SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCFORAGE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1997
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Livestock,
Dairy, and Poultry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:15 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Richard W. Pombo (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Goodlatte, Smith of Michigan, Lucas, Lewis, Blunt, Smith of Oregon (ex officio), Peterson, Holden and Dooley.
Also present: Representative Pomeroy.
Staff present: Paul Unger, majority staff director; David Dye, deputy chief counsel; Christopher D'Arcy, Brent Gattis, Callista Bisek, Wanda Worsham, clerk; and Danelle Farmer.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. RICHARD W. POMBO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. POMBO. This meeting of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry to receive testimony on enhanced public land stewardship and Chairman Smith's legislative proposal will now come to order.
Today's hearing will focus on enhanced public land stewardship, paying particular attention to the legislative proposal recently crafted by our committee chairman, Bob Smith, whom I am glad to have here with us today.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the last Congress, many of us in this room were reminded that public lands reform is not a simple task. A lot of people worked long and hard in hopes of getting grazing reform legislation signed into law. Unfortunately, it did not happen.
Today, we are once again trying to improve our Nation's grazing policy for public lands. I have to admit as a Member who has been involved in a number of long running battles, I was somewhat pessimistic that this issue could be brought back to any table after the previous bruising battle. However, after studying the chairman's legislation, I am confident that the approach put forth in this bill, smaller and specific reforms, is the best method for delivering results to those in the West who have no choice but to graze on public lands.
As most of you know, compromise is often more work than confrontation, and usually more lonely. Bob Smith has met with numerous Members of the House and Senate as well as with organizations deeply concerned about this issue and has produced the best chance of meaningful reform.
In drafting his proposal, it is clear that the author took note of those areas found most agreeable in previous grazing reform negotiations. That, on top of incorporating sought-after comments and suggestions from Members on and off of this committee, has resulted in legislation that accomplished true reform without losing sight of the ultimate goal, relief.
There are some who may raise concerns that this approach is not comprehensive. True, this proposal is narrow and specific. Although many of our constituents would favor a full comprehensive bill on grazing, they must know that the current political environment does not make that a reality. The future of passing reform legislation such as this is true smaller incremental bills such as this bill.
Do not be mistaken, this bill is no small feat. It codifies a stable and equitable grazing fee, ensures the use of sound science, codifies resource advisory councils, simplifies dual-agency policies by making them uniform, and permits more local involvement. This legislation will also bring long overdue legislative relief to western ranchers. It also exemplifies an approach needed to bring about purposeful and lasting reforms to our Federal Government's outdated regulations and policies.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Is this bill perfect? No. And I do not think anyone involved in this delicate process will make that claim. But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good and this is a good bill.
I look forward to today's testimony, and I welcome all of our witnesses and guests here this morning.
At this point, I turn to Mr. Peterson for his opening statement.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. COLLIN C. PETERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding today's hearing on the Forage Improvement Act of 1997. I am pleased to lend my name to the list of original sponsors of this important bill.
Public rangeland management and use has demanded attention for many years. Outdated law and vague regulations and guidelines have left ranchers, regulators, and environmentalists frustrated. The Forage Improvement Act of 1997 is an important effort to begin to clarify and streamline and improve our Federal rangeland law. I believe that this effort is in the best interest of all parties because it addresses problems that have collectively hurt the system.
This bill would codify many definitions which have been a main source of confusion for rangers, ranchers, and agency personnel. By clearly outlining the meaning of key terms associated with public land grazing, many conflicts can be avoided. Furthermore, the bill prescribes the use of existing advisory councils and resource management to maximize the value and benefit of the land without sacrificing range health. At the base of this land use, the bill offers a new and streamlined grazing fee formula which is economically fair to both ranchers and Federal taxpayers.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I believe this bill offers a clean-cut effort to tackle some of the problems with today's public grassland management. It is not an all-encompassing attempt to rewrite and redirect our public land use law, rather it is a common sense approach to fix specific problems and clarify our current system.
Mr. Chairman, I welcome the distinguished witnesses to today's hearings and look forward to the important debate regarding the Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
Mr. POMBO. I would like to now turn to the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Bob Smith.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT F. (BOB) SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Before I have read a short statement, I would like to ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a letter of support dated September 16 from Brent Atkins, president of the Public Lands Council; Jeff Menges, chairman of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Federal Lands Committee; Don Kelly, president of the Association of National Grasslands; Paul Frischknecht, chairman of the American Sheep Industry Association.
Mr. POMBO. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chairman, before my comments, I would like to specifically thank Mr. Dombeck who changed his schedule at my request and his agreement to be with us today, and as well, Mr. Sharpe from the Bureau of Land Management.
I want to thank, first of all, my good friend and solid westerner, Richard Pombo, for working with me to convene this forum to discuss a much needed change in practices of grazing on public lands. Many of you remember, as he recalled for you, the efforts of the 104th Congress and the attempt to enact reforms currently for the management of livestock on public lands and the difficulties that were associated with those efforts. You recall the Senate did succeed in passing a bill, a rather comprehensive bill, the Public Rangelands Management Act, and the House Committee on Resources adopted the Senate bill yet failed to bring the issue to the floor because of the contentiousness of the issue, the division really within the livestock industry, as well as total opposition of environmental organizations. That effort left many people with bitter memories.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After last year's battle, and it was a battle, many Members of Congress remarked to me that they did not ever want to address this issue again. Many of them have been working with it for the last 20 years. Although last year's failure to achieve meaningful livestock management reform was unfortunate, I began this Congress with the idea to take the most contentious issues off the table and address those issues that did not spark heated controversy in the last year while attempting to fulfill the needs of the West and to provide some certainty and stability within the livestock industry that must graze on public lands.
For the past 4 months, I met with numerous Senators and Representatives that span the philosophical spectrum to determine if there is truly a will to focus on a short list that will provide the western rancher measures of needed security and are achievable in this Congress. With few exceptions, I have received very positive consensus to engage in such an effort.
As a result, after consultation with many groups and many Members of Congress, I developed a list of issues that were addressed by the last Congress yet were not accountable for the gridlock on this issue in the House and the Senate. I drafted these issues in legislative form, distributed them in July across the West to environmental organizations and throughout the Congress and to interested people. I solicited comments on this draft and, using these comments, drafted a new bill which reflects concerns raised by both ranchers and the environmental community. That bill is what I am introducing today, the Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
As I have told many interests for a number of months now, I remain committed to bridging gaps between the ranching and the environmental community as well as between Members of Congress to produce meaningful legislation that serves legitimate needs of the western ranching community while encouraging the continued and continuing health of the environment.
While this issue remains one of the most controversial public policy matters, I believe we should be able to work together to make strides that achieve a very necessary goal. Until such time, the rural West will continue to wither with little security and flawed public policy that will continue to be a status quo.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now just very quickly I would like to address the Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
The reasons for and benefits of this legislation are very simple. Right now we have no clear definition from Congress regarding how more than 270 million acres of rangeland and grasslands in western States are to be managed. This lack of clear direction and morass of conflicting agency regulations merits clear delineation for the issues addressed in the Forage Improvement Act. There are still many rangeland and grassland management issues that deserve legislative resolve. But those addressed in this act are a solid start and an appeal to concerns of all interests.
The intent of the Forage Improvement Act is to propose legislative solutions to issues common to both the major Federal land management agencies, the Forest Service and the BLM. As I mentioned, after consulting with numerous Senators and Representatives, we decided to not include the issues debated in prior sessions of Congress that were found to be highly contentious by environmental organizations and the western ranching community alike but focused rather on issues that in the recent past have not provoked heated opposition from the environmental community but will provide necessary and defensible measures of security for the rural West.
The priority issues that were chosen in a cooperative fashion and found in the Forage Improvement Act are quickly as follows: Continuation of the concept of the multiple use interest group Resource Advisory Councils; explicit focus on participation by Governors and local citizens; increased focus on science-based monitoring of changes in rangeland vegetation and associated ecosystems conducted by trained professionals; encouragement of the coordinated resource management process involving in all interests; clarification of circumstances under which subleases of Federal land and grazing allotments would be subject to surcharges by the Federal Government; implementation of a grazing fee formula approved by the Senate in the 104th Congress and the continuation of the renewable 10-year term of grazing permits and leases; streamlining the National Forest System and BLM regulations for the issues just addressed. Currently, the morass of conflicting agency regulations inhibits application of sound range management practices and direction.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, the Forage Improvement Act clarifies some words and terms that are widely used in the discussions about Federal land grazing but have no definite nor uniform meaning. Therefore, this bill, straightforward, it is understandable, and more than that, it is necessary for the West.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statements of Chairman Smith and Mr. Fazio follow:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Mr. POMBO. I would like to welcome our first panel this morning, Mr. Mike Dombeck, who is chief of the U.S. Forest Service; Mr. Maitland Sharpe, assistant director for Renewable Resource and Planning for the Bureau of Land Management.
I would like to welcome you here this morning, and Mr. Dombeck, you are recognized. Thank you very much for being here.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL DOMBECK, CHIEF, FOREST SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Mr. DOMBECK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members. I have with me Bertha Gillam, director of Range Management for the Forest Service and really the expert on the issues that we have here.
I also have a statement that I would like to enter for the record. I would like to give a summary of that statement and appreciate the opportunity to discuss this issue with you.
The Forest Service has been managing rangelands for nearly 100 years. It has a long history of partnership with the livestock industry who rely on National Forest System lands. Grazing on Federal lands was one of the earliest resource debates in America. In fact, when the debate raged over whether livestock grazing would be banned from forest reserves, Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Service, argued that grazing should be controlled rather than prohibited.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Then, as now, that view was based on scientific range research, first begun in 1897 by the Department of Agriculture in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. By developing such concepts as carrying capacity and grazing systems involving deferral and rotation, these early range scientists and managers laid the foundation for sustainable resource use.
Despite improvements in rangeland conditions since the turn of the century, we still have work to do. Currently, about 72 million acres of rangeland on National Forest System lands have management objectives identified in forest plans. These objectives address variables such as desired condition, composition and utilization of vegetation.
Approximately 51 million acres, or 71 percent, meet or are moving toward specified objectives. Another 8 million acres do not meet these objectives nor show signs of improving, and another 13 million acres are in an indeterminate status category due to lack of data.
The process of assuring that grazing permits are consistent with NEPA and amended land and resource management plans continues to be a major impact for range program work load, and although we have made significant progress, much work remains to be done in that arena.
We are pushing for better coordination among agencies to improve efficiency. For example, the Forest Service in conjunction with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Bureau of Land Management have developed a memorandum of understanding to address policy development for assessing and monitoring rangeland health. This will provide consistency between agencies when rangeland health issues are evaluated and promote better understanding by industry and the general public.
We are working with the Council on Environmental Quality to bring efficiencies and improved decisionmaking to the Forest Service NEPA process. A pilot project has focused on the grazing program and showed significant reductions in the time needed for NEPA compliance activities.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In March 1996, the Forest Service with the Bureau of Land Management and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, created a national interagency riparian service team to ensure management and problem resolution at the local level for issues involving range management on public rangelands in the western United States, and I want to say that that effort is headed by probably one of the foremost riparian experts in the world, Wayne Ellmore from Prineville, OR, who I know Chairman Smith is familiar with and we are really pleased with the progress that that group is making in bringing people together.
Other specific actions to stretch dollars and improve public service include forging collaborative monitoring programs with some of our partners, including rangeland permittees, universities, cooperative extension services, various industry and environmental organizations.
''Seeking Common Ground'' partnerships have been developed in eight western States. These involve demonstration projects to manage big game and livestock grazing interactions and common habitats. One project supported this year is the Elk Ridge/Comb Wash Big Game Demonstration Area located in southern Utah that involves some 225,000 acres.
Partnerships like ''Pulling Together Partnerships'' is a new program with the primary goal of preventing, managing, and eradicating invasive and noxious plant infestations through a coordinated program of public/private partnerships to increase public awareness of the adverse impacts of invasive and noxious plants.
I have formed a task team to determine how the Forest Service can improve our community-based collaboration. We believe that community-based collaboration will enhance our effectiveness and grass-roots efforts. I want to give one last example of where things are working, and there are many, many areas where things are working and I hope that we look at these areas.
