November 2004 -- Livestock producers are celebrating the passage of the long-supported Noxious Weed Control Act (S. 144), which was passed out of Congress the evening of Oct. 9, 2004.
?Noxious weeds are a major threat to successful ranching,? said Public Lands Council (PLC) President Mike Byrne. ?This bill provides the first vehicle for addressing this critical resource issue in a systematic way.?
S. 144 will establish in the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture a program to provide assistance to eligible weed-management agencies to noxious weed problems. Noxious weeds accelerate soil erosion, destroy wildlife habitat, reduce animal and plant diversity and render useless for ranchers and recreationists hundreds of thousands of acres of public and private lands.
The Public Lands Council (PLC) and National Cattlemen?s Beef Association worked jointly on the bill?s language and passage for almost five years. The key to the latter, said PLC?s Byrne, was the support of the bill?s author, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID).
?The PLC applauds the leadership of Senator Larry Craig of Idaho in getting this important piece of legislation enacted,? said Byrne. ?Sheep and cattle growers are the best stewards of the land -- managing the resources in a way that benefits wildlife, water quality and sustainable ranching. The success of their operations ensures that America will retain the open space our people cherish.?
?I am very pleased that Congress has acted to recognize the need to provide a more effective method to combat this devastating problem,? said Craig. ?A cooperative private/public partnership to combat them is an effective start to turn the tide on this problem.?
PLC also recognizes the efforts of Chairmen Richard Pombo (R-CA) of the House Resources Committee and Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) of the House Agriculture Committee for working to enact the legislation.
The bill now awaits the President?s signature. ?We eagerly await this action and for the program to be funded and implemented,? said Byrne.
The Public Lands Council represents livestock producers in 11 states in the West and is comprised of the National Cattlemen?s Beef Association, American Sheep Industry Association and Association of National Grasslands. Its mission is to create and maintain a stable regulatory regime in which its members can operate economically profitable ranches on public lands.
Fast Sheep Facts
? The noxious weed leafy spurge infests more than 3 million acres across 26 northern states. Elk, bison, deer and cattle balk at the noxious weed, but sheep not only graze it down, allowing regrowth of beneficial grasses, they also thrive on it, benefiting the land, wildlife and sheep.
? In Stillwater, Mont., 4,300 sheep are being used to manage 28,000 acres of leafy spurge. Controlling spurge with sheep costs 60 cents an acre, a fraction of the $35 an acre to spray the weed from helicopters.