WASHINGTON — The Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) strongly support the Grazing Improvement Act of 2013, introduced last night in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) introduced the bill as companion legislation to S. 258, which was introduced in the Senate last week by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
The bill seeks to improve the livestock grazing permitting process on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The bill was debated during the last session of Congress in both the House and Senate; it passed the House with bipartisan support as part of the Conservation and Economic Growth Act (H.R. 2578).
PLC Vice President Brenda Richards, an Owyhee County Idaho rancher, expressed PLC’s support for the bill, adding that the uncertainty surrounding grazing permit renewals is threatening the ability of federal lands ranchers to keep their businesses operating.
“This legislation will contribute greatly to providing a stable business environment to federal lands ranchers, who face ever-increasing uncertainty as to the future of our livestock grazing permits,” said Richards. “By increasing the term of grazing permits from 10 to 20 years, ranchers will have certainty that their operations will remain in business and continue to operate without the fear of losing their permits on process-based grounds.”
NCBA President Scott George, a dairy and beef producer from Wyoming, said that the bill is commonsense legislation, as it proposes to allow the BLM and USFS to renew federal lands grazing permits under existing terms and conditions while the backlog of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses is being addressed.
“These ranchers risk the loss or delay of their grazing permits due to the BLM and USFS’ overwhelming NEPA backlog, and this bill would alleviate this problem,” said George. “Most of this backlog is caused by extremist environmental groups, who frequently file lawsuits on minor paperwork issues in an attempt to put ranchers out of business. Decreasing the backlog will conserve agency resources and create more efficient government processes, allowing agency personnel to focus on actual range management, out in the field.”
Richards and George stated that the Grazing Improvement Act is important to ranchers, whose operations are the backbone of many communities, providing jobs and economic stability in much of rural America.
“The continued success of our members’ ranching operations holds great implications for the landscapes and rural economies of the West. Communities that depend on the continued presence of federal lands ranchers are already experiencing the hardships that accompany the loss of grazing permits,” said Richards. “This legislation is of great importance to our members and to America’s agricultural economy and we urge all House members to support it.”