PLC, NCBA support reintroduction of Grazing Improvement Act
The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association strongly support the Grazing Improvement Act of 2013, introduced recently in the U.S. Senate. Sen. John Barrasso R-WY, along with cosponsors Sens. Mike Crapo, R-ID; Mike Enzi, R-WY; Orrin Hatch, R-UT; Dean Heller, R-NV; Mike Lee, R-UT; and Jim Risch R-ID, introduced the bill, which seeks to improve the livestock grazing permitting processes on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The bill was debated during the last session of Congress in both the Senate and House of Representatives; it passed the House with bipartisan support as part of the Conservation and Economic Growth Act (H.R. 2578).
PLC President Brice Lee, a Colorado rancher, asserted that the uncertainty surrounding grazing permit renewals is threatening ranchers' ability to stay in business.
"Those of us who utilize grazing on public lands face grave threats to our way of life due to today's cumbersome and inefficient permit renewal process. It puts us at constant risk of seeing suits filed by radical environmental activists who seek to eliminate grazing on federal lands," Lee said. "This bill would end some of the instability in the permitting process that plagues the grazing industry in the West."
NCBA President J.D. Alexander said that the bill simply makes sense, as it proposes to codify language that has been included in federal appropriations bills for over a decade. That appropriations language, which has long enjoyed bipartisan support, allows the BLM and USFS to renew grazing permits under existing terms and conditions while the backlog of environmental analyses is being addressed.
"Increasing the term of a grazing permit from 10 to 20 years, as is proposed in the bill, will decrease the interval at which grazing allotments come up for environmental analyses," Alexander said. "This will decrease the daunting backlog facing the agencies and will make these processes more efficient."
Alexander added that much of the backlog and uncertainty is due to extremist environmental groups, who frequently file minor lawsuits in their attempt to put ranchers out of business These lawsuits consume agency resources, according to Alexander.
Lee and Alexander stated that the Grazing Improvement Act is important to ranchers, whose operations are the backbone of many communities that provide jobs and economic stability in much of rural America.
"We hear a lot from Washington about the need to increase job growth and revitalize rural America," Lee said. "This bill is an opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure that economic growth and job creation become a reality in rural communities. This is commonsense legislation that we urge all senators to support."