The House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources this week advanced the Grazing Improvement Act on a bipartisan vote of 27-15. The legislation, which seeks to improve the livestock grazing permitting processes on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, will now go to the full House for consideration.
Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, introduced the bill in February as companion legislation to S. 258 in the Senate, also introduced in February by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
The legislation proposes to increase the term of grazing permits from 10 to 20 years. The bill also proposes to codify longstanding appropriations language that would allow grazing to continue under existing terms and conditions while a paperwork backlog is being addressed.
Public Lands Council Executive Director and Director of Federal Lands for National Cattlemen's Beef Association Dustin Van Liew said the Grazing Improvement Act will contribute to providing a stable business environment to federal lands ranchers.
During the committee's consideration of the bill, two amendments were offered. An amendment by Labrador, which passed, would exempt range improvements from excessive and unnecessary environmental review and clarify the intent of Congress with regard to who may appeal agency grazing decisions.
Van Liew said this amendment is especially important at a time when wildfire has ravaged hundreds of miles of fence and many range improvements crucial to the proper care of livestock and the range.
An amendment introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., which would have imposed a 74% increase of the federal lands grazing fee on ranchers, failed. Proponents of the amendment said it would offset costs of administering the program, though Van Liew said the fee increase would likely decrease revenue to the government by forcing ranchers out of business.
"We are pleased that, once again, the proposal to increase the grazing fee was soundly defeated. The current grazing fee is fair, is based on market criteria and accurately reflects the cost of operating on public lands," Van Liew said.
"Altogether, the Grazing Improvement Act is now stronger than ever, and we look forward to seeing this commonsense legislation coming to a vote by the full House," he said.