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An anonymous group of U.S. Bureau of Land Management Agency workers say rangelands are in the worst condition ever - even though their agency says the opposite.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility released the report it said was written by about 12 BLM workers in the Intermountain West who had to remain anonymous to ensure avoiding retribution by the agency.However, BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said the report "was prompted by discontent over how the range was managed in previous administrations. The Clinton administration is committed to improving range conditions and guaranteeing taxpayers a fair return for the use of public lands."

Gorey added, "BLM Director Jim Baca hopes that one of the characteristics of the agency will be the free expression of concern by employees about environmental consequences of how the BLM administers public land."

The report said the BLM has for years been too heavily influenced by ranchers and has been committed to maximizing grazing regardless of environmental consequences.

For example, it said during the recent six-year drought, the number of acres grazed went up.

Also, it says many states have 100 percent of land possibly available for grazing actually grazed - even though logic says some areas may not be suitable, or rest periods for land may be warranted.

The report said the BLM reports that 106.3 percent of available land in Utah is grazed. "The reason for BLM land being grazed at more than 100 percent reflects both poor record keeping on the BLM's part and (statistics for) lands BLM administers but doesn't own," the study said.

The report said heavy grazing is destroying many native plants, which tend to be replaced by an invasion of exotic weeds - which is also endangering many forms of wildlife that cannot survive by eating the new forms of plants.

"Due to increased fire frequency and the invasion of exotic plants, rangelands in the Great Basin region may actually be in worse condition than at any time in history," it said.

The BLM has repeatedly told Congress that rangelands are in the best condition in recent history, although the U.S. General Accounting Office and others also said conditions were poor.

That has figured heavily in continuing battles over whether to raise - and possibly quadruple - grazing fees on public lands. Environmental groups say that would end overgrazing, but ranchers say it would bankrupt them.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has held a series of hearings in the West about whether and how to change grazing fees to give incentives to protect the environment.

The new study suggests BLM determine how much grazing each range can handle; admit overgrazing as a first step to repair damage; put more people in the field to enforce permit rules; and ban reprisals against BLM officials who deliver facts about range conditions.