For example, in collaboration with the Modoc Cattleman's Association, Modoc County Farm Bureau, and Cooperative Extension Service on the recovery of threatened and endangered fish. As a result of this joint effort, the fish habitat is showing significant recovery in all 18 allotments where the fish are found in that area. There was no reduction in cattle numbers to achieve this recovery. Instead, seasons of use and grazing patterns were cooperatively adjusted and the permittees are actively involved in monitoring their grazing use.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The examples of successes are many, and what I am doing is looking very hard at these successes to see what we can learn from them and where the common ground is. I want to say that we remain convinced that decisions that affect the Nation's lands and resources are best made by resource management professionals working with the public involved in these decisions.
That concludes my opening statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dombeck appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you very much.
Mr. Sharpe, you are recognized.
STATEMENT OF MAITLAND SHARPE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR RENEWABLE RESOURCE AND PLANNING, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
Mr. SHARPE. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss with you the Bureau of Land Management's range management program.
In 1995, the Bureau made some important revisions to its regulations as they affect livestock grazing on public lands, as you know. At the core of those revisions were new tools to achieve consensus. Over the past 2 years, through the workings of the Resource Advisory Councils, which we referred to as the RACs, we have seen consensus begin to emerge in some unlikely places.
The role of the RACs is to provide advice and local perspectives to the BLM. RAC members must reside in the State of their jurisdiction. RAC members represent traditional commodity uses, recreation, wildlife and conservation interests, and local government, Native Americans, and the public at large.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Each RAC deals with the full array of multiple use issues associated with public lands in its area. In terms of grazing management specifically, the RACs have been instrumental in the preparation of State or regional standards for rangeland health and guidelines for grazing administration. That has been my primary task over the course of the past 12 years.
The standards and guidelines as well as the RACs are a central component to achieving consensus. The BLM and the RACs in close coordination with permittees, lessees, and interested members of the public have completed standards and guidelines in 8 of the 10 public rangeland States.
The standards and guidelines are designed to provide specific measures of rangeland health and to identify best management practices in keeping with the particular characteristics of a State or region such as climate and vegetation types and animal husbandry practices. They seek to provide a consensus view of how to maintain and seek additional improvements in the health of public rangelands. Currently, all State directors are making standards and guidelines implementation plans. New Mexico and California are still developing their standards and guidelines. They should be approved by sometime early next year.
Livestock grazing remains a central component of multiple use management and the BLM is working, in accordance with the 1995 regulations, to achieve a program that has broad public support. The way to encourage public support is to provide a mechanism for meaningful public participation. Meaningful participation not only permits ranchers to hear the views of others, but it also helps nonranchers to better understand ranchers and the benefits they bring, benefits such as open space, an issue, a need, a value, that increasingly resonates throughout the West with people of almost all backgrounds.
We strongly prefer up-front participation to paralyzing lawsuits and injunctions. We have found that only with significant public participation and support can we achieve stability that public land ranchers want and deserve.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To ensure that the 1995 regulations did not create unintended effects, we have been performing a review of how the regulations are being implemented and what their impact has been. The purpose of the review is to gather information about the effectiveness of the regulations, including a review of the programs' cost and benefits, an assessment of the extent to which the regulations and goals are being accomplished, and a measurement of the consistencies of their application. That information will be used to identify existing or potential problems and inefficiencies and aid in the search for effective, innovative solutions. The review is occurring this fall, and we hope to complete a report by February or March of next year.
The fears held by some in the West concerning the regulatory revisions of a couple of years ago have not come true. Instead, ranchers, environmentalists, and other interests are sitting around tables talking and making progress on specific local issues rather than shouting at each other. Many environmentalists and ranchers are realizing that they have a lot more in common than they originally thought. All of us want better wildlife habitat, improved water quality, open space, and healthy rural economies. I think that all of us want to maintain the open spaces of the West, wildlife habitats that are provided by private ranchlands as well as public grazing lands.
Ranchers and environmentalists have learned of their common interests by talking and working together on a wide variety of issues. Consensus and cooperation, I believe, are the future of public land management, not protests, appeals, and lawsuits. The bottom line, then, is that the Bureau grazing management program is working. People are sitting down together at State and local levels to find shared solutions to real problems. Diverse interests are forging a shared vision of what the public rangeland should look like and produce and are finding ways to put old conflicts to bed. The result will be healthier, more productive rangelands and a more stable future for the public land livestock industry.
Mr. Chairman, we at BLM appreciate the committee's interest in BLM's range management program, and I would be happy to answer any questions concerning the status of rangeland management in the Bureau. Thank you.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Sharpe appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you very much. I thank both of you for your testimony.
Mr. Dombeck, I appreciate your description of the Forest Service initiatives designed to foster collaborative programs between agency personnel and permittees. Nevertheless, I am concerned that the high level of dissatisfaction in the western livestock community regarding the administration of permits by the Forest Service and BLM. I was wondering, do you perceive that level of dissatisfaction as chief of the Forest Service?
Mr. DOMBECK. I think part of what we see in that level of dissatisfaction is a debate that is going on in society today as to the uses of public lands, the uses of national forests, and one of the ways we can get beyond that debate is by bringing people together.
I also believe that, as I have said to the many ranchers many times in visiting with them, one of the biggest challenges that they have is educating, helping us educate the American public, because the fact is that the vast majority of permittees are good operators and they are good stewards. They need to convince the rest of the American public that are opposed to grazing and justyou can take any issue and there are people for it and against it. That is okay. That is what democracy is about. But I think education is a key because you could take the agencies right out of the debate and there would still be dissatisfaction there because of the diversity that we deal with in society.
It is like in the timber industry, is the same thing as Chairman Smith knows with issues that he deals with, we deal with everybody from those that feel it is a sin to cut a tree to those that focus on trees only as a commodity and no other value. That is sort of the balance that we have to strive for.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to compliment Maitland on sort of the last couple paragraphs of his testimony, because it is bringing people together to achieve a common understanding, I think is the way that we are going to get beyond this level of dissatisfaction, and I also think that is the way we are going to get beyond the litigation that is consuming many resources in the Federal agencies because we are sort ofI hope we are moving out of the era of resource management and sort of through litigation. I know of no other way to do that than by building common understanding and pulling people together.
Mr. POMBO. Well, I think we can all agree that we would rather not manage our resources by litigation. That is an unfortunate by-product of the past several years of what we have gone through.
One of the issues that I hear a lot about is the instability within the industry in terms of the public lands grazers, their ability to renew and what their future is.
As you are well aware, the cattle industry decisions are made over a long period of time. The decision you make today impacts your business 10 years from now and that instability is a very major concern of the cattle industry right now.
What can we do to alleviate some of those concerns?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, thank goodness, we are moving out of the era of rock bottom cattle prices. I think that stressed the system tremendously as well as a drought that was real tough. We are moving out of that.
From the standpoint of the stability issue, again, I will harken back to building the support base through understanding and education, because I think that a lot of the concerns associated with lawsuits associated with injunctions, which are real and we have examples all over the country. It is because in many cases we have not involved all the people or we have people at the ends of the spectrum that are sort of running the debate.
One of the things that I want to try to do in this job in not only this issue here but others is work with the sort of the large middle that appreciates the importance of good stewardship, appreciates the importance of continuity and stability. We, from the standpoint of our multiple use mandate, we are committed to continued sound range management, improving relationships with permittees, and want to move forward with that.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would ask Bertha if there are any specifics that in her dealing with this on a day-to-day basis that she would like to raise.
Mr. POMBO. Specifically on that, before you answer, specifically on that is I know that a lot of the instability is caused because of the litigation, but there are also Federal policies that are being called into concern as to the long-term viability of the grazers. I would like you to address the public policy side of it as well as just the litigation side of it, if you would.
Ms. GILLAM. I guess I would like to, if I could, go back and talk about 1995 when we had a number of permits that were expiring and we did not have a NEPA analysis done through the rescission act that gave us a lot more stability for industry, because we were able to reissue permits with the same terms and conditions until we established the allotment schedule for analysis and are able to proceed with doing the NEPA analysis. But in the meantime, all the permittees who are following the terms and conditions have a permit and do not have to worry about not having their permit reissued. So I think that was a point in time where a lot of worry came about but that had been relieved.
As you know, there are a lot of complex laws that we have to ensure that we are following not just NEPA but the Endangered Species Act and the cultural resources and all those laws that we have to take into consideration which really brings about some of the challenges and some of the appeals in litigation. I think we have a responsibility to ensure that our resources are in good condition, and most of the areas where we are having difficulty are in our riparian areas, which we have about 25 percent of those that are in nonsatisfactory conditions.
It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we are taking care of the riparian areas, and right now that is where we are having most of our litigation. I really believe that we are on track now with our schedule to do NEPA analysis. We have had a lot of appeals. We have upheld those appeals, and I think that right now things are pretty stable for the permittees.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Thank you. My time has expired. Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I guess for both witnesses, the Federal Land Policy Management Act provides for uniform grazing administration on both forest system and BLM lands, but, as I understand it, the regulations are substantially different.
Could you explain to me why that is?
Mr. DOMBECK. There is a different organic legislation that the two agencies respond to and I think that is part of it. I will ask Bertha to elaborate on that more, but I think another part of it is tradition. Some of the things that we have to do and can do as an agency is to take the best of what both agencies have to offer and move forward.
I would just like to offer a couple of examples to demonstrate how that can work and how we can learn from that. In the States of Oregon and Colorado, the Forest Service and BLM, we have a program in Colorado called the Trading Post where we are in a sense sharing responsibilities, where the Forest Service, in the case of BLM, has the range management expertise in that area so they are taking on more of that responsibility and doing more of that for us. In cases where the Forest Service has the timber management expertise, we are sharing employees.
We are looking at different color pickups crossing each other on the highway and how can we work more efficiently along those lines, and that is something that when I was at BLM and Jack Ward Thomas was in the job I have now, though, we pushed significantly from the standpoint of just agencies working together to deliver something more efficiently to the public.
We have to continue to look for all those kinds of examples. I guess I would, if you want to know more about the differences in the legislation, we might best efficiently address that in writing.
Mr. PETERSON. That would be good.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Is there something Congress should be doing? Do we need to be doing something to help promote the uniform grazing policy between your two agencies?
Also, I would like you to answer whether youthis bill that we are considering here today provides for uniform regulation; do you think that is a step in the right direction? If you do not think it is, why not?
Mr. DOMBECK. I think that from the standpoint of how we apply these things to the American public, and this applies to not only grazing but to all things, I think what is right for the land is right for the land or what is right for the customer is right for the customer.
What I hope to do, and I have talked about this with Pat Shay and Maitland, is we need to look for every opportunity we can to work together. And, in fact, the direction that Jack Ward Thomas and I gave to employees of the respective agencies at that time was that if it makes sense on the ground, do it, as long as it is not against the law. We want our employees to be as creative as they can, to be out on the edge asking why are these differences necessary, and then what we need to do is we need to take a look at, as Bertha and Maitland have done, at the regulations and things that we have at the agency-wide level and ways to bring them together. I certainly agree that it makes no sense to the American people for vast differences in programs. We need to look at what works on the land.
Mr. PETERSON. Are you telling me that you can get here without legislation, you have got the authority to get to a point where you have got similar regulations?
Mr. DOMBECK. I know over the last couple of years Maitland has looked at this very carefully.
Mr. SHARPE. It is an important question. I think it is one that we probably should look into and on which we should respond in writing for the record.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would say, however, that it is my opinion that we can do substantially what is needed under existing in order to bring the regulatory approach, the approach to grazing administration in the two agencies in to register on their existing statutory authorities.
Mr. PETERSON. How soon?
Mr. SHARPE. I don't know. The process of devising, obtaining public input on revising and adopting regulations is itself much like the legislative process, long, frequently torturous and, unfortunately, often the subject of a great deal of controversy and conflict.
Mr. PETERSON. Will this bill help you get there quicker?
Mr. SHARPE. I cannot speak to the bill. I have not had a chance to review it.
