Proposed grazing rule is step forward


(Note from BH: There are many, many things wrong with BLM's proposal. To start with, just how is BLM's latest scam "a step forward for ranchers", when the agency intends to "Allow a grazing permittee to share title in certain permanent range improvements, i.e., fencing, wells, pipelines" that ranchers currently [already] own, free and clear, under existing statutory and case law??? Wake up, folks!)


(Note: Farm Bureau in many states is now scarcely recognizable as the actual farmer-run entity that it once was. In fact, it much more closely resembles -- and may well be -- a subordinate, shadow 'lead agency' of the Department of Interior, a 'Judas goat,' if you will.)


December 17, 2003


Vernal Express
P.O. Box 1000
Vernal, Utah 84078-1000
Fax: 435-789-8690
To submit a Letter to the Editor:
The Bureau of Land Management's proposed grazing rule announced today is a major step forward for ranchers in Utah and those in other western public [Federal] lands states, the multiple use concept " in particular, increasing grazing opportunities for the ranching community.
"This announcement by Interior Secretary Gale Norton demonstrates this administration's commitment to effective public land management and recognizes the social and economic contributions of our state's ranchers," said Randy N. Parker, UFBF [Utah Farm Bureau Federation] chief executive officer. "It is significant that today's announcement ensures that grazing will continue to be one of the legitimate uses of public lands into the future," he pointed out.
Utah Farm Bureau, the state's largest agriculture organization with over 21,500 family members, has argued that balanced administration of the public land resource is important to the economic future of Utah industry, contributing nearly 80 percent of the $1 billion in farm gate sales.
This contribution is significant in rural Utah, where livestock sales have a far-reaching ripple effect that is considerably more important to the aggregate economy of the state. Rural businesses rely on the new wealth that is generated by agriculture, timber and mining.

"This is welcome news to many rural Utah communities that have been suffering from the effects of a prolonged drought, low agricultural prices and the uncertainly of continued access to public lands. The public lands offer a forage resource that is annually renewable and livestock grazing is the best way to harvest it. Grazing provides a benefit from the public lands that benefits all Americans," Parker said.

The Utah Farm Bureau Federation applauds the grazing rule changes that will improve BLM relationships with permittees and stewardship of lands critical to open space, wildlife habitat and quality of life in the rapidly growing American West. In addition, the proposed rules will: " Consider and document social, cultural and economic consequences of grazing decisions.

" Allow a grazing permittee to share title in certain permanent range improvements, i.e., fencing, wells, pipelines, if constructed under the Cooperative Range Improvement Agreement which had existed prior to 1995.

" A phase in of decreases (and increases) in grazing of more than 10 percent over a five-year period, unless a quicker phase in is agreed to by the permittee or necessary to protect the resource to minimize economic impacts. " Expand the definition of "grazing preference" to include an amount of forage on public lands attached to a rancher's private "base" property, which can be land or water, similar to one that existed prior to 1995.

The proposed rule will help ranchers be better stewards of the land through: 1) An improved assessment and monitoring process that evaluates rangeland health. 2) Extending the deadline to 24-months for making remedial changes allowing adequate time to determine appropriate actions. 3) Removing the current 3-year limit on temporary non-use of a grazing permit and allowing temporary non-use of a grazing permit for up to one year at a time whether for conservation or business purposes.
Farm Bureau supports BLM in addressing numerous legal challenges which will enhance the agency's efficiency and interaction with permit holders. These include: " Compliance with the federal court (Public Lands Council v. Babbitt) in eliminating the long-term "conservation use" permits upholding the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act.

" Clarify how the BLM will authorize grazing if a decision affecting a grazing permit is "stayed" pending appeal to provide continuity while under appeal.

" Clarify that if a livestock operator is convicted of a federal, state or other law, such acts are only subject to BLM sanctions when the acts affect the permittee's allotment.

" Improve efficiency of BLM management by reducing the occasions when BLM is mandated to involve the interested public. BLM could, but would not be required to, seek public input on day-to-day grazing administration, but would continue to do so on major planning decisions.

" Remove the 1995 mandate that BLM will seek sole ownership of livestock water rights. This will provide flexibility in negotiating construction of watering facilities, consistent with state laws.

" Clarify that a biological assessment of the BLM, prepared in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, is not an agency decision, therefore, not subject to appeals and protests.

" An increase in certain grazing fees to reflect more accurately the cost of grazing administration.

"It is apparent that the BLM is seeking to clarify the place of livestock grazing on the federal lands. In my professional experience, it is clear that the former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was hostile to livestock grazing on the public lands. No other conclusion could be reached through a review of his rule making," Parker pointed out. "Farm Bureau believes it is time to recognize the economic and social contribution a healthy livestock industry makes in these western public lands states."