The Obama administration may issue an order that would expand the National Environmental Policy Act’s scope to prevent global warming. The move could open up new avenues to challenge projects.

I review grazing allotment renewal documents and rarely, if ever, have I seen climate change discussed.  When it is discussed, and only in response to comments by WWP, the agencies claim that issues related to global warming and livestock grazing are beyond the scope of the project. Unfortunately, grazing compounds the effects of global warming by creating warmer and drier landscapes which, in turn, impacts wildlife.

There is a very good case to be made that eliminating grazing from public lands would also reduce the effects of global warming by 1) reducing desertification and 2) increasing carbon sequestration in soils. As Brian Ertz has illustrated in his post from last year, public lands can be very effective carbon sinks if allowed rest from livestock grazing. This is an important idea that needs to be kept in mind when discussing public lands ranching.

Federal agencies may have to consider climate before they act
By Jim Tankersley – L.A. Times

Heavily impacted soils and vegetation in Nevada's desert. © Ken Cole

Heavily impacted soils and vegetation in Nevada's desert. © Ken Cole

Sage Brush with ancient soil crusts Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole

Sage Brush with ancient soil crusts Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign's Executive Director, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He was formerly the Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

3 Responses to Federal agencies may have to consider climate before they act

  1. So the message is that if you are commenting on an EA (environmental analysis), or an EIS, raise the issue. Especially regarding a land management proposal’s effects on “carbon sinks.”

    If a huge solar farm ruins a large area that sequesters carbon dioxide into the soil, is it a net plus regarding CO2 levels in the atmosphere?

  2. avatar matt bullard says:

    Ralph, if we know the rate at which a large desert area sequesters carbon, it would seem to be a pretty easy calculation to find the net CO2 balance of such a farm. Have there been any studies that how the rate at which various desert landscapes sequester CO2?

  3. avatar Chris Harbin says:

    A few years ago I (and I believe Maska as well) were checking the grazing allotment renewals in the Apache – Sitgreaves. I wish I had thought of using climate change effects of public lands grazing.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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