Mr. PETERSON. Well, when you do get a chance, if both of you could respond in writing on this point that would be helpful to myself and to the committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. POMBO. The issue that Mr. Peterson raises is an issue that has been studied and talked about for a number of years. If you could respond to his question in writing to the committee in a reasonable fashion, at least with what the current position is of the administration, what some of their thoughts are, it would help the subcommittee and the full committee a great deal.
I am going to recess the hearing. We have another vote on the floor. It should be very quick and we will return shortly. Thank you.
Mr. POMBO. We are going to call the hearing back to order. I apologize for the interruptions in the hearing. At this point, I would like to turn to the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Bob Smith, for his questions of the panel, and I am going to have Mr. Blunt take the chair temporarily. I have a bill that is being marked-up in another committee and I have to go down there, but Mr. Blunt is going to take the chair and Mr. Smith is going to ask his questions.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Sharpe, I have had a preliminary visit with Mr. Shay, who couldn't be here today because of a prior commitment. He's the Acting Director. And he suggested to me that he had some thoughts about the additions to this bill that would improve it. I want you to know that I would like to hear from Mr. Shay about those suggestions. I recognize that you are limited in what you can say about this bill because it is not before you and you have not had a chance to analyze it.
You have had a chance to look at the provisions of this bill and they are not different than the language. So let me ask you this question. You made a point in your testimony about the success story of Resource Advisory Councils, and you will note in this bill that we do rely heavily, again, upon codifying Resource Advisory Councils using the idea of Governors and local people as input promoters, and we have done that and do that because we think that a better way to manage public lands is from the local people, I think as Mr. Dombeck has made the point many times. I would like to ask you your opinion of that approach.
Mr. SHARPE. Mr. Chairman, I regret that I am simply not in a position to speak to that. I have not studied the bill or the provisions.
The CHAIRMAN. I am not asking you to comment on the bill. In your testimony, you say the important success story is Resource Advisory Councils. I am asking you if it is your own belief that decisions coming from the community and from the State, which we rely upon, rather than from Washington, DC down, is a better idea.
Mr. SHARPE. We believe that the public rangelands need to be managed, decisions need to be made in the context of full involvement of the people on the scene, the people who know the resource and are familiar with it, and the communities of interest.
The CHAIRMAN. Those are local, all of those.
Mr. SHARPE. This involves communities of place and communities of entries. Some are more local than others, depending on the site specific situation.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Well, Oregon to Oregon is local, Maryland to Oregon is not local.
Mr. SHARPE. No, I don't mean to imply that, certainly that is not the case. We believeexcuse me, we believe a vision that is embodied in the 1995 regulations, that there should be a maximum of local input and local decision-making, and a minimum of centralized decision-making at the national level, the public rangelands are simply too diverse to be able to maketo apply sweeping generalizations across 165 million acres of permitted grazing land or nearly 300 million acres of public land surface. That makes little sense.
The CHAIRMAN. I think you and I agree on that, although you have kind of clouded it a little bit for me, but we will get to that later. I wonder, in a general, philosophical position, Mr. Dombeck, should this bill become law, do you think that relations between the Government and the West would improve or would they be aggravated?
Mr. DOMBECK. I am not sure that they would improve because I think thatI think you don't legislate public opinion and I think the way our folks interact on the land, the interaction between the local interest and the national interest is the way that you achieve that. I know, even with regulations off of my desk, I ask myself: is this really going to make a difference and I think you achieve that by people working together.
Now tied to that is, just to let you know that the Forest Service is a full partner in the Resource Advisory Council concept and the States of Oregon and Washington were very close, and Colorado, but I believe in almost every State, there are Forest Service participants in the Resource Advisory Council meetings and in this job I have been pushing what I call collaborative stewardship. You can call it cooperation, people talking to one another, respecting one another, whatever. And my initial thinking has been not to attempt to regulate that or set some sort of standard from my desk from the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, but to require the regional foresters and people in the field to do whatever works best at the local levels for them.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. And I agree with that and I agree with that idea. Back to my initial question. There is no question that people in the West would be much relieved with the passage of this bill. How would it impair your obligation if this bill passed or would it impair your obligations as Chief of the Forest Service and manager of the forestry grazing practices.
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, again, not having had an opportunity to look at that in detail, what we would be happy to do is provide you as much detail as we can in writing when we see the final bill. I believe one of the ways to bring stability and to settle things down is tothe grazing fee issue is likely one that ought to be looked at because thatthere has been consternation over that issue every time it has come up since 1906, and that will not go away and it will not be fun to deal with.
Many, many of the other issues, though, we believe are local relationships. I think about the things that cause instability and then we ask ourselves, what can we do to guarantee better stability, and, weather is a big factor, especially given the drought we are coming out of there.
The markets, of course, I don't have to elaborate on what has gone through the market cycles, and beyond that, I think educating the public, and I want to say it again because I feel so strongly that I think one of the biggest challenges the ranching industry has is the good operators need to step forward and help convince the American public they can be good stewards and there are lots of them out there.
The CHAIRMAN. And many, many, many have, as you well know, there are leaders in every State who have gone more than a step forward. My time has expired, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BLUNT. Mr. Chairman, you can have as much time as you want. I haven't been here long enough to figure that out. Are you sure you don't want more time?
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. No, no, thank you.
Mr. BLUNT. Mr. Pomeroy.
Mr. POMEROY. I thank the chairman for allowing me to ask questions. Though not being a member of the subcommittee and a member of the full committee, you are very interested in the legislation before you. I commend Chairman Smith for his work on attempting to forge a consensus bill that will actually move and bring some closure to this ongoing agony regarding many of the issues surroundingor addressed in this bill.
A question I have of Mr. Dombeck involves basically the full scope of Forest Service oversight and the resources available to it, to accomplish those objectives. How much land presently is the Forest Service responsible for overseeing?
Mr. DOMBECK. We manage about 191 million acres that are in the National Forest System, but the other programs that we have that are, I think, very important are State and private forestry programs where we work with State foresters. We work with the fish and game agencies through technology transfer programs, fire programs, a wide variety of things we provide for from the standpoint of resource management and technologies. And the other important program is our research and development program, where we are engagedwe are probably the largest natural research and technology institution in the world and have been for a long time and that has been central to the mission of this agency since 1910.
Mr. POMEROY. What have funding levels been for your agency over the last 5 years?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, like all agencies, we have gone through downsizing and more and more stress on the delivery, and of what we do and the challenges to continue to keep the dollars flowing to the land where they do the most good. I would be happy to provide you the specific numbers. I don't know if anybody has them here, from the standpoint of budget trends, by any program area you wish or all program areas, but generally, I think we are looking at either flat or slightly declining appropriations, which by the time you take inflation into account and cost-of-living increases and things like that, then there has been a significant decline in dollars to the land.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMEROY. What percentage of the land under your present supervision would be classified as grasslands?
Mr. DOMBECK. We have about 95 million acres of rangeland, and let me ask Bertha or someone if they know the exact numbers of grassland.
Ms. GILLAM. There are 3.85 million acres of grasslands.
Mr. POMEROY. Generally speaking, in light of the real decline, in terms of appropriation, you're trying to do more with less. Are you able to maintain the quality of agency performance in light of that challenge?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, I would say that is stressed and that has pushed every employee to try to look at new and better ways to do things, more efficient ways to do things, working through partnerships, and every avenue that we can find to increase efficiencies, and there have been significant improvements, but I have got to say that I would certainly solicit your support for our appropriations, and we always need more money.
Mr. POMEROY. I never heard that from a Federal agency before. I'm teasing. The final question I have relates directly to the question of resources. I suppose, in light of trying to do more with less, it remains extremely important for this agency to continue to identify priorities and sharpen its focus in order to best perform its core competencies; is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. POMEROY. No more questions, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Mr. Pomeroy.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Help me understand a couple areas. One is the fee system and I don't know if you looked at the new suggested formula for setting the fees under this legislation. Let me start with grazing forestlands.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Down on my farm in Michigan, my foresters tell me not to graze my wood lots and forestland because the cattle will eat off the new growth. Is this a problem out West or are you specifically limiting it to the 3.8 million acres of grass land, but, also, the fences aren't there in a lot of cases so you also graze off the forest area?
Ms. GILLAM. We do graze both rangelands and some open forested lands. One of the problems that is affecting our capacity is, in fact, the increase of trees and the increase of some other shrubs and pinyon juniper, for example, that has been encroaching and the increasing number of trees due to the lack of fire in the ecosystem, so it does have an affect on our amount of rangelands we have.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. So tell me the difference between my farm in Michigan, where the NRCS and the foresters say don't graze your wood lots because it eats off the new growth in the western forest graze lands.
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me start by saying I think the key thing is to take a look at what the objectives are out there for the land itself if your objective is maintaining high quality forage, if your objective is growing trees and regeneration of trees is a primary aspect. I think it is hard to make generalizations about site-specific areas like that, and the important thing, though, is I think once you have the goal in mind, and then as to apply the best science and technology to achieve the goal, and it sounds to me that is what the advice you are getting from your foresters is based upon.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. And so what is your goal on the utilization of that land?
Mr. DOMBECK. On western rangelands, our goals are set through the forest planning process where each national forestthrough a long process of obtaining public input for desired outcomes, whether it be recreation, timber, wildlife values, grazing values, those kinds of things applied and that would vary from forest to forest. We don't dictate the goals as an agency, we work with through the planning process to determine what those objectives are.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH of Michigan. And is there an inconsistency between having a primary goal quality forest development as opposed to the greater utilization using it as pasture land or graze land.
Mr. DOMBECK. I am not sure I can answer that directly, but let me try. I think the primary goal
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. No, is there an inconsistency between the two uses is my question.
Mr. DOMBECK. Between grazing and
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. And maximizing forest production.
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I think there can be.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Help me understand the fees. Why has the fee schedule sort of replaced what traditionally we use in this country, and that is whoever pays the highest amount, a bid or an auction determining the price, rather than some government formula determining the price, have we ever used a bid system?
Ms. GILLAM. We have a bidding system in the eastern part of the United States. We have a different fee system based on fair market value that has been established for the western, the 16 contiguous western States, but we do have a competitive bidding process and some noncompetitive bidding in the eastern part.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. And so do you have a preference of the bid versus the fee system in terms of maximizing a reasonable return on the acres?
Ms. GILLAM. We would like to maintain the competitive bidding process in the eastern part of the United States, as well as maintaining the conservation practices for the national grasslands.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Maybe my question is how does the eastern bid versus the western fee compare to what private rangeland rents for?
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GILLAM. Well, it is a pretty complicated system for determining the minimum bid and that kind of thing and the grazing program is much different in the eastern part of the country, as opposed to the western part of the country, mostly because of terrain, so there are a lot of differences.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. In the western part of the country, let's move over there. How does the fee system compare to the market bid system on similar private land?
Ms. GILLAM. Well, now you are getting into the way that the fee formula is developed.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. No, how does the ultimate fee formula price compare with a private sector charge for similar land?
Ms. GILLAM. Well, normally the fee
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Nothing is wrong with that question, I take it.
Ms. GILLAM. Well, I can't tell you exactly how the formula works.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. I want to know the final result of the formula and how that compares with the rent that is paid on private land that is similar to the formula
Ms. GILLAM. Well, there are many factors that are taken into consideration for determining the fee on public lands and that is due to the requirement of the permittee to do maintenance. It is also due to the requirement that they are grazing in more difficult terrain, and sometimes it doesn't compute with the private land formula, but they do look at
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. There is no formula on the private land. The fewer bidders, the cheaper you rent the land for.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GILLAM. Well, they do do some comparisons, I believe, between what the private landowners are getting for.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DOMBECK. I would like to add one more point to that. I think generally they are lower, but there are differences, as Bertha points out, but we would be happy to send you a list by State of the averages of the Federal fee, versus what the private sector is getting. We have that information, I believe.
Ms. GILLAM. Yes, we do, and I think in the next panel, you are going to hear a lot of testimony with regard to the grazing fees and the formulas.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you. Mr. Smith.
