A Public Lands Council- and National Cattlemen's Beef Association-supported interior appropriations bill moved through a House committee Tuesday 23-19, providing funding allocations for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies during fiscal year 2015.
According to PLC and NCBA, the bill includes several provisions important to beef producers, including blocking the Sage Grouse's endangered species listing and requiring alternative allotments where ranchers are impacted by drought or wildfire without the need to complete environmental analyses.
Also included in the bill is a permanent extension of grazing rider, which will allow livestock grazing to continue while the renewal process is held up through the National Environmental Policy Act analysis backlog. The bill also includes a provision to extend grazing permit terms to 20 years, as opposed to the current 10-year term.
"These two provisions are vital to the agencies, allowing them the flexibility they need to continue managing the resource and processing permits," says Dustin Van Liew, PLC and NCBA federal lands executive director.
"Additionally, extending grazing permits from 10 to 20 years adds significantly to the certainty ranchers need to run successful businesses. We applaud the appropriations committee for supporting the primary language from the Grazing Improvement Act and urge the full House and Senate to pass this bill without delay."
Van Liew added that due to a settlement between United States Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental groups, "arbitrary deadlines" have been set for making decisions on species in all 50 states to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
"Rather than embracing the research-backed benefits of grazing and giving time for state Sage Grouse management plans to take effect, the FWS has begun to make arbitrary decisions to cut and reduce livestock grazing on public lands," said Van Liew.
"One of those species is the Sage Grouse, whose habitat covers 11 western states, an area where ranchers are currently providing open space and improving the bird's habitat and reducing the number-one threat to the bird – wildfire."
Clean Water Act
Language that could rein in the EPA's attempt to control land and water on private property was also included, notes Ashley McDonald, NCBA environmental counsel.
"Cattle producers have grave concerns over EPA and Corps of Engineers' proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act," said McDonald. "We applaud the members of the committee for sending the Interior appropriations bill forward with language that would prevent the agencies from finalizing this regulation."
Additionally, she said, the bill will prevent the EPA from requiring livestock operations to report their greenhouse gas emissions, and also prevent the agency from requiring livestock operations to get GHG permits. Furthermore, it prevents the EPA from disclosing the private and confidential information of livestock producers to the public.
"This bill provides needed safeguards for the privacy and property rights of America's cattle producers that the federal agencies refuse to recognize and respect," McDonald summarized.