Grazing on Public Lands: Here to Stay or Gone Forever? - Junk Science Used by Dept of Interior, Grand Canyon Trust to End Grazing on GSENM

Fifth In A Series, By Toni Thayer


As reported in the last article of this series, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt’s office says grazing should only be stopped on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) if “sound science” determines the need. Sound science is the new term being used since discoveries have been made of fraudulent environmental studies changing public land use policies.

The Washington Times’ July 11, 2002 article, Science Use Defined In Guarding Species, reports, “the Canada lynx fraud and federal mismanagement of the Klamath Basin in Oregon underscore the law’s [the Endangered Species Act] excessive power and the need to base decisions on empirical data instead of federal guesswork.”

In this same article, Utah Rep. James V. Hansen (R) reinforces this position, “The American people have the right to expect that federal decisions that change their lives are sound decisions.”

What is sound science? The Center for Informed Decision Making (CIDM), a joint project of the University of Michigan’s Business School and School of Natural Resources and Environment, defines it on their webpage (

They begin with a definition of science as “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world” with events that can be observed or measured. To make it “sound”, experiments are added to the equation “to prove a particular hypothesis true or false . . . Experiments must be repeatable, and actually repeated, before a new finding can become part of the body of accepted scientific knowledge.”

The CIDM explains that the Scientific Method is “a standard for conducting credible science. It is intended to be an unbiased process by which neutral and objective scientific inquiry can occur.” Cornerstones of the Scientific Method are “reliability and validity”, requiring “an open process subject to continual appraisal, scrutiny, criticism and revision”.

They list certain steps always included in the Scientific Method: 1) identify a specific problem, 2) develop a hypothesis, 3) test the hypothesis, 4) draw conclusions, 5) re-test the hypothesis. By applying these five steps, science becomes a never-ending process, with results leading to “more experiments as well as new or reformulated hypotheses”.

The CIDM points out one factor that negatively influences the Scientific Method as experimental bias, a predetermined expected outcome by those running the experiment.

Peer review, “a panel of disinterested experts to scrutinize and analyze” the study, is always part of good research. They warn, “Beware of research that has not been peer reviewed. Also, be suspicious of review panels ‘stacked’ with people who would normally be sympathetic to the views of those paying for or conducting the research.”

Finally, they determine, “Good research hides nothing.” The study should be transparent, “readily available for review . . . allowing others the opportunity to reproduce the results. Studies where information has been lost or is unavailable should be viewed with extreme caution.”

Sound science is the opposite of “junk science”. According to the CIDM, in some cases “the intent of junk science is more malicious, purposely abusing scientific methods in order to support a personally or politically favorable agenda or ideology. This type of deception knows no political bounds and is conducted for and by academia, special interest groups, government and industry.”

The Flagstaff, Ariz. environmental group that’s buying out the grazing permits, the Grand Canyon Trust (the Trust), perceives the “specific problem” in this battle as damage from “inappropriate cattle grazing” on public lands, according to their webpage (

Presumably, the Trust bases its need to end grazing on another environmental group’s research, the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson, Ariz. The Trust references this group’s conclusions, “grazing is more harmful to southwestern habitat and native species than any other single factor, especially grazing in riparian areas”. However, the exact studies, or specifics of the studies, are not provided.

In the Trust’s opinion “grazing continues nearly everywhere” because of two things. One is that “Federal land managers are usually unwilling to drive ranchers out of business, or to endure the political heat that inevitably follows clashes with them over grazing numbers”. The second is that “environmentalists rarely generate pressure on behalf of resource protection”.

To resolve these difficulties in the process to eliminate grazing and take water rights, “the Trust has been successfully applying a different approach”. They say they negotiate a financial buyout directly with the ranchers who, in turn, must give up their grazing permit to the Federal government and water rights to the State government.