The CHAIRMAN. Just a comment. Thank you all for coming today. I don't have to tell you that there is high suspicion and outright rage about the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the West, and there are many reasons for it, obviously, with the reduction in timber harvest. There has been great dislocation. Mr. Dombeck knows all about this, of labor and capital. And Secretary Babbitt's effort in rangeland reform created almost warlike atmospheres in the West, which you know about, Mr. Sharpe.
So I would ask you both to carefully look at this step, which was designed to help you and others take the sting out of what we in the West think is essential and important for us in the stability of the livestock industry. So take a careful look before you make a final judgment, and I can say to you that should the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management support this act, you take a major step in repairing some of the damage that has occurred public relations-wise in the West. Just to comment. I am not asking you to comment on it at all. Thank you very much.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you. I want to thank the panel for their testimony. There will be further questions that will be given to you in writing. I would appreciate it if you would answer those for the record of the committee. Thank you very much, you are excused.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to call up the second panel, Mr. Mike Byrne, Mr. Bill Myers, Ms. Frances Hunt, Mr. Bud Eppers, Mr. Tom Lustig, Ms. Barbara Curti. Thank you very much. I would like to welcome the second panel.
For those of you that have not testified previously, the lights in front of you are the time limit. Your entire written testimony will be included in the record. I would like you to summarize that for your oral statement. If you could keep that to the 5 minutes, it would be greatly appreciated by the committee. The lights will tell you. Yellow will give you an indication that the time limit is almost concluded, and red I would ask you to stop at that point and conclude your testimony. I appreciate all of you being here this morning. Mr. Byrne, if you are ready, you may begin.
STATEMENT OF MIKE BYRNE, MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL
Mr. BYRNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Michael Byrne, California Director of the Public Lands Council and member of the California Cattlemen's Association. My brother and I ranch in a family partnership in northern California and southern Oregon on a fourth generation cattle ranch.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you for the Forage Improvement Act of 1997. I would like at this time to submit the written comments of the Public Lands Council for the record. First, I would like to describe how this bill could improve some of the negative aspects of Federal land ranching, which we are experiencing, and at the end, if time permits, I would like to walk you through my experience over the last 8 years of trying to implement an allotment management plan on our Forest Service allotment.
The Forage Improvement Act of 1997 is a small incremental step in the direction of resolving the problems that plague the public land ranching community. The state of western livestock production today is grim. Many family ranchers, some third and fourth generations, including some of my close neighbors, are struggling to stay in business, due to a variety of governmental and social forces.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, unbridled NEPA regulations and the Historic Preservation Act are well-intentioned laws that have been reinterpreted and have bogged down the productive capability of the western ranges. Not really the ranges, but the ability to use the ranges because of the bureaucratic headaches which they cause.
These laws have yielded a mass of overlapping regulatory documents by several government entities, including Forest Service, BLM, EPA, National Marine Fishery Service, State water agencies, State Fish and Game, Army Corps, et cetera, to make public land ranching a very difficult enterprise. These agencies and their regulations, coupled with exploding wildlife populations, including predators and ungulates, are squeezing ranching families out of the West.
In many instances, ranching families have worked out good allotment management plans with their local BLM or Forest Service office, only to have them told they will not be able to comply with some new regulation, which results in them being forced into a new management regime with little or no input. An example of this is when an environmental assessment is appealed, after you have done years of planning, and livestock turnout cannot occur until this appeal is resolved. This requires more analysis, so that plans must be changed and modified to accommodate the change, often without the permittee input. This is a very unstable situation, but is one that happens all too often. Excuse me one second, I am out of order.
As the work load is being increased on the agencies each year, because of the requirements of Congress to do more opinions and more environmental assessments, less on the groundwork is occurring. The overhead burdens on the agencies is increasing, as is the cost of all of us in doing business.
We believe that the monitoring provision in Bob's new bill will help because it allows the permittee to monitor in association with agencies and on his own. This is the only way that long-term monitoring will be able to be done that will give a consistent trend so that we can defend ourself against attack and do some of the education that has been requested by the Government panel previous to mine.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The grazing fee will be codified for the first time since 1985 in this legislation. Hopefully, this will eliminate the annual gut-wrenching appropriation fight, which seems to happen every year, where very high grazing fees are introduced and then we need to work them back down. A stable fee will encourage the permittees to spend more funds on managing, improving and maintaining the resource and rangeland improvements, since permittees will be able to budget their costs for the first time in over a decade. It will also be a welcome relief to their bankers to be able to predict the cost of these ranching operations.
The financial stability established in the fee formula will allow for better, more effective, long-term planning to benefit not only the ranching families, but also the local communities and in the long-term, the range resources themselves. As I understand it, the current fee would be approximately $1.84.
The Resource Advisory Councils will provide an opportunity for balanced local decision-making, which is integral to proper resource management. Right now, especially on the Forest Service side, the only viable alternative is the RACs, if they aren't implemented for public input.
The Forage Improvement Act of 1997 has the potential to simplify grazing on public lands and bring stability to the industry. This legislation is not a panacea, but it will address some of the most restricted provisions of the current regulations and give better stability to ranchers until some of the other areas are addressed by Congress.
I have an example. I see I am running short of time. I have an example of how the processes worked over the past 8 years if the committee wants to listen to a short synopsis of how complicated and difficult it is. Otherwise, I will take any questions and thank the committee, especially Chairman Pombo and Chairman Smith for their efforts on behalf of the livestock industry.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Byrne appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Thank you. Mr. Myers.
STATEMENT OF BILL MYERS, ATTORNEY SPECIALIZING IN NATURAL RESOURCES POLICY
Mr. MYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Bill Myers and I am very pleased and honored to be here before you today to have an opportunity to provide some comments and opinions about the legislation that Chairman Smith has drafted and that I hope will be introduced very soon. I think it would be worthwhile for me to summarize my testimony, rather than read it verbatim so I will do that and probably not use all of my time.
But let's start with a look back quickly at the long history of this debate. The organized National Cattlemen's Beef Association is about 3 months away from its 100th anniversary when the first group of livestock operators got together in Denver, CO to talk about some common problems. They had two main items on their agenda.
One was the railroads and the other was the public domain, or what we now call the public lands. So we know the battle has been raging at least for 100 years. I hope it doesn't rage for another 100, but perhaps if we can get some legislation like this, we can forestall some of the agony that might be ahead of us.
Coming now to the short history, I go back about 3 years to the introduction of the Public Rangelands Management Act, first known as the Livestock Grazing Act, in both the House and Senate. It was a great bill. It started out about 120 pages long, if I recall, and had a number of things in it, some creative ideas and over the next 2 years when I was still here in Washington, rather than out in Idaho, I was in the trenches slogging away with everybody else and tossing grenades back and forth with my worthy opponents and trying to get some legislation moved, all basically for one goal and Mr. Pombo, you mentioned it several times in your opening comments and elsewhere and that is the need for stability for this industry.
It is a fact which is indisputable, fortunately or unfortunately, that the Federal land livestock industry that operates on some 270 million acres of Federal land is in business with the Federal Government. You cannot operate a ranch in the West without using Federal lands or it is virtually impossible to do so, especially since the Federal Government owns about 50 percent of those lands. There simply is not enough grass to feed the animals to make a productive living. So what we need is some stability in the partnership.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have two partners that have been warring with each other for a long time and we need to bring some stability because it looks like if one of them is going to have to bow out, it is going to be the ranchers. I don't see any indication the Federal Government is going away any time soon. If I can turn now to some specific comments about sections of the proposal, and I will highlight those which I think are most interesting.
Of course, the definition section is very important. As it is in any legislative proposal, you have to read the lexicon of the bill to understand what the substantive provisions are doing. Often the first place you need to go is to the definitional section and I note there definitions for such ideas as cooperative management agreements and coordinated research management.
I also note the definition for those CMA'sspecifically is that they must be voluntary and I think that parallels what is happening on the ground. As long as it remains voluntary, it is a worthwhile idea that should be pursued. If it becomes anything less than voluntary, then I think a lot of ranchers will have a problem with it. Another very important issue raised in both the definitions and in the substantive provisions deals with monitoring, and here you have introduced the idea of trend analysis, which is crucial to any kind of monitoring program.
The current regulations call for periodic monitoring, but there is no attempt in those regulations to combine periodic monitoring into a trend. They say go out and do it a few times here and there and you are done. That is not enough. You have to know if the range is in an upward trend or downward trend before you can make any analysis on how to change your management program.
Another point on monitoring needs to be made. If you are going to suggest monitoring, and you really do need to do that, then it is important you realize it has to be paid for. Monitoring is a very expensive proposition. It requires a lot of on-the-ground work and good old sweat to get the job done, so who is going to pay for it?
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If you want the rancher to pay for it, let's say so. If you want the Federal Government to pay for it, through the agency's oversight of their monitoring, then you need to say so, and I think you should authorize appropriations for the agencies and you should follow up with appropriators and ask them to also appropriate money for that monitoring. Otherwise, just to create monitoring without funding it is not to really accomplish, I think, what you need to do and what is the right thing for the range.
Subleasing. This is one of the great issues of demagoguery to face this Congress for many years. It is an issue that is thrown around all the time. The environmental community tends to think of it as an absentee corporate rancher who subleases his grazing permit and heads for the coast to enjoy golf and the beach. For the ranchers, it is the sons and daughters who are trying to get into the business and don't have enough capital to buy their own place, but need a place to run some livestock so they ask mom and dad if they can turn a few of their own animals out on their place. That is the way it should be. That is the way this bill approaches the issue and it is a good idea.
I will let the economists talk about the grazing fee, but I agree with Mr. Byrne that after 12 years in limbo, and the Reagan Executive order, this issue needs to be stabilized. It needs to be codified so that the ranchers and bankers and everyone else knows what is going on.
Finally, I want to point out quickly the issue of the issuance of new regulations based on this legislation once it becomes law and I am very hopeful it does. I would suggest you be a little more stringent with the agencies and not ask them merely to try and coordinate their regulations, but actually tell them to coordinate regulations.
This is going to be a new bill. To the extent old legislation is inconsistent with it, then this will, of course, be the determining factor because it is the latest act of Congress and as such, it is the basis for the regulations and as such, the agency should be able to sit down, since it will apply to both of them, and very closely parallel their regulatory approach. That will go a long way in helping to streamline the agencies' dealings with the ranchers and help the ranchers in dealing with the agencies. My time is up. I look forward to any questions you might have and, again, thank you for the opportunity to appear.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Myers appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Myers.
STATEMENT OF FRANCES A. HUNT, DIRECTOR, BLM PROGRAM, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
Ms. HUNT. Thank you. My name is Frances Hunt. I am the BLM Program Director for the Wilderness Society, and we appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. The Wilderness Society has a long-standing involvement in the management and protection of our Federal rangelands and my testimony today is given on behalf of both the Wilderness Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council. But before I begin, I would like to say thank you to Chairman Smith.
Although the Wilderness Society may completely disagree with your legislation, I do want to thank you for the openness you have shown in the process to date and that is a very pleasant addition to the process. In the interest of time, I am going to focus on three important areas.
First, the current condition of our Federal rangelands. Second, certain of the policy changes that the fish, wildlife, environmental and conservation community think are needed to truly improve range management. And finally, the impact of low grazing fees and the implications of the Smith bill on taxpayers, on sportsmen, and conservationists and others.
I will begin by noting that grazing by privately owned domestic livestock is the most extensive economic use of our public lands and it occurs on over 250 million acres managed by the BLM and the Forest Service. In some areas of the West, this grazing is very well-managed and has little, if any, negative impact. However, in far too many places in the West, public land livestock grazing has resulted in damaging soil erosion, water pollution, loss of plant and animal communities and lost recreational opportunities for a wide range of important public uses, including fishing, hiking and hunting.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I have attached to my testimony a documented list of the adverse impacts and I've attached to my testimony a copy of a report recently released by the Oregon Natural Desert Association, which summarizes the results of almost 140 published peer-reviewed scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals.
