Worst in West: Two-Thirds of Assessed BLM Allotments Badly Overgrazed
Washington, DC — Federal rangeland in Nevada is being seriously damaged from overgrazing at a higher rate than any state in the West, according to a new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) data by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Nearly two-thirds of BLM grazing allotments that have been assessed fail the agency’s own minimum standards for water quality, vegetation, soil, and wildlife habitat due to overgrazing.
PEER’s analysis of BLM grazing allotments in Nevada shows that –
- More than 15 million acres – an area exceeding the size of West Virginia – fail landscape health standards due to overgrazing. More than 40% of the area remains to be assessed, much within the area where most allotments fail due to overgrazing. When all allotments have been assessed, it is reasonable to expect the final figure will be millions more;
- The allotment acreage not meeting standards is more than 5 times the acreage that BLM has characterized as meeting standards; and
- More than half of Nevada’s BLM allotments have yet to be assessed, meaning that the total area of livestock-induced damage could be far larger.
“By any measure, federal rangeland in Nevada reflects some of the worst ecological conditions in the West,” stated PEER Special Projects Manager Kirsten Stade, noting that more than two-thirds of the entire state is BLM land, most of that comprised of large, remote, arid grazing allotments. “Our estimates of damaged BLM lands are likely significantly understated, meaning that as much as one-third of the entire state is in a severely degraded condition due to unsustainable livestock practices.”
The PEER analysis looked at 10 Western states and found that rates of failure to achieve rangeland health standards differ by region—not surprisingly, given the difficulty of supporting large numbers of domestic livestock across desert and semiarid regions that are not suited to impacts of this scale. While Nevada had the highest failure rate in acreage of assessed allotments (64%), it was followed closely by Idaho with a 57% livestock failure rate and Wyoming with a 44% failure rate. By contrast, BLM data shows only a 2% failure rate in arid New Mexico and an 11% failure rate in Arizona.
Overall, throughout the 13 Western states, BLM indicates that almost 40 million acres, or 36% of all acres assessed, failed BLM landscape health standards with livestock identified as a cause. That degraded area is equivalent to the size of the entire State of Washington.
“Landscape failure on the scale being recorded in Nevada is a game changer, especially as drought conditions worsen,” added Stade, pointing to the implications for the Biden administration’s goal of conserving 30% of U.S. land by 2030. “The BLM’s new leadership should take a hard look at these figures to find what it is doing right and what it is doing wrong – and why.”