WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2014) – Today, Congress showed their support of productive western rangelands by passing necessary provisions of the Grazing Improvement Act, amending the grazing section of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act for the first time in many years. Championed by Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Labrador (R-Idaho), the provisions were passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act with a strong bipartisan majority vote, 89 to 11.
Brenda Richards, Public Lands Council president and Idaho family rancher said the passage of these provisions is critical to providing a stable business environment for ranchers that utilize public lands. A key provision passed was the grazing ‘rider’, which allows for land to remain in use while the land management agencies conduct environmental analyses for permit reissuing.
“One of the original intents for introducing the Grazing Improvement Act was to codify the grazing rider that has been in place for over a decade,” said Richards. “Ranches in the West, like my family’s operation, need permanent authority for the federal land management agencies to maintain existing grazing permits in spite of the seemingly endless backlog of environmental analysis faced by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.”
The provisions passed also allow for the application of environmental analysis to allotments rather than the permits, which will extend in some cases to multiple-allotment analysis. Richards said grouping these analyses helps to streamline and increase efficiency of this review process for the BLM and Forest Service. Additionally, this language provides for both grazing permit decisions and trailing and crossing decisions to be categorically excluded from the National Environmental Policy Act allowing agency resources to be focused where most needed.
There are currently over 22,000 ranchers that hold grazing permits. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan said the continued success of these ranchers means the continued success of rural communities and the western landscape.
“Ranching was one of the first uses for public land across the West and has proven to be beneficial for the land and wildlife,” said McCan. “Yet, ranching families are continually threatened by radical environmental groups pushing their agenda through process based lawsuits against the land management agencies. We applaud the House and Senate resources committees for including the grazing provisions in the lands package as part of NDAA and negotiating the removal of the detrimental language regarding grazing permit retirement that was included during markup in the Senate.”
The Grazing Improvement Act has been a priority for the livestock industry for years; it is great to see Congress act, confirming their support for a continued strong presence of ranchers on federal lands.