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BLM Releases Milquetoast Land-Use Plan Amendment for Southeast Oregon

For Immediate Release

February 27, 2024

Contact: Adam Bronstein, Western Watersheds Project, 541-595-8034,

The Bureau of Land Management Releases Milquetoast Land-Use Plan Amendment for Southeast Oregon

Vale District Resource Management Twenty Comes Years After Initial Litigation

VALE, Ore. — The Bureau of Land Management yesterday released its Record of Decision for the amended Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan (SEORMP). The plan will guide land management on the Vale District of Bureau of Land Management land for decades to come, and yet utterly fails to address the long-standing ecological devastation caused by grazing mismanagement.

Western Watersheds Project and co-plaintiffs filed a complaint in 2003 in federal district court alleging the Bureau failed to meet its obligations under federal law to address lands degraded by domestic livestock, impacts to wildlife habitat, and failure to protect Lands with Wilderness Characteristics. Following a subsequent appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge granted the conservationists’ motion, forcing the Bureau to address the Plan’s deficiencies through an amendment. A settlement agreement was signed by the Plaintiffs and the Bureau in 2010, resulting in yesterday’s final decision. Unfortunately, the plan still fails to tackle the damage caused by grazing.

“Recognizing and ‘protecting’ 400,000 acres of wilderness quality lands from motorized enthusiasts for wildlife and wilderness values is a good step in the right direction, however, the amendment fails to meaningfully address overgrazing by livestock—the overwhelming ecological stressor on this beleaguered landscape,” said Adam Bronstein, Oregon Director for Western Watersheds Project. “The new plan amendment is merely business as usual when it comes to livestock issues, where the Bureau regurgitates its regulations but provides no enforceable triggers to affect change.” 

The 2003 lawsuit highlighted chronic and serious issues with livestock grazing within the planning area, focusing on environmental impacts such as reduced vegetation, higher water temperatures in trout streams, and increased sedimentation that smothers spawning gravels. It highlighted the lack of assessment for lands suitable for grazing, absence of meaningful standards for rangeland management, and failure to establish objective, quantitative standards. In the settlement, which required the plan amendment, the Bureau of Land Management acknowledged the seriousness of livestock-caused ecological problems in the Vale District. Additionally, the original Resource Management Plan was criticized for not properly analyzing or revising grazing allotments and forage utilization levels and laying out a clear path to retire grazing allotments. Despite over a decade of development, the new amendment doesn’t provide firm mechanisms for remedying grazing abuses.

“This plan maintains the status quo so that nothing fundamentally changes. Until livestock impacts are squarely addressed, this landscape will remain in a state of ecological poverty,” said Bronstein. 


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