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Larry Walker
(address withheld)
Portland, OR 97225-4820

 

6/16/97

 

District Manager
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
(sent to district managers: eastern Oregon, Medford (OR), & Spokane (WA))

Subject: The Evaluation That Wasnít

Dear....

During the last two or three years before I retired from the BLM Oregon/Washington State Office, I was fortunate enough to be allowed the time to document my knowledge and experience in several aspects of BLMís rangeland program.

As I was packing my personal effects on my last day, however, I happened upon the questionnaires that had been submitted during the aborted 1989 "AMP/Grazing System Evaluation" (IM No. OR-89-560, copy enclosed). These questionnaires still might provide valuable insight into the BLM rangeland management program, but would have meant little to anybody but myself or Chad Bacon, who is also retired, without some organization and explanation.. Therefore, I have organized the questionnaires and the portions of the analysis that were completed in 1989 and am returning them to you with this letter.

Background

During the late 1980s, both Chad Bacon and I became concerned with what we believed to be shortfalls in BLMís application of grazing methodology. My concerns derived primarily from what I was seeing in allotment evaluations I was reviewing. Chadís concerns were from what he was seeing and hearing as he visited various BLM field offices.

We believed that either the education system was not equipping their rangeland science graduates with adequate knowledge in grazing management principles, or that our people were just being spread too thin due to budget constraints to do what they knew needed to be done.

We did some additional checking and came to the conclusion that the technical skills probably existed, and that most of the problem was probably budget related. We were able to call our concerns to the attention of then State Director Bill Luscher. He instructed us to perform a formal evaluation and use the results from the evaluation in our next budget submission if funding were found to be the problem.

We had completed initial tabulations by the time the next budget meeting came along and had displayed them on the graph titled "Statewide Percent Satisfactory" in enclosure 2. We believed that those results clearly showed that funding was indeed the major factor. The program areas that were receiving directed priority in budget documents were where we were performing best, but our performance in even those areas was only 70% to 75% of what we needed to be doing.

We presented these findings in a "dress rehearsal" before the Branch of Range, Watershed, and Wildlife without identifying any problems with the presentation. Then, we made the presentation to district representatives (mostly District Managers) during the first day of the budget meeting. Their response was that "You are not telling us anything that we donít already know". We made the presentation again the next day with the new State Director present. He took strong exception to the presentation to the extent that all copies of the graph were collected so that it would not leak out into the public. That, was that - until now!

Procedures

IM No. OR-89-560 (enclosure 1) pretty much spells out the procedures that were used. While much of what we were looking at fell within the typical "compliance with policy" analysis, we also tried to do something new. We tried to evaluate actual management and management planning to determine if it could be expected to make progress toward meeting land use plan objectives. I think we were pretty successful, but you be the judge.

We built a checklist of 40 items we were going to look at, and how we were going to look at them (enclosure 1-8 through 1-11). Chad and I then reviewed each questionnaire and recorded the results of our review on the checklist form you will find attached to the back of each set of questionnaires. Of the 40 items on the checklist, we found that there were eight (items 3, 10, 15, 16, 25, 27, 28, and 32) that either duplicated other items, or that we could not do a meaningful evaluation on with the data at hand. We also found that trying to evaluate an element as "good" or "excellent" was futile as there was no way to determine when "adequate" was exceeded, and by how much, for most items. Therefore, we evaluated most items on whether they were "fair" for adequate, "poor" for somewhat less than adequate, or "bad" for far from adequate.

You should also be aware that, when looking at items that pertained to pastures, we evaluated upon the basis of the entire allotment. If, for example, three pastures in an allotment were being managed just fine but two pastures were not, then that allotment would be rated as poor or bad depending on the degree the two pastures were being sacrificed.

The questionnaires were set up in folders that Chad and I would go to when we had a chance to review a few allotments. If I were the first person to evaluate an allotment, I would complete the checklist and enter comments where I felt something significant needed pointed out. When Chad later evaluated that allotment, he would do his ratings and add comments only where he disagreed with mine or wanted to point out something additional. The same procedures applied when Chad was first to evaluate an allotment.

We tried to achieve a concensus or to come within at least one class of concensus, so you will see where ratings have been changed during the process. For your information, all of the ratings and comments I made are shown in green. The others are Chadís ratings and comments.

Results

The results are summarized on the chart at enclosure 2-1. "Percent Satisfactory" is the percent of the allotments evaluated where that item was fully satisfactory. The "bad news" is that we only considered about a quarter of the grazing systems adequate to achieve land use plan objectives. The "good news" is that the grazing systems were not being followed anyway.

The remaining graphs in enclosure 2 compare District ratings with the statewide rating. Where there was a sample of only one allotment in a district (Spokane), this may be of limited utility.

Enclosure 3 compares resource area ratings with the statewide rating. Here, the ratings for Klamath Falls, Ashland, Butte Falls, and Wenatchee may be of limited utility.

Enclosure 4 compares districts and resource areas by evaluation element.

Enclosure 5 compares ratings by selective management category.

Enclosure 6 shows how the pastures included in the evaluation had been used during the years immediately preceding the evaluation. I find it particularly disturbing that during the most critical period for our native bunchgrasses (stem elongation during May and June) over half of all pastures were in use during any given year. This particular figure needs to be cut back to about one-third or less if improvement is going to take place with grazing.

Summary

"The evaluation that wasnít" found quite a few things that should have been of concern to management. It has been several years since that evaluation. Hopefully, things have improved, or enough monitoring data has been collected and evaluated to prove that Chad and I were wrong in our evaluation of grazing systems.

Respectfully,

Larry L. Walker
Range Conservationist - Retired

Enclosures

1 IM No. OR-89-560
2 Statewide and District Graphs
3 Resource Area Graphs
4 Evaluation Element Graphs
5 Selective Management Category Graphs
6 Use Pattern Graphs
NoNr. Evaluation Questionnaires and Completed Checklists

cc: Elaine