The American Sheep Industry Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Public Lands Council and 24 state sheep, cattle and Farm Bureau organizations whose members graze livestock on the federal lands last week filed a petition to intervene in defending two federal agencies against a lawsuit over grazing fees on federal lands. Represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, organizations from 11 western states filed their motion with the federal district court for the District of Columbia where five anti-livestock groups filed their lawsuit in June.
Grazing has been a mainstay of the rural western economy and a mechanism for saving open space, managing plant life and augmenting wildlife habitat. It has long been a valued enterprise as one of the multi-use activities on public lands.
The case, filed against the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, seeks a court order to require the agencies to reconsider how grazing fees are calculated and to perform environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prior to calculating the grazing fee each year. These actions would raise costs to the governing agencies and cause delays in the permitting process. The ultimate goal of this lawsuit by the anti-livestock groups is to eliminate all grazing on public lands.
Attempts have been made to use Congress to change the permit fee in the past, but those efforts have ultimately failed. By addressing the issue in court, the plaintiffs are seeking to affect the more than 20,000 federal grazing permittees in one action.