August 2005 -- Reaching out to nearly 23,000 livestock producers, the Public Lands Council (PLC) is calling for all producers who hold grazing permits on U.S. federal lands to join forces and support future preservation of public lands grazing.
In June, the PLC sent letters nationwide on behalf of the American Sheep Industry, National Cattlemen?s Beef Association and Association of National Grasslands. The letters advise producers of recent efforts being made to strengthen the regulatory framework for raising sheep and cattle on public lands and ask all permit-holders to join in supporting these efforts.
Current policy issues highlighted in the letter include:
Endangered Species Act (ESA): Producers know that species conservation can co-exist with livestock production. The PLC is working under the leadership of House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to ensure that measures for such co-existence are included in any ESA reform package approved by Congress. The PLC is also working with the Department of Interior to ensure that Fish and Wildlife Service decisions are based on independent science and common sense, and that concerns of people working on the ground are reflected in these decisions.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): The PLC has worked successfully to enact legislation for the past two years that ensures agency compliance with NEPA will not prevent the re-issuance of grazing permits. PLC also says Forest Service efforts to streamline its NEPA process are encouraging, and land-managing agencies are beginning to devote more of their funding to resource management and less to paperwork compliance.
Monitoring: The PLC has signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to create options for permittees to be involved in the monitoring of grazing allotments.
Horses and Burros and Multiple Use of Public Lands: The PLC is committed to the proper management of wild horse and burro populations at appropriate management levels on the public lands. Unfortunately, the federal agencies have been unable to keep population numbers in check. Wildlife, recreation, plant life and grazing all suffer. PLC drove the enactment of legislation to authorize the sale of un-adoptable horses. The BLM believes this new authority is helping them to restore balance to multiple uses of the federal range.
PLC president and Oregon cattle producer, Mike Byrne, says the letter is intended to ensure permitees that public-lands ranching is a strong option for raising livestock in the West, and the PLC is working to further strengthen it.
"At a time when cattle and sheep prices are at an all-time high, sheep numbers are on the rise, and American producers are raising the safest, highest-quality beef and lamb in the world, we want producers to know we are finding ways to make it easier and more economically viable for livestock producers to operate their ranches with federal lands as part of their forage base,? he says.
In particular, Byrne says he wants to discourage ranchers from considering buyout programs aimed at removing cattle and sheep from the lands.
"We oppose any federal incentive to eliminate grazing allotments or other parts of the infrastructure needed for livestock production on federal lands to succeed," said Byrne. "In particular, we oppose the buy-out proposal floated by the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign."
The Public Lands Council encourages all producers holding grazing permits to join in the above policy efforts.
"There?s a lot going on right now in Washington, D.C., with regard to grazing permits, and there are thousands of producers that could be affected by these changes," says Byrne. "We encourage increased involvement from permittees nationwide, and look forward to working together to make a difference for future generations.