Briefly put, though, the story that they tell is once again that domestic livestock are overgrazing grasses and other plants in far too many places, and are contributing to erosion and destruction of vital rangelands soils and are directly competing with fish and wildlife for a limited habitat, limited water and limited vegetative resources. The results, whether you are looking at the Department of Interior data, the Department of Agriculture data, EPA reviews or General Accounting Office reviews or the scientific studies summarized in this report indicates that only about one-half of the total 250 million acres plus of public lands grazed by domestic livestock are considered to be in acceptable or functioning condition. And worse yet, an even higher percentage, almost 70 percent of our riparian areas, the valuable streams and water resources, are in a damaged condition.
I will focus for a minute on what the conservation, the fish and wildlife and environmental communities consider to be the principles of true range reform. These are listed in my statement and I am going to focus on only four of them at this point.
First, we believe that the restoration and preservation of the ecological health of the Nation's Federal rangelands must be the primary goal of the Federal range program. Healthy rangelands, productive rangelands benefit everyone, benefit ranchers, they benefit fisher people, they benefit hunters, they benefit the public citizens.
We believe current environmental protection laws and regulations must be maintained, in fact, even strengthened, and to achieve the goal of resource protection, we believe strong, responsible, national standards and guidelines are necessary to promote healthy productive Federal forests and rangelands.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would note that the 1995 regulations that we believe that the Smith bill eliminates do address national standards for rangeland health and our reading of the Smith bill leads us to believe that it does not. Second, I would address the very important issue of rangeland suitability. The sound management of our rangelands can only be accomplished if a process for assessing the basic suitability of Federal lands for livestock grazing is established.
Not all public rangelands are capable of sustaining livestock grazing, just like not all public lands are appropriate for certain types of recreation use or other uses. And other areas of the public's rangeland should not be grazed because of the significance or sensitivity they have for nonlivestock uses.
The 1995 regulations address rangeland suitability; the Smith bill does not. I see that my time is running out. I will indicate that my final two points on what is required involves producing a fair return to the American taxpayer and the very important concept of conservation use, the voluntary resting of overgrazed rangelands so that they may be restored back into a productive condition.
I will finish my testimony today by focusing briefly on one of the six points which we believe are flaws in the Smith bill, and that is the question of grazing fees and the impact that bargain basement fees have, not just on taxpayers, but on the environment. Under the formula contained in section 106 of the Smith bill, the grazing fee is only going to return a fraction of the cost of the Federal range program to taxpayers, and we believe this artificially low-grazing fee is unfair to taxpayers. We believe it is unfair to the majority of livestock producers in this country who do not have access to Federal land and we believe low Federal grazing fees actually constitute a perverse incentive for overgrazing Federal land and that overgrazing results in damage.
The rhetoric we are likely to hear today is that this fee formula raises the current fee 30 percent. Given the current grazing fee is at a rate of $1.35 per animal per month, I think this argument is disingenuous at best and I would indicate, before I close, that the Smith bill dramatically increases opportunities for subleasing on Forest Service and BLM land and that this subleasing would benefit not just the sons and daughters, but a long list of other relatives as well, and that this is a very clear place where private interests benefit from a disparity between the rate they are charged by the Government and the competitive rate that they would have to pay on private land or even the rate they are charged by the State.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In closing, I will say that although we understand the bill is going to continue to change and we will continue to analyze the existing draft, we encourage the subcommittee not to move ahead on this legislation at this time, thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Hunt appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you. Mr. Eppers.
STATEMENT OF BUD EPPERS, PRESIDENT, NEW MEXICO PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL
Mr. EPPERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and we want to thank Chairman Smith for trying to resolve some of the more difficult problems that are associated with the range reform regulations through Secretary Babbitt. I am a lifelong rancher on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. I have been there on the ranch now for nearly 60 years and I represent over 3,500 public land permittees in the State of New Mexico, and many of them have been there over 400 years, as many of you recall, due to the Spanish land grants and colonization of that area many years ago.
To be specific about certain sections of the bill that we feel need to be refined and addressed a little bit more, this is a start. It is not a perfect bill and I think all of us recognize that, but it is a beginning and hopefully we can improve on it as it proceeds through the process.
The allotment is an area that, under the definition, I don't know that it is really clear how the allotments came to be under the Taylor Grazing Act and we were required at that time to form boundaries around the lands we had been using for grazing of our livestock. But now the allotment is being used for a multitude of other multiple uses and the way to micromanage the small size specific areas of public lands. And it's an area, I think, we could use some improvement on.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are concerned with the authorized officer designation as it is in this bill and as it has been in definitions prior to this, the authorized officer can be anybody nearly that the Secretary would appoint. We feel that designation should stay with the district managers or the area managers.
Coordinated resource management. The definition is a step, I think, in the right direction. Although we think that the users of public land should be identified as those that actually are familiar with the allotment, have gone on the allotment, know what is happening on that allotment, rather than just a general user that may infrequently visit an area of public land. The Resource Advisory Councils, we are in opposition to the codifications the Resource Advisory Councils have proposed under Bruce Babbitt's regulations.
Subleasing. The definition for subleasing, I think, addresses a number of examples of subleasing that in our opinion are not actually subleases, but weighed to facilitate and fully manage the range resource out there, through the numbers of livestock that are placed on the lands to graze. Another section, section 103, the prohibited condition, the need to add, I think, to that definition to transfer issuance of a new grazing permit or lease, so that the agencies can't use this as a stick in the future to require some of these conditions.
Monitoring and inspection. We feel that the monitoring program is one of the most important programs administered on the rangeland resources, and we think that responsibility needs to remain in the hands of the Federal agencies, in cooperation and in assistant by the permittees themselves, but the primary responsibility needs to be with the resource managers who are out there and know the most about the allotment and worked with the agency or with the ranchers for many years.
And if Congress can't find the funding for this important program, I would suggest they turn the lands over to the States and let's see if we can't monitor them from our own perspective. Inspection subsection B. There again, I think we need to limit the inspections to Federal personnel because only they know what the laws and regulations truly are.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The subleasing, as I illustrated before, the subsections 1, 2 and 3 of section 105, are really just merely ways that the livestock industry can facilitate management of allotments. There are many ways that you have to try to take advantage of available forage and it is by sometimes being able to bring in additional livestock or if the person needs to lease their base property, that is not really a sublease of the Federal permit.
Resource Advisory Councils, there again, are one area where we really are concerned and don't know whether they go far enough. We want to be involved in further being able to comment on these, but the councils themselves, the membership that makes up of the councils really don't have the expertise or knowledge to get involved in allotment management planning, property management planning, or CRMPs or anything.
I do want to commend the chairman for putting a writing to this document, the bill, the cooperative management program. I think that is one of the most beneficial programs that has been available or would become available in this legislation and one that I would like to expound on at any future date because it is a very good program to give the opportunity the flexibility of the grazing permittees. New Mexico ranchers are looking to elected officials for relief from Babbitt's oppressive policies and regulations.
We want to ensure that our children's children can continue the family businesses. The combined knowledge and experience and proven successful management on the land today are the best protectors of the environment we may ever have. We are committed to ensuring their longevity. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important legislation and we look forward to questioning.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Eppers appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Eppers.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF TOM LUSTIG, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION
Mr. LUSTIG. Thank you, Chairman Pombo and Chairman Smith. It is truly an honor to be here today as a representative of the National Wildlife Federation. As you probably know, the Federation is the Nation's largest conservation organization, but I think more important is that we represent thousands of sportsmen and sportswomen from the West and across the United States, as well as thousands of families and people who live in these places and have used these public lands for generations.
I know people I represent, who are anglers, hunters, and hikers who have and been out there with their granddad to fish and are now taking their grandchildren out on the land. They watched the changes on the lands, sometimes to their great dismay, and so it truly is an honor to be here and try and humbly speak on behalf of these many, many users.
NWF shares with this committee the concern that we need to resolve these public land grazing conflicts. As a litigator I would like to get out of this business because I don't honestly think it is as productive as we could be in dealing with public land grazing problems. However, NWF is concerned that in several respects, this version of the bill doesn't resolve those conflicts.
In fact, NWF is very concerned that the bill exacerbates many problems. Let me touch upon some of the reasons why we believe that. The first is a baby with the bath water problem. The bill, in proposing some changes things, may do away with some of the recent progress we have made. For example, you have already had testimony this morning that the Bureau of Land Management has to put in motion establishing performance standards and guidelines for fundamentals of rangeland health. These weren't some Washington imposed mandate. They rather came from local citizens, these Resource Advisory Councils, who put together standard conditions they felt would be beneficial to the livestock industry and to the environment, and to many of my clients, hunters and families out there. And we have them in place, but we are very concerned that the bill, as now written, would toss these out.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They are a primary product of the Resource Advisory Committees. They are fledgling and we don't see any provision for their continuation. We believe that there is a dark shadow over them and it may be in the form of this legislation. Other than the baby in bath water problem, we are also concerned about the restrictions on Federal land managers and here, is something I can share with some people in the ranching industry and that is the monitoring question.
Although, I fear, I come from a slightly different perspective. I think we all agree monitoring is important and I have been in lots of cooperative negotiations with agencies and ranchers, where monitoring has been the key to resolving the questions. But while monitoring is important, I don't think we can put it in a position where it really hog ties the land managers, where the damage or the problems are obvious, where even, frankly, a dumb lawyer like me can recognize that there is something that needs to be fixed.
We cannot put the agencies through a multiple-year task of collecting data to cure what we all already know is a problem, and I think that is, hopefully, one of the great successes of the fundamentals of rangeland health, the standards and guidelines and the other criteria embodied in rangeland reform that the Bureau of Land Management has been put out, the ability to act on the obvious.
Now, the monitoring definition here, unfortunately smells like we are going back to the old days, again, not disparaging the importance of monitoring in scientific-based studies. We need to ensure it doesn't override the ability to cure immediate and obvious problems and the kinds of protocols called for in this bill and the scientifically based methodology that are called for is importantly different from the kind of language now contained in the BLM regulations that give expert Federal land managers the ability to deal with immediate problems that everyone knows are out there.
Finally, we are concerned about the public participation elements of this. There has been a great deal of effort in rangeland reform and in the Forest Service to ensure that more members of the public are involved in this process, and we have actively participated in that. I frequently meet with ranchers, my clients do that on numerous occasions, but we see some restrictive provisions in here.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, in one section of the bill, as now drafted, calls for permits to be reissued based in consultation, cooperation and coordination with the permittee or lessee. Well, of course, that is important. You have got to coordinate and cooperate with the permittee and the lessee, but how about the other landowners, the public. Right now there are provisions for them which are not reflected here.
Another example is the obligation under this bill for Resource Advisory Councils, which are finely honed and balanced organizations representing a great diversity of interests. The obligation of those councils at the end is they must coordinate and cooperate with State grazing districts.
Well, State grazing districts are almost exclusively rancher composed, and so how does this impact the ability of other citizens, hunters, fishermen, recreationists, families who are out there, guides and outfitters, local officials, who are now part of the Resource Advisory Council process on BLM lands to really have a role.
Seeing that my time is up, let me just thank you again for your openness, to agree with you that we need more reform. I think we are going down that road and I would hate to see this bill derail us. Thank you so much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lustig appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you. Ms. Curti.
STATEMENT OF BARBARA CURTI, PRESIDENT, NEVADA FARM BUREAU, REPRESENTING THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION
Ms. CURTI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Good afternoon, my name is Barbara Curti. I am president of the Nevada Farm Bureau and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Farm Bureau Federation and I am testifying today on behalf of the American Farm Bureau.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Until a few years ago, our family had Federal permits for grazing livestock on Forest Service lands. We surrendered our permits when it became uneconomical for us to continue using Federal lands. When we added up the costs of our operation, we found that we could pasture livestock more cheaply on private lands in California or Nevada if we could find them than to continue grazing on Forest Service lands, and if the committee is interested in that, I could go into it in a little bit more detail later, but it was uneconomical, and people focus so heavily on a dollar and 30 some cents per AUM, but there is so much more to it and it caused us to give our permit back.
