Livestock grazing is an important part of the rich ranching tradition in America, and my home state of Idaho produces some of the world’s finest tasting lamb and beef. I have been working for years to give ranchers the longevity and stability they deserve through my bill, the Grazing Improvement Act. I am pleased to report, with the help of many others, the bill passed the House of Representatives.
The Grazing Improvement Act will help ranchers across America who are increasingly burdened with red tape by providing them a streamlined permitting process by extending the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service (BLM) livestock grazing permits from 10 to 20 years. This will preserve ranching jobs and give ranchers better economic security. It will also provide relief to federal land managers who battle a growing backlog of pending permits, largely delayed due to endless litigation often generated by environmental groups.
The financial security of ranchers depends upon their responsible stewardship of the land. Unfortunately, the process to review the permits that allow them to produce food has become severely backlogged due to lawsuits aimed at eliminating livestock from public lands. The BLM itself estimates that more than 4,200 grazing permits are backlogged waiting for renewal. This is an unacceptable number of backlogged permits, all of which negatively affect America’s livestock producers.
Brenda Richards, a rancher and resident of my home district, testified on behalf of Owyhee County and recounted the burdens the BLM has placed on ranchers and taxpayers. Ranching has long played a role in Owyhee County. She explained that since the early 1990’s, the challenges from the BLM and their decisions, or lack thereof, have had significant impact on the county government and the residents within the county. In Owyhee County, the BLM has neglected to fulfill their obligations of renewing permits and failed to gather necessary information in a consistent, accurate, timely manner lined out in their own guides. Eventually the permittees and the county then end up in court battling on the same side as the BLM to defend their rights, permits, and livelihood. This expense falls directly on the county and the permittee because the BLM’s legal costs are covered by the federal government.
Fortunately, the House also passed my amendment to discourage frivolous legal challenges to federal land management grazing decisions – a big win for our agricultural community.