From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 50 - March 13, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Grazing a necessary tool

by Cat Urbigkit

Newly appointed Wyoming Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Bennett sat down for a candid discussion with about 70 livestock producers last Saturday afternoon at the annual meeting of the Green River Valley Cattlemen's Association.

"My concept of multiple use is not every use on every piece of land," Bennett said, "but in fact, in terms of the spectrum of multiple uses, the lands are open, they're available. We practice a full range of activities on those lands - everything from strip coal mining and oil and gas, to grazing and management of wilderness areas, as appropriate.

"We attempt to do those things and keep things in balance to allow permitted activities to go forth, keeping in mind that we want to protect the landscape and protect the resource," Bennett said. "To me, it's always been almost as simple as that."

"That doesn't mean that virtually every use take place on every parcel of land," Bennett said, "but I can tell you that a lot of activities can take place on many parcels and a lot of activities can take place simultaneously on the same parcels of land."

Bennett also acknowledged that sometimes a parcel of land will have a dominant use, and pointed to coal-mining parcels in the Powder River Basin as an example. He added that when the activity is through and the land reclaimed, it's probably in as good of shape or better than before.

Some parcels will be identified for a dominant use, Bennett said, with that use ranging from mining to wilderness.

"But overall the idea is to have open public lands for multiple-use purposes," he said.

"In terms of grazing ... it's still one of the major activities to take place on public lands," Bennett said. "It's a use that I consider a real fundamental tool of management in terms of managing the surface resource.

"In many cases it's a tool that can be used to enhance the public vegetation," Bennett said. "It's to be encouraged.

"It's economically viable and a necessary part of what takes place in the West," Bennett said. "And in fact, if one considers the land uses and the changes in land uses, if you consider the ramifications of not having grazing on public lands, and maintaining the habitat and the ownership patterns that are going to protect the landscape values and the wildlife values ... you've got to have a viable and healthy grazing industry in order to maintain the landscapes that we manage. I guess philosophically, that's where I'm at."

Bennett, a 30-year BLM veteran, described how just a week ago, a man was seen brandishing a gun in a taxi, yet was dropped off in front of the federal building in Cheyenne. Bennett said the man entered the federal social security office, housed in the same building as the BLM, and was arrested.

"Since 9-11, things have changed," Bennett said. "Federal employees are somewhat isolated from those we serve. It is really a shame.

"It's terrible that things have changed," Bennett said. "But I still think we can focus on public service."

As far as priorities for the BLM, Bennett said, "You have to be asleep if you don't realize Wyoming is a key part of the bureau's and the President's energy budget as well as energy needs.

"We've got a multitude of resources," Bennett said, "It's wonderful that we have to be concerned about what should be developed first."

With resources ranging from coal and coalbed methane, to oil, gas and trona, Bennett said, "Other states would give their eyeteeth to have the problems like we have to face."

"We know we have lots and lots of interests in the public resource. We know we have to work with all those interests. We have to listen to all those interests and we have to try to seek a balance when we make our decisions."

"It's clear that Wyoming is going to play a very significant role in the future of the United States and its energy development," Bennett said.

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