one could comment on these 2 destructive plans. I went ahead and left my comments, using information in the article. I hope it helps, but I see that there have been only 12 comments on this outrageous water steal. No cattle should be allowed to graze on BLM lands. I do not eat beef, so I am not being a hypocrite.

  3. This is one of the best and most important columns I’ve read here, because it deals with the natural environment and a major source of its destruction, i.e. cattle grazing in the western U.S. There’s a reason that we conservationists call the BLM the Bureau of Livestock & Mining.

    Tracy Stone-Manning is a lying shill for the cattle industry. Cattle are not native to the western U.S. — there is no similar native species here — and do immense harm by their mere presence. Any claims to the contrary are outright lies. Contrary to what Stone-Manning said, the grazing industry has done more environmental and ecological harm to the western U.S. (from the Rocky Mountains to the west coast) THAN ANY OTHER INDUSTRY. Consider all the very destructive industries in the western U.S., then let that sink in.

    Unfortunately, stealing water from native plants and animals is only one of many harms caused by cattle in the west. Cattle grazing destroys the native western grasses, which did not evolve with heavy grazing and have horizontal roots, unlike the grasses east of the Rockies. Cattle, unlike native western grazers, rip the western grasses out by their horizontal roots, thereby killing them. Cattle are very heavy and unnaturally compact the soil. Cattle severely degrade riparian areas. Ranchers have replaced native grasses with invasive ones that cattle like, and ranchers kill native wildlife, either because they might attack the cattle, or because the ranchers see native ungulates as competition for grazing. Ranchers have also fenced OUR western lands for their damn cattle. I’m not going to continue listing the harms, if you’re interested read books like Sacred Cows at the Public Trough and/or Welfare Ranching, two excellent books on the subject.

    My greatest victory as an Earth First! campaigner was getting the damn cattle out of a state park near where I live. The land has largely recovered since the cattle were removed around 30 years ago. The best thing that regular people can do regarding this issue is to never eat beef. If enough people stopped eating this unnatural and unhealthy food, we’d have a chance to put some pressure on the government to remove cattle at least from public lands in the west. As with other issues, voting with your pocketbook is far more important that how you vote at the polls.

  4. The cost of one Animal Unit Month (AUM) of forage on public land to the rancher is $1.35. It was $1.35 back in 1934 when the first version of the Taylor Grazing was past. If you compensate for inflation it would be worth about 10 cents now. The public tax payers are getting fleeced big time.

    In 1978 the Public Range lands Improvement Act was passed. It is even more farcical than the Taylor Grazing Act in that some bureaucratic intellectual ‘star’ made the base rate for calculating grazing fees $1.23/AUM. This makes grazing livestock on public lands about as subsidized as it can get. Rates for grazing on private lands are frequently over $20.00 per AUM.

    I worked for the BLM from 1976 to 1984 and at least 85% of the land under their jurisdiction was over grazed then and over grazing has only increased. To make matters worse some of the big name environmental NGO’s have sided with the ranchers.

    If you want recent in depth information on this subject I suggest you read Chris Ketcham’s book called “This Land” published in 2019.

    If something cannot be done to restore public lands that we pay for, then they will be “privatized” and gone forever.

    1. @Beeline
      As a former Earth First! campaigner, one of whose issues was public lands grazing, I can confidently say that you’ve grossly understated the problem, I assume for diplomatic reasons. I’m glad that you saw the light, the vast majority of BLM people never do.

    2. @Beeline
      Sorry, I forgot to mention that ALL western land with cattle is overgrazed. There is no commercially viable way to graze cattle in the west — or possibly anywhere, but I don’t know about east of the Rockies — without doing great harm to the land and the plants & nonhuman animals that live there.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: