New BLM director says she's committed to maintaining grazing

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New BLM director tells ranchers she has great affinity for them.

1/22/02

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - New Bureau of Land Management director Kathleen Clarke told ranchers Monday that she has great affinity for them and wants to see their way of life preserved.
Speaking to about 200 ranchers at the Utah Farm Bureau Federation's rangeland conference, Clarke said her office is committed to maintaining grazing on public lands.

"I can assure you that just as grazing has been part of the BLM's past, it will be a part of its future," Clarke said in her first major speech since taking over the BLM three weeks ago.

Clarke's comments come at a time when some environmental groups are calling for an end to public-lands ranching and the BLM is in the process of renewing some 1,600 grazing permits in Utah.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project recently challenged every permit renewed in northern Utah and have hinted they will do the same in other parts of the state.

Clarke, former head of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said appeals and litigation are sapping the BLM of money that could be going toward managing the range.

One of the goals of her administration, she said, is to reduce the divisiveness and combativeness between those who rely on public land to produce income and those who want it preserved for its scenic values and solitude.

"The polarity creates an arena of contention that's hard to manage," Clarke said. "My vision is to find the common ground."

She said another problem facing the BLM is a burdensome overlay of laws and regulations governing public lands and their natural resources.

She said one solution to this "analysis paralysis" lies in getting the agencies that enforce various laws to understand each other better.

Clarke said she is behind President Bush's goal to reduce the federal government's role on federal lands, give more control to local interests and put more faith in citizen stewardship and personal responsibility.

Jim McMahon of the Grand Canyon Trust's St. George office said he was not alarmed by Clarke's speech Monday because he has dealt with her on conservation issues and believes she has the ability to bring opposing groups to the table to find solutions.
 

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