Saturday, June 18, 2005

Whitewashing the impact of grazing

I was going to try to make it a politics-light weekend here at Rhosgobel, but all it took was reading this article in the LA Times to change that. In the article, two scientists who wrote an environmental impact report for a new Bush administration grazing policy state that their conclusions about possible negative environmental consequences were removed from the final report.

The report in question is the Environmental Impact Study on Changes to Grazing Regulations, which is available as a PDF on the Bureau of Land Management site (the report is dated October 2004, but was published June 2005).
A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers.


The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are "beneficial to animals."

Eliminated from the final draft was another conclusion that read: "The Proposed Action will have a slow, long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general."

Also removed was language saying how a number of the rule changes could adversely affect endangered species.

"This is a whitewash. They took all of our science and reversed it 180 degrees," said Erick Campbell, a former BLM state biologist in Nevada and a 30-year bureau employee who retired this year. He was the author of sections of the report pertaining to the effect on wildlife and threatened and endangered species.


Bill Brookes, a former hydrologist with the bureau who assessed the regulations' effect on water resources, said in the original draft the proposed rule change was "an abrogation of [the agency's] responsibility under the Clean Water Act."

"Everything I wrote was totally rewritten and watered down," Brookes said in an interview Thursday.

"Everything in the report that was purported to be negative was watered down. Instead of saying, in the long term, this will create problems, it now says, in the long term, grazing is the best thing since sliced bread."

Brookes said work that the bureau's original specialists required more than a year and a half to finish was changed in a matter of weeks. He and Campbell said officials in Washington said the document did not support the new rules so they called in a new team to redo it.
(from the LA Times)
This is extremely corrupt. If other researchers had valid scientific concerns about the statements made by Brookes and Campbell, those researchers should have provided references backing up the altered viewpoints and discussed their concerns with Brookes and Campbell. If the Bush administration wanted to relax grazing regulations because they felt it was economically necessary, the least they could do is honestly admit that their policy changes will adversely affect the environment.

This reminds me of the edits made by Philip Cooney to Bush administration climate change reports.

As a side note, the Bureau of Land Management site has what appears to be a link to the draft version of the report, but the link is currently broken.

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