Grazing Improvement Act Passes U.S. House of Representatives
WASHINGTON - The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applaud passage of the Grazing Improvement Act by the U.S. House of Representatives and commend Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) for leading the effort on behalf of the livestock industry in the west for moving this important legislation through the House.The Grazing Improvement Act was passed with a vote of 220 to 194 earlier today as part of a larger package, the Public Access and Land Improvement Act, H.R. 2954.
The bill would improve the livestock grazing permitting process 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 House and Senate; it passed the House with bipartisan support as part of the Conservation and Economic Growth Act (H.R. 2578).
PLC President Brice Lee, rancher from Hesperus, Colo., expressed PLC’s strong 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 Lee. “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.”
The bill includes two amendments passed by the House today and supported by PLC and NCBA. The first, offered by Rep. Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Labrador, added language which would allow the Secretary to consolidate environmental reviews, while clarifying the definition of current grazing management, and ensuring a timely response for temporary trailing and crossing applications. The second amendment, offered by Rep. Labrador, requires the non-prevailing, not directly-affected party in a challenge to the Secretary’s final grazing decision to pay the directly-affected prevailing party incurred fees and expenses. It also clarifies the definition of a directly-affected party.
NCBA President Scott George, a dairy and beef producer from Wyoming, said that the bill is commonsense legislation which will provide security for livestock producers that operate on public lands while the BLM and USFS work through the backlog of permit renewals and environmental analysis.
“Cattlemen face growing uncertainty regarding grazing permits,” George said. “Many are at risk of losing their operations because of a backlog in the regulatory process, which is largely caused by extremist environmental groups, who frequently file lawsuits on minor paperwork issues in an attempt to put ranchers out of business. The language added today regarding payment of legal fees would go a long way in reducing the endless stream of lawsuits aimed at removing livestock from federal lands.”
Lee stated that the Grazing Improvement Act is important for our western ranchers and is a way of life in rural America. George added that ranching is a vital contributor of jobs and economic stability in many communities.
“Our ranchers are the original stewards of the land," said Lee. "Their continued success 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. This legislation is of great importance America’s agricultural economy, and we urge the Senate to take up this bill and pass it without delay.”