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Conservation groups sue Bureau of Land Management over its grazing practices

The Bureau of Land Management oversees more than 245 million acres of land, most of it in the western United States.

Conservationists frequently criticize the agency for its grazing policies, and two of them have filed suit.

The Western Watersheds Project and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility say the law requires the BLM to conduct an environmental assessment before it issues a grazing permit.

They say the agency frequently sidesteps that requirement, and the problem has gotten worse in the last decade.

Josh Osher of Western Watersheds says that range health has declined because of overgrazing.

"We’re not blaming this on the Biden administration or its BLM," Osher said. "It’s a long-standing problem with the agency and with the way that public lands have been managed. We think this is a great opportunity for this administration to step up to the plate and really take a shot at fixing the problem."

He says the problem is even worse in national monuments and environmentally sensitive areas.

"And it’s worse on the most sensitive lands. So the data that we uncovered indicates that the situation is worse on national monuments, in wilderness areas, in sagebrush habitat, on bighorn sheep habitat," he said.

Ron Dungan has lived in Arizona for more than 35 years. He has worked as a reporter, construction worker, copy editor, designer and freelance writer. He's a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the undergraduate Writers’ Workshop, and has a master’s in history from Arizona State University.Dungan was an outdoors reporter and member of the storyteller team at the Arizona Republic, where he won several awards, and was a contributor on a border project that won the 2018 Pulitzer for explanatory reporting.When not working, Dungan enjoys books, gardening, hanging out with his German shorthaired pointer, backpacking and fly-fishing. He's a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and Iowa Hawkeyes.