While we no longer graze livestock on Federal lands, many of my members in the Nevada Farm Bureau and other western Farm Bureau States do. Cattle are our No. 1 commodity in Nevada. Eighty percent of the cattle are grazed on Federal lands at one time, and of course, most of you know that almost 90 percent of Nevada is controlled by the Federal Government. This is an issue that I have been working consistently on for 9 years to bring some stability to the Federal lands industry, the public grazing.
Fair and efficient management of livestock grazing on the Federal lands will give ranchers across the West the certainty and stability that they need to continue operating in an economically viable manner. Ranchers also recognize the responsibility to take care of the Federal lands and keep them productive, not just for livestock, but for wildlife and other uses, recreation and all those uses for the public. But our livelihood depends on the ability to use those lands and the condition of those lands. And as the Forest Service and BLM said, their studies have shown the Federal lands are in better condition now than at any time during the 20th century and I have really noticed it in my area, in central Nevada, and we are hard desert there, but those permittees that have begun using the CRM process or holistic range management process, I am on one of those management teams, the land is looking wonderful. The turnaround, even through drought conditions, has been tremendous.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bill that is being considered today, the Forage Improvement Act of 1997, I think advances both the stability of the western livestock industry and at the same time, fosters the overall improvement of rangeland conditions. In the brief time I have left today, I would like to address two aspects of the bill to illustrate my point of why I think this is good legislation.
The bill promotes and encourages the use of coordinated research management practices as a method of managing natural resources on Federal lands and CRM is a great process that brings together all the parties that have an interest in a specific natural resource issue, and it is for the purpose of achieving consensus, deciding what it is we want to see out there, how do we want the land to look, what do we want to use it for, and then we all go out there and we manage to reach those goals.
It is a local involvement and it is locally carried out. I think it is great that it is a voluntary process and that it is consensus driven. It has proven to be a very useful and effective tool in resource management when it has been used and where it can be used.
It has been available for several years, but there is no clear authority for its use within land management agencies, nor is there any consistent policy position regarding its use. It is a tremendous way to manage resources.
The Forage Improvement Act provides both the necessary authority for CRM and also provides a very clear policy direction encouraging its use in appropriate situations on Federal lands. One of the impediments we see to the CRM is the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or FACA. Because the CRM committee is advisory in matters involving Federal lands, the possible need to comply with FACA is an obvious consideration.
The Society for Range Management, one of the more ardent supporters of CRM, has identified this uncertainty of FACA application as a primary inhibitor of CRM use. Federal agency officials have been inhibited from initiating or suggesting the use of CRM within their jurisdictions because of concerns about violating FACA requirements. So we approve of this process through the bill, which would exempt the CRM process from the FACA requirements. It allows flexibility to seek local solutions.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another problem that the bill would resolve is the grazing fee issue. I think it would update, it would codify the grazing fee and it reflects fair prices received by the livestock producers. Having the fee based on actual conditions in the livestock industry is, to me, absolutely appropriate. Western ranchers who use Federal lands have endured great uncertainty from one year to the next, not knowing whether the executive order would remain in effect that we currently go under. As important, their bankers did not know from one year to the next what the grazing fee might be. Any attempt at medium or long-range financial planning was impossible. I believe by codifying the grazing fee, the bill would restore a measure of financial certainty to the livestock industry.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I would be happy to answer any questions that the committee might have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Curti appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. I thank all the panel for their testimony.
You mentioned in your testimony, Ms. Curti, that you had previously been a Federal lands grazer and had given that up because it was too expensive.
Could you explain that to me in light of the debate that has been occurring over the last several years over the value of what an AUM should be on public lands versus private lands? Could you explain that to the committee?
Ms. CURTI. I would be happy to.
When we sat down to talk with the Forest Service about initiating the permit, the allotment we were talking about was a big one, 30,000 acres, and it is fenced. And they sat down with us and said, now, here is what we want of you in order to give you your permit to go on to the land. We want you to replace 1 to 3 miles of fence per year at your cost. There is a creek running through
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Can I stop you right there. How much in dollars is 1 to 3 miles of fence per year?
Ms. CURTI. I will find that out for you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. POMBO. If you could answer that for the record.
Ms. CURTI. I will. I have this documented. I did not bring it with me, but I will see that you get all of the costs of what I have a final number but I will see that you get a breakdown, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
[The information was not supplied in time for printing.]
Ms. CURTI. There is a creek running through the ranch or through the property. The Forest Service wanted us to hire a cowboy to keep the cattle off the riparian. We asked if we could fence it and they told us no, that the public uses it and so we needed to hire a cowboy to do that.
They also asked that we hire a cowboy to patrol the fence so that we wouldn't have any cows trespassing or going through older fences on to another allotment or private property. When you graze on 30,000 acres, you never take off of the land of that allotment the amount of cattle you bring up. You either lose them because they are lost or because you are not with them all the time and they become ill and die. You cannot be with them all the time.
Plus, the animals we take off the Federal lands weigh less than if we could put them on private property because of the quality of the land, the quality of the grazing.
We also had to haul our cattle up and back. At one time they could herd them but we cannot do that anymore because we are using highways.
When we added up all the compliance, it came to over $20 an animal unit per month. My family determined at that time, cattle prices were very low, that there was no way that we could afford to do that when we could lease private land for around $15 an AUM. That is a fenced pasture that is irrigated with the owner watching the cattle for us. They had water. If something was wrong with the cattle, we were called to doctor them, and it just made it much easier. Plus, we did not have to sit down two or three times a month with the Forest Service to go over things over and over and over again. We spent a lot of time in meetings with them. So I will send you the documentation.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Just for clarification, are you telling the committee that the Federal range managers do not maintain the fence, they do not maintain the water, they do not doctor the cattle when they are ill and that the pasture is of a lesser quality than what would be available on private property?
Ms. CURTI. That is right. They sat down with us and listed what they wanted us to pay for and do on the allotment. And we expected when we bought the ranch and the permit came with it that there would be a lot we would do, but at that point in time, it was, the costs were just overwhelming.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
Mr. Byrne, you mentioned in your testimony that you have been going through a process for the past 8 years with the Federal Government. Could you briefly describe for me what that process has been?
Mr. BYRNE. I would be happy to, Mr. Chairman.
First, Chief Dombeck did allude to some of the efforts going on in Modoc County. I have to say in all fairness that we have worked with the Forest Service fairly well in some instances. It is just the complete maze of regulations which tie their hands, tie our hands, et cetera, which makes this a very frustrating situation.
Around the year of 1990, we understood that these EAs were going to have to be done by 1995, so we went to our district ranger and asked to be put on the list to get ours done. Very few were done at that time and the ones that were done were outdated and did not comply with the new rules.
So the first thing the Forest Service did was prioritize which allotments were the ones to go first. And since we did have a myriad of problems, including threatened and endangered species, wild horses, a lot of archaeology, ours was chosen to be one of the earliest ones done.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So what happened was in 1991 and 1992, the Forest Service tried to put together a team to collect data. At that time they used an eco-data process. They had a team of people out on our allotments for two summers which included ecologists, hydrologists, biologists, soil scientists, and range experts, and they were trying to analyze the whole range so they could put it into a GIS-type of a computer program which they could analyze in the office and bring up all types of habitats, et cetera. That process was never completed because of personnel changes and funding things. So pretty much that data was all lost over time.
As we saw their data was not going to be able to be used in the process, we initiated, as Bertha alluded to, what was called a challenge cost share grant where we got the Forest Service and the local Klamath Basin water users together to hire a private biologist to do almost 36 miles of stream inventory where he did what is called a cow-fish inventory. He had a water quality measuring device. He did temperature, Ph, electrical conductivity. He did fish counts and he did species counts, and that was the most comprehensive data that that forest had ever heard. Their head biologist in our forest said that this is really remarkable, that for the first time in my professional career we have current data that we can use.
Even with all that data and input, since the EA process was so complicated, we had to put another process together called another challenge cost share grant with the Farm Bureau, the cattlemen, the permittee, and the University of California extension challenged the Forest Service, if we put up our money, they will put up some money that we could hire another private consultant to write the EA and because they didn't have the expertise in-house to do it.
So we also put together another process which took a couple years where a Carson City, NE, firm came up to our forest and did all the clerical work and made sure that the Forest Service did not at any time violate any of the constraints which they have.
At about the same time, the Fish and Wildlife Service, around 1994, started a consultation on the suckers on our allotment which was required under the Endangered Species Act. All the previous stuff that has happened was required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So the first year that they did the consultation, we had to meet with them several times, go over our allotments, go over our activities, and they had to decide whether or not what the Forest Service was doing was detrimental to the fish. They put that out for a 1-year opinion and then they automatically restarted consultations for the second time.
During the first consultation we were unaware so we did not apply as applicants, so it was complete Government-to-Government consultation, which we are excluded from. The second time as applicants we were supposedly to be in the process more to give our input into whether or not their plan would work.
Around then the Rescissions Act was passed which took the pressure off the Forest Service because, as you are no doubt aware, no permits were going to be able to be renewed without full NEPA compliance until Congress acted and allowed the permits to be returned, reissued with current terms and conditions, if the Government could not get to them. We were trying with that second consultant to make sort of a boilerplate EA process where we could get a whole bunch of them done in a short period of time. And then when the crunch came to do all of them before 1995, that process was abandoned.
All during the process we had all this data and all these ID team meetings, but the ID team and the Forest Service and the private permittee is not allowed to be in there except for an advisory position, and the consultant is not either, so it is a Government-to-Government decision.
The whole point of this scenario is to try and explain how hard it is, once you get the environmental documentation done, as we did finally, and we got some funding. The Forest Service was able to get an EPA grant because of the threatened and endangered fish, that we were pretty much excluded, not totally, but a lot from our normal water supply so that the threatened and endangered fish could have their habitat.
We were trying to get fences to keep the cattle off the riparian areas at the same time get some wells to replace the water that was taken away by the fences. And we ran up against the National and Historic Preservation Act which it is very, very difficult to site the fences and also difficult to site the wells because the Indians picked the best places to do all their work, which is around the riparian areas.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we had a very, very difficult time getting improvements in, and that brings us all up to the budgeting procedure where now that some of these budgets have lowered, these constraints need to be streamlined in some manner so that these processes do not drag on for years and years and years and we can accommodate more needs of more of the permittees.
Even with all the emphasis that was put on that Chief Dombeck alluded to, we only have 20 percent of the EAs done on our forest, and then we have been in this for 8 years, as I have already talked about.
Our permit wasour environmental analysis was appealed by the environmentalists. We were able to overturn that appeal, the forest supervisor did, because of the extent of the data we have collected. But as you can no doubt see that this is not going to be able to be done on every piece of land across the West. This is just too time-consuming and too much, you know, there is repetitive, repetitive, repetitive, and then once you get to a start point there seems to be another roadblock.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Smith.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Hunt and Mr. Lustig, thank you for your testimony. Had you supported this legislation, I likely would have lost my base, so I appreciate your thoughts here.
Ms. HUNT. Always glad to be helpful.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. And might I say, you have been, Ms. Hunt. We asked you to attend meetings and you were there on a positive basis. And while we admit we do not agree, we have discussed these issues. We continue to be open to both you and Mr. Lustig on issues that you think are important to this bill.
To make sure that we are not talking past one another and that we are talking about this bill, this bill does not enhance or reduce grazing on either the BLM or the Forest Service. I got the impression that you thought this somehow enhanced grazing.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HUNT. I will tell you how we read the bill, Mr. Chairman. Maybe that will be helpful. In the provision that tells the Forest Service and the BLM to rewrite the regulations, the way that section is worded, we are assuming that what you are telling the Forest Service and the BLM is, ''Rewrite your regulations and base them solely on this legislation.''
The CHAIRMAN. Well, that is not the intent here. We do not want them to rewrite all their regulations. In fact, on the other side of the issue there are people that say, my God, you are authorizing rewriting them, all the regulations.
Ms. HUNT. Can I ask a question, then, because this is very important?
The CHAIRMAN. Sure.
Ms. HUNT. Given what you just said, I would assume then that you would anticipate that the agencies would still be allowed to come forward with national standards and guidelines.
The CHAIRMAN. We have not touched that issue. In fact, that statement was made as kind of an academic statement that there may be regulations necessary with respect to only the inclusion of this bill, applying only to this bill. But we can certainly, and maybe we should, because there is misunderstanding on both sides.
Ms. HUNT. Clearly, that is an important point. If the bill is meant to address and to change only those provisions of range reform that are mentioned in the bill, that is a very different situation.
The CHAIRMAN. Then you will support the bill, then?
Ms. HUNT. Well, except that you have already said that wouldn't help you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Cancel that question.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HUNT. Could I say one really quick thing I was not able to during my statement.
We do have a letter to you that has been signed by a large number of national, State, and local groups, and the groups range from national organizations such as the Wilderness Society to Trout Unlimited down to very local watershed groups, hunting, fishing, sporting groups, and I would like to take this opportunity to deliver that letter to you today. We do have copies for other Members, if they would like them.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Ms. HUNT. Currently, the letter has over 100 signatures from this diversity of groups.
Mr. POMBO. Without objection, it will be included in the record.
Ms. HUNT. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. I wanted to make sure that you understood that we are not in this legislation, we are not repealing NEPA or FLPMA or RPA or NFMA or ESA, on down the line. We do not impact any of those laws that are currently intact. We agree to that.
Ms. HUNT. There are means and there are ends, Mr. Chairman. I agree with your statement about the means. Our concern isour analysis of this bill leads us to, led us to assume that it will, in fact, have damaging implication for public participation, as Mr. Lustig has said. It is going to impact environmental protection. So whether it uses a NEPA tool to accomplish that or not, we are very concerned that as it is currently drafted, subject to clarifications, which we have just discussed, as it is currently drafted we are very concerned it is going to have much the same effect as the Domenici bill, which is what I think you are referring to.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. You all opposed the Domenici effort last time. There was not such heartburn about the grazing fee, I did not see in any of the discussions. Now the grazing fee is about all that is left to the Domenici bill, plus this question of tenure. I guess you oppose tenure on the grazing fee now.
Ms. HUNT. Well, it was fairly easy to draft my part of the testimony about the grazing fee, I will admit, because I drew much of the language from the language I had used in discussing the Domenici bill, a very similar fee measure.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, you shortened your testimony a lot because the bill is much shorter, too.
Mr. Lustig, let me get back to this question with you on public participation for a moment. The Resource Advisory Councils in this bill are anxious to, in fact, expand public participation. And the one point you made with the State grazing district is one that I want to just mention, and we mentioned it simply because this is advisory, first of all, and we wanted them to have a seat at the table. Now, hunters and fishermen and recreationalists and environmentalists have always had a place at the table. So I am desperate to determine how you believe we have restricted the public's participation in this bill.
Mr. LUSTIG. I think we are back into the gray area that you have so accurately identified as one of the unknowns about the bill. My concern was that the bill calls for coordination and cooperation. I have no problem with doing that. They are wonderful words and they are very appropriate. But what we are doing here is we are adding layers on to a very carefully balanced process and there is no problem if it means a coordination and cooperation. If it is an impediment, then there are problems.
The CHAIRMAN. We do not eliminate performance standards as you intimated. In fact, we advance performance standards through monitoring. What we do do here is what seems to me absolutely reasonable, is to make sure that this is science based and not your judgment, Mr. Lustig, or my judgment as a permittee. We want to make sure that you cannot walk on, or a Federal manager, you cannot walk on my land and say you are overgrazing. I may have a rest rotation management program, I may have a holistic kind of operation, which means that you may harvest on one part more than another. So we want to make sure that it is science based. I would assume you would agree with that.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LUSTIG. Certainly. What I am hoping, though, is that a manager who walks into a riparian zone and sees no shrubs and no willows and no reeds and then might walk upstream to a fenced area and see it in good condition because it has not been grazed would be able to take that obvious data and without first developing a protocol that is scientifically based could take some action upon that. I do not oppose the science. It is the ability of getting to the problem that I am concerned about.
The CHAIRMAN. As you well know, for years, and I thought Ms. Hunt's testimony as well was directed more at the grazing management agencies than anything else, because for years we have been at this adjudication process, matching land against livestock numbers, by the way, never taking into consideration wildlife, big game, who are forage users, but always reaching a management decision by the Federal land managers on adjudication. So these ideas about are there too many cattle or is it overgrazed, if it is true, it is a land management problem, not the lessee's problem.
Do you follow me?
Mr. LUSTIG. Very much so. I am happy to put the blame where it belongs.
The CHAIRMAN. Then I think the argument that you make and the criticism may be misdirected at this bill. It should be directed at the land management agency.
Mr. LUSTIG. Mr. Chairman, one thing I am concerned about is, for example, in the Resource Advisory Councils, the bill calls for sort of simultaneous release of regulation and a coordination of regulation. The Forest Service now has no Resource Advisory Councils or any system. It has no performance fundamentals of rangeland health. It has no standards and criteria. It is in sort of a Neanderthal state compared to what the Secretary of Interior has done. Now we sort of bring them together, and perhaps what you are hearing from me is fear of the unknown, because to the extent this bill does not specify how this new critter, these new regulations are to look, then I believe it becomes anyone's guess as to how they may come out.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. And to ours, too. That is why we always allow the agencies the opportunity to promulgate rules and regulations with respect to the law. So you cannot micromanage, you nor I can micromanage what is going to be the outcome of that interpretation.
Mr. LUSTIG. Very much so. But, for example, the bill could, for example, if the committee and Congress felt that fundamentals of rangeland health and the kind of performance standards promulgated already by the Resource Advisory Committees were appropriate, it could specify that detail, that those kinds of achievements in the current regulations were to be preserved in the new regulations and, in fact, should be adopted by the Forest Service.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I am sure if you know this Forest Service, it would be prone to do that quickly.
Let me go on. Mr. Myers, there has been discussion that somehow this bill impacts Judge Brimmer's decision, which is still under appeal. In your opinion, does this legislation impact Brimmer?
Mr. MYERS. You are referring to the case known as Public Lands Council et. al. v. Babbitt over his 1995 regulations?
The CHAIRMAN. Right.
Mr. MYERS. I have more than a passing familiarity with that. I was the person who helped coordinate the five plaintiffs in the bringing of that suit and helped hire the attorneys.
The CHAIRMAN. The reason I asked you is simply that my attorneys have studied this carefully and indicate to me that in no aspect does this legislation impact any part of Judge Brimmer's decision, nor would it impact any part of the appeal that may take place on the issues that Brimmer determined.
Mr. MYERS. There are four issues on appeal. The industry won on four points and the Government appealed those rulings through the 10th Circuit. They deal with mandatory qualifications to get a permit, the elimination of the grazing preference, something called conservation use in the Babbitt regulations and title to range improvements.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I don't see any impact on three of those four. There is a slight connection to the grazing preference, but I think you have dealt with it appropriately where you define in the allotment the application to the appurtenant grazing preference. That is consistent, in my view, in the reading of Brimmer's decision. In fact, I brought that opinion with me thinking that this might come up. I will read two sentences out of his ruling that are applicable to this issue:
The Court holds that the 1995 regulations violate the Taylor Grazing Act by failing to adequately safeguard adjudicated grazing preferences and that the 1995 regulations lack a reasoned basis. The Court, therefore, concludes that the Secretary exceeded his statutory authority by enacting this regulation.
Well, you have tied in your definitional section directly to the adjudicated grazing preference issue, so I do not see an impact nor do I see a detrimental impact on the appeals.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you very much.
Mr. Eppers, why do you feel so strongly about the CMAs?
Mr. EPPERS. Mr. Chairman, a number of years ago, and I am sure you will probably recall, under the leadership of Director Berford at that time, all public land allotments in the West, BLM lands allotments, were categorized to try to focus the energy of the agencies and be able to have the agencies address specific problems on each given allotment. Through that categorization process, we found that the majority of the lands were in a much improved condition and those lands, those ranches that were in good condition, all the improvements were out there, everybody was in agreement that the lands were being managed satisfactorily, those ranches were put into an ''M'' category status. The ''C'' category status was those scattered isolated tract of section 15 lands where management was virtually impossible because of the smallness of the size of the public lands. The ''I'' category were those allotments where improvement was needed, necessary. It was either through the additional improvements being placed on the lands or some change in management that would bring the lands into a better condition rating.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In light of what Congress is doing today, and the budget constraints that you folks are faced with, it just seems like this would be one of the best programs that could be initiated here to where with declining numbers of agency personnel, declining funds, through the categorization process that has already been established, you could take those ranches where conditions are satisfactory and everything is in order and allow the continued management that has resulted in those range conditions being what they are. I think that this is a program that would not only help the ranchers continue to improve the land but would also help the tax-paying citizens of this Nation.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
My time is up.
Mr. EPPERS. In New Mexico, we are a little bit different than most other States. We stay on the land 12 months out of the year. We do not rotate. We cannot get off of the public lands or anything.
I would just like to introduce these maps for the record, in addition to my statement, so the committee would have an opportunity to see some of the problems we have where we are on the land 12 months out of the year, some of the problems associated with the allotments in the northern States.
Mr. POMBO. Without objection, they will be included in the record.
[The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Lustig, in the final analysis, does the organization that you represent support grazing on public lands?
Mr. LUSTIG. Yes.
Mr. POMBO. And have you put together a proposal that you would support in reforming the current public lands grazing laws that are in existence?
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LUSTIG. Some years ago we put together a list of principles that we thought should govern public lands grazing. I do not think it was translated into actual statutory language as such.
Mr. POMBO. Have those proposals that you have put together, have they been updated or could you update those currently and provide those for the committee?
Mr. LUSTIG. I believe I could, certainly.
[The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Ms. Hunt, the same question to you, do the organizations that you represent support grazing on public lands?
Ms. HUNT. Yes, we do. We consider it to be one of the many appropriate uses to be balanced with other appropriate uses.
If I can continue, anticipating, perhaps, the rest of your question, the principles that Mr. Lustig referred to have been developed over the course of many years. They are included in our testimony in one of many versions, one of many similar versions.
The Wilderness Society has not translated these principles in the legislative language, yet we have on occasion, when a Member of Congress came forward, say, with a fee proposal, endorsed or not endorsed that proposal on a case-by-case basis, with comparison to the principles or the management proposal with comparison to the principles. But we have not drafted legislation is the bottom line.
Mr. POMBO. You say that you have supported fee proposals in the past. What did those look like, the ones that you supported?
Ms. HUNT. There have been several, actually. The Wilderness Society supported the efforts of Mr. Synar and Mr. Regula to raise grazing fees a number of years ago. More recently in the Senate we have supported efforts by Senator Bumpers and Senator Gregg to raise grazing fees. Those have taken a couple of different forms. One linked increasing Federal grazing fees to a linkage to private land rates, I think. And in the case of the Senate proposals, generally speaking, what they did was to try to achieve a closer to fair market value fee for the largest operators and to leave basically untouched smaller operators at the current fee level.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. And you are saying that your organization or the organization that you represent supported those legislative proposals in the past? Were those comprehensive reform measures that looked at the multiuse of public lands, that weighed into account all of the environmental benefits and detriments that have occurred in the past, or were they just simply grazing fee increases?
Ms. HUNT. Well, in the case of the Senate proposals that I am referencing, those were fee only. You are going to push me to the edge here because some of this predates my standing at The Wilderness Society, but I do believe that Congressman Synar had more comprehensive reforms on the table in addition to the fee, is my belief. I would be glad to look that up for the record, though.
Mr. POMBO. If you could do that, because I am aware of both a proposal that was put forth by Mr. Synar several years ago that was more of a comprehensive reform, but for the most part it was fee increases in my memory. So if you could look that up for the record, I would appreciate that.
Mr. Myers, it has come to my attention that there are people within the public lands grazing community who oppose this legislation. Could you share with the committee what their opposition is?
Mr. MYERS. Well, I can't take the time to detail it for you. You don't want me to. But I think it raises three general points. One is that ranchers as a group are generally mistrustful of the Federal bureaucracy and the Federal Government. My apologies to members of that body before me. But that is the reality. They do not think Washington is going to do much good for them or their businesses or their families.