Their website, written in “early 2001”, explains the BLM process to retire grazing. “During these negotiations, the Trust also assures that after the privileges are relinquished the Bureau of Land Management (or other appropriate agency) will amend its resource management plans to cancel the subject grazing permits.” Furthermore, they ensure that “any water rights” are “held perpetually for wildlife”.

They say the buyouts only occur on areas where the resource specialists have determined that grazing is inappropriate, and that “any future applicant for reinstitution for grazing would have to go through a daunting NEPA process involving hostile public hearings”.

The 2001 webpage assumes that the decisions to stop grazing on the GSENM were a done deal at that time, even before the public comment period began on Nov. 30, 2001 or before completion of the EAs in 2002. Extensive historical background is given regarding the Trust’s unchallenged new approach to buy out grazing permits and water rights, beginning in 1996 in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Incrementally, in tiny steps, this brazen environmental group has been bypassing one of the United States’ checks and balances in preventing elimination of major uses on public lands. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires public land managers to notify “the Secretary to the House of Representatives and the Senate” if their decisions totally eliminate “one or more of the principal or major uses for two or more years with respect to a tract of land of one hundred thousand acres or more”.

By the Trust’s own 2001 tally, they have eliminated grazing from “nearly 200,000 acres” in the GSENM and from an additional 129,688 acres in two of Utah’s national parks. In 2000, their buyouts also made them lessees to eight sections of Utah State trust lands, allowing them to establish a “base property” which is a Federal requirement to obtain a grazing permit.

On March 5, 2001, after five years of financial buyouts, meddling in Utah’s cattle industry, and disrupting Kane and Garfield Counties’ economies, the Trust finally licensed a newly formed non-profit cattle company, Canyonlands Grazing Corporation, to do business in the State of Utah.

Today, Canyonlands Grazing leases some of their allotments to other ranchers “where grazing is appropriate to exemplary livestock operators”. Through these leases, they meet the Federal “requirement for owning stock” to hold a grazing permit.

In their own words, the scheme works because “the corporation allows us to simply buy permits from willing sellers and then negotiate their retirement directly with BLM as an affected permittee rather than merely as an interested bystander”.

This series of grazing articles has shown the Dept. of Interior’s and the Grand Canyon Trust’s decisions to end grazing on the GSENM forever, were made well in advance of the formal science process by BLM and their subsequent notification to the public of the proposals. The predetermined outcomes of the BLM’s decisions to stop grazing on the allotments are indicative of junk science, not sound science.

This secrecy in decision-making has surrounded the GSENM since its inception in 1996. It is now time for the Dept. of Interior and the Grand Canyon Trust to end their clandestine agreements that have so drastically reduced the quality of life for Kane and Garfield county residents. It’s time for them to stand up, admit the errors of their ways, and rescind their conspiracy to end grazing on public lands.

Our coverage continues next week as we continue to delve into local grazing issues.

Other Articles in This Series:

#1 New BLM Procedures To Stop Grazing On GSENM, 1/30/03

#2 Broken Promises, Empty Words, Hiding in the Cracks of Laws, 2/6/03

#3 Out Front and Behind the Scenes, 2/13/03

Counties Respond: Kane, Garfield County Commissioners Challenge BLM, The Trust, 2/13/03

#4 Deals between Dept of Interior, Grand Canyon Trust Put Local Economies and Residents at Risk, 2/20/03

GSENM Manager, David Hunsaker, Editorial, 2/20/03

Article online at:


Toni Thayer

P O Box 131 435-826-4663

Escalante, UT 84726

Permission to reprint is granted with attribution to:

Toni Thayer: or email

Garfield County News: 435-679-8730 or email


Grazing 5, Published Feb. 27, 2003, by:

Stay Current with Related Articles, Reader Comments and Southern Utah Happenings.

Subscribe to Garfield County News. Published Each Thursday.

$34 per year. Send check to GCN, P. O. Box 127, Tropic, UT 84776

Phone: 435-679-8730

Fax: 435-679-8847

Please tell us that Spirit Helps referred you!


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site