Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has joined Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in introducing legislation that will bring greater certainly to ranchers and farmers in rural Utah and other states who graze livestock in the face of constant legal challenges from environmental extremists.
The Grazing Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 1129) helps ranching communities by preserving the use of livestock grazing permits.В It provides more flexibility to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service, allowing them to continue issuing grazing permits while required environmental analyses are pending.
вЂњCattle and sheep production in rural Utah brings in nearly $300 million per year in direct cash receipts and is an important driver in the stateвЂ™s agricultural economy of nearly $3.5 billion. This is a critical component of the economic health and welfare of rural Utah,вЂќ Hatch said.
вЂњOur ranchers are responsible land stewards who should not be held hostage by a rigid permitting process or by lawsuits from environmental elitists who want to keep all livestock off of our public lands. This legislation will help provide our livestock producers with the certainty they need to make a living and to continue to contribute in a significant way to our economy.вЂќ
Under current law, livestock grazing permits expire after 10 years, and a new environmental analysis is mandatory before a new one can be issued. Unfortunately, federal agencies have been hamstrung in renewing permits because of the backlog of environmentalist lawsuits aimed at delaying the process.
For more than a decade, grazing permit holders and public land agencies have relied on Congress to temporarily grant continued use of grazing permits every year.
The Grazing Improvement Act changes this by allowing the BLM and Forest Service to continue issuing grazing permits while an environmental analysis is being completed.В It also provides more flexibility with categorical exclusions and other needed reforms to grazing permits.
In addition to Hatch, the Grazing Improvement Act is co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), James Risch (R-Idaho) and John Thune (R-S.D.).