Legislation to improve stability and efficiency in the federal lands grazing permit process was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives this week as part of an omnibus package of lands bills. The bipartisan vote signals support for the Grazing Improvement Act (H.R. 4234), introduced by Congressman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho).
This legislation, should the Senate choose to pass it, would provide certainty for today's public lands ranching industry and for future generations of ranchers, according to Public Lands Council President John Falen.
"This is a great example of a bipartisan majority coming together to pass commonsense legislation," said Falen, who is also a cattle rancher and member of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "This legislation extends the life of grazing permits from 10 to 20 years and provides greater certainty to ranchers by codifying annual, bipartisan appropriations language that allows for permit renewal despite the regulatory backlog."
In a statement following the vote, Congressman Labrador said the Bureau of Land management is currently dealing with 4,200 backlogged permits.
Falen said the bill would also benefit the environment and save taxpayer dollars. "Stability in the federal grazing permit renewal process keeps the associated private base-property lands economically viable as ranching units, which in turn prevents the fragmentation of open space," he said.
Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced a companion Grazing Improvement Act (S. 1129), which was considered during a March 22, 2012 hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.
"We encourage Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring the companion bill to the Senate floor and pass it without delay," Falen said.
Joe Guild, Chairman of NCBA's federal lands committee, said it is time for Congress to stand firm with the providers of food for this country.
"This bill reduces bureaucratic red tape and limits the potential for costly, excessive lawsuits. The radical environmental groups trying to demagogue this important legislation realize that improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public lands management reduces their opportunities to drive their anti-grazing agenda through process-based lawsuits," Guild said.
He added, "We commend the House for passing H.R. 4234, free of the ill-conceived amendment to raise the federal grazing fee, which would have served only to destabilize the ranching industry, harming jobs, the rural tax base, as the wildlife and resources that depend on ranchers' management."