The cowboys are winning
In the mid-’90s, the Southwest region of the Forest Service adopted "allowable use monitoring" as the standard for range management programs in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1997, I was assigned the task of getting Endangered Species Act compliance for ongoing grazing on over 80 allotments on the Lincoln National Forest, based on the allowable-use monitoring program. For six months, I coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prepared biological assessments for each of the allotments with threatened or endangered species. For six months, I tolerated range conservationists’ seat-of-the-pants prescriptions for these allotments. When I asked one too many questions about how an allowable-use prescription was derived for an individual allotment, I was taken to the big office for the last time. There, I was told that despite entering formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the forest grazing program, there was no real expectation (i.e. intent) that the regionally required allowable-use monitoring would ever take place. Rather than bite my tongue off, I resigned.
Obviously, the stewards of our vast public rangelands should not be committing to practices in front of the cameras and then disregarding them when no one is watching. They could do range monitoring. It certainly will not be done if we think — or they think — it can’t be done. Either way, it’s all the same old story, isn’t it? The cowboys are still winning.