A group of U.S. Representatives this week introduced the Grazing Improvement Act of 2013, a bill to alter the livestock grazing permitting process on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
Specifically, the bill would extend Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service livestock grazing permits to 20 years to allow for production stability; Codify appropriation rider language to require expired grazing permits to be extended under existing terms and conditions until the renewal process is complete; Encourage the respective Secretaries to utilize categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act process to expedite permit processing; and allow trailing permits to be categorically excluded from NEPA.
During the last session of Congress a similar bill passed the House with bipartisan support as part of the Conservation and Economic Growth Act (H.R. 2578).
Public Lands Council Vice President Brenda Richards said PLC supports the bill, noting that 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," Richards said. "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."
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Scott George said the bill 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 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," George said. "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."
Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Jim Costa, D-Calif., Mark Amodei, R-Nev., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Glenn Thompson, R-Penn., Scott Tipton, R-Colo. and Greg Walden, R-Ore. introduced the latest bill as companion legislation to S. 258, which was introduced in the Senate last week by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.