Then the oddity of it is that they are very optimistic about the future. I have heard more than a few ranchers say that they would like to wait this out, wait this Congress out, wait this President out, wait the judges out, I suppose, for a better day, when they will have a chance. The stars will be aligned and they will be able to legislate what they really need in the way of relief because they think there is a lot more to be done.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And some say litigation is the answer. I am a lawyer. Litigation is like mother's milk to me, but I can tell you that there is going to be litigation from now into our future as long as we are in this democracy. Litigation is time-consuming. It is very expensive. It is a poor way to make policy. I think the ball is in your court squarely to make some legislative decisions, some policy decisions, and advance this issue as much as you can.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
One final question, Ms. Hunt, in your testimony, you said that the Forest Service and BLM annually each spend about $5.81 per animal per month on grazing. In researching this, the last record I could find, in 1992, a report to Congress by the two Secretaries updating their grazing fee review, an evaluation of the Secretary of Interior reported the total annual cost of the BLM grazing program to be $2.18 per month and the Forest Service reported their cost at $2.40 per month.
Have you received updated figures other than what the agencies have issued?
Ms. HUNT. What I would like to do is provide the source document we used. But I believe I was using 1993 BLM and Forest Service data. They addressed the issue of cost two ways:
One, they looked most narrowly at those clearly defined line items in their budgets that addressed grazing very specifically and they also looked then slightly more broadly at all the associated costs that those agencies spend on range management and the various ways it has a ripple effect through the agency.
The $5.81 was their figure for that more comprehensive view. As I recall, it was $3.60 odd for the more narrowly defined number. But I would be glad to provide that data for you.
Mr. POMBO. I would appreciate it if you could provide that because that is contrary to at least what I have seen up to this point.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information was not suppplied in time for printing.]
Mr. POMBO. Just to followup briefly on that, do you think it is fair or an accurate way to judge what the actual cost of the program is if you attribute everything that the Forest Service does or everything that BLM does and attribute all of that to grazing or would it be more accurate to just attribute to the grazing program what they actually have to spend to run that program?
Ms. HUNT. I think there are several common sense approaches you could take. The key is you have to be clear. You can do an analysis that is just the most direct, limited cost possible, but you have got to say what you are counting. You can take a broader look as long as you say what you are counting and then you allow the public, you allow Congress to make an informed decision.
I, just as a rule of thumb, think that one approach that might be appropriate would be to look at those costs that the agency might not have if there was not a grazing program.
But it can become a gray area, the distinction of what is in or what is out. That would be one approach to it, is that those costs that are most, that are associated with the program that would not take place if the program did not exist, that would be appropriate. And then as long as you document it, to show the associated cost, I think that is appropriate.
But I think the key is you have to have apples and apples. You have to know what costs are in, what costs are out, and then you make an informed decision. Sometimes with these types of numbers, it is not always easy to tell where they got their apples or their oranges.
Mr. POMBO. Would you also agree with me, then, that the cost, if you are going to count the cost, if you did not have a grazing program, you would also count the expenses if you did not have a grazing program of managing those lands?
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HUNT. Well, the whole issue about the fee and the impact on Federal land, obviously we could have sat here all day and talked about it. Bill Myers and I could sit here all day and talk about it. Grazing, like any other use of public land, hunting, fishing, whatever, comes with a cost and it comes with a benefit. Our concern has been that typically the presumed benefits of grazing get a lot of attention but the economic impacts, the damage to water resources, to wildlife habitat, to recreational opportunities, those impacts do not tend to get the same hard look, sometimes they are harder to calculate.
What The Wilderness Society supports is a grazing fee that is in more in the range of fair market value, takes into account the realistic similarities and differences between Federal-State private land, comes much closer to not burdening the taxpayer, and does no longer function as an incentive for overgrazing, which we think the current fee does with damaging impacts to fish, wildlife, and other resources.
So I do not mean to be obscure. It is a very complicated situation and very often one side or the other does point to the cost and not the benefits or vice versa.
Mr. POMBO. Well, I think you are accurate about that. I thank the panel for your testimony. I will remind the panel that there may possibly be more questions that will be given to you in writing. If you could answer those in writing for the benefit of the committee in a timely fashion, I would appreciate it. You are excused.
I would like to call up the third and final panel. Mr. John Buckhouse, Dr. Fred Obermiller, Dr. John Fowler, and Dr. Robert Nelson.
Thank you all very much. I apologize on behalf of the committee for any delay in bringing you up, and thank you for your patience in sticking with us here.
Mr. Buckhouse, if you are ready, you may begin.
STATEMENT OF JOHN BUCKHOUSE, PRESIDENT, SOCIETY FOR RANGE MANAGEMENT
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUCKHOUSE. Thank you. My notes say good morning but we will skip to good afternoon. My name is John Buckhouse, president of the Society for Range Management. The Society for Range Management is an organization which has for the last 15 years been, and continues to be, interested in the enhancement of rangelands worldwide.
We are also dedicated to the professional development of the individuals who are involved with these rangelands. Our organization has 4,000-plus members in over 50 countries. The vast majority, however, live and work in North America. Since the Society for Range Management is a professional organization dedicated to the land and to the professional development of our members, our bottom line is and always has been the stewardship of these lands. We are a not-for-profit organization which sees as its mission to be one of education.
As such, we will not endorse or reject proposed or pending legislation but will, using our Advisory Council and Public Affairs Committee, do an analysis of legislation which we will make available to our members and to others who may be interested.
There are, however, several concepts which SRM believes to be significant in analyzing any legislation. These are that such legislation must be based on science and/or proven experience; that it must be based on sustainable use, multiple use, and local community stability; that it must provide consideration of riparian areas, fish, wildlife, fish and wildlife habitat, and water quality; that there must be an emphasis or scientifically based monitoring and interpretation of ecological condition and trend while at the same time honoring experience gained in the ''art'' of range management.
We believe that it must employ consultation, cooperation, and coordination between Government agency officials and interested parties as an essential agreement, that is, a collaborative planning process such as coordinated resource management, and we believe that such legislation must ensure predictability, stability, and fairness for all rangeland users.
We further believe that avenues of public input on a local basis can advance sound resource management. By this I am referring to advisory councils as an example. And we believe that locally established resource management goals and appropriate actions could achieve these goals and are paramount to long-term success.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. I will respond to questions if you have some for me.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Buckhouse appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF FRED OBERMILLER, PROFESSOR OF RANGELAND RESOURCES, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURAL AND RESOURCE ECONOMICS, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Mr. OBERMILLER. Mr. Pombo and Chairman Smith, it is a pleasure to be here. I would like to thank you, Mr. Pombo, for sticking with it all the way through these panels and you, Chairman Smith, for introducing what honestly is an extremely moderate, middle of the road, well-reasoned, nonintrusive piece of legislation that I think is in the best interest of the West and I think would go, if it passes, a long way towards accomplishing the end that you were describing, which is to say dispel some of the controversy surrounding the Federal land management agencies.
I see no reason at all why it should not pass. I will not repeat what others have said. Let me make a couple of comments relative to uniform regulations and management standards.
Oftentimes you hear that the organic legislation that underlies the missions of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service are such that it is impossible to develop a uniform set of management standards and regulations. That really is not at all correct. The Organic Act for the Forest Service, which was passed a century ago this year, said that the forest reserves were established for two primary organic purposes: One was to supply a steady flow of timber for use by local citizens and communities; the other was to protect favorable conditions of water flow. And so, therefore, the Secretary was authorized to regulate occupancy and use and that included regulation of livestock grazing, pursuant to which the Secretary and Gifford Pinchot developed the ''Use Book'' in 1905 which established criteria for awarding grazing permits to local landowners who had customarily used certain pastures on the Federal reserves.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Taylor Grazing Act was passed a few years later in 1934. Its public purpose paralleled the public purpose stated in the Organic Act for the Forest Service with the exception that in this particular instance the primary purpose was to stabilize the Western livestock industry and thereby achieve certain conservation objectives.
FLPMA, which was passed in 1976, contains four titles. Title IV of FLPMA is grazing administration, and it pertains equally to the regulations issued pursuant to grazing control by both the Forest Service and the BLM.
So given the similarities in the organic legislation and title IV of FLPMA, I see no reason at all why there should not be a uniform set of standards issued expeditiously pursuant to this legislation and other legislation that is also relevant but not impacted by this present bill.
I think that the present bill is in the best interest of the livestock industry in several respects, one of which is the treatment of subleasing, which I think recognizes the fact that there is a certain kind of subleasing which the industry itself does not approve of and is not in the best interest of the land and would not be recognized as in the best interest of national policy according to the terms of this bill, and that is to allow someone else to use your allotment without exercising the direct management control over the livestock grazing on that land.
Other aspects of the bill, I think, also are favorable, one of which is flexibility in management under the terms of a cooperative management agreement. Cooperative management agreements were widely used by the BLM until about 1985, when a Federal judge in California said that there was no statutory authority under which the BLM could issue cooperative management agreements and, absent some action directly by Congress authorizing CMAs, they were prohibited and banned. That essentially put an end to cooperative management agreements and I think that this bill reverses that and appropriately so.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The grazing fee I will leave to Dr.Fowler to describe.
In closing, I want to make one comment about an item that has been dropped out of this bill. That is consideration of the national grasslands.
The national grasslands are acquired lands largely. They were acquired during the Depression. The primary purpose of those lands was ''demonstrational livestock grazing.'' They were administered under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act by the Soil Conservation Service until 1954. They have been incorporated into the National Forest System, and they are currently managed as though they were national forest and, in fact, there is no commercial timber harvest on them at all and the organic provisions of the 1897 act do not apply. Rather, the Bankhead-Jones Act applies. While it has been omitted from this bill, I think that it is deserving of treatment.
With that, I will close. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Obermiller appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Dr. Fowler.
STATEMENT OF JOHN FOWLER, ECONOMIST, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS, NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY
Mr. FOWLER. Mr. Chairman, distinguished committee members, I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here. It is obvious from the discussion already this morning and early this afternoon that this is a very controversial, emotional issue that requires and necessitates and demands some academic rigor, and I would like to offer to the committee that I have three portions I would like to briefly cover: No. 1, the statutory language that are directed specifically to the grazing fee; No. 2, a little treatment of the financial status of the range livestock industry; and, No. 3, a proposed formula methodology that might alleviate some of the concerns that we have heard today.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Firstly, the specific language of the statutes are included in my testimony, and I would just like to summarize them for the convenience of time.
No. 1, the Taylor Grazing Act provided some direction for a formula and that was that the grazing fee formula must be reasonable. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as alluded to by Dr. Obermiller, provided a little more clarification. It stated that we must have an equitable fee to the United States and to the users of our resources and, No. 2, that we are to receive, the U.S. Treasury is to receive a fair market value for its forage resource.
The Public Range Improvement Act of 1978 also mentioned ''equitable.'' It added the term to prevent economic disruption and it also cited the condition of valuable to the user. So we have had some pretty straightforward direction as to what this fee system is to accomplish.
The PRIA formula was specified in the Public Rangeland Improvement Act of 1978. You are all very familiar with that formula basis. It was a base that was determined from a very comprehensive study in 1966 that equated the total cost of grazing on Federal land to the total cost of grazing on private lands.
And we have had some discussion that alluded to the difference between the fees on private land and the fees on public land. The appropriate level of discussion is the total cost on private land versus the total cost on public land. And Ms. Curti addressed some of those considerations in her testimony as to why they gave up the Federal permit, because the total costs were prohibitive.
In my testimony I provide a series of visuals and the first visual is a tracking of the indices. That is figure 1. And these are how the indices have moved through time since the inception of the Public Rangeland Improvement Act. And it is very, very revealing, when you look at these indices.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the top of that figure 1 is the prices paid index. That is the cost of doing business in the range livestock industry. The line is the beef cattle price index, what is the producer receiving for his, the sale of his product. And it is revealing to note that at no time since the inception of the PRIA formula has the disparity between what they pay for their product retail been so great as to what they received for their product. This is indicating the dire consequences for the range livestock industry in terms of financial performance. Their costs have gone up exponentially and what they receive for their product has remained the same.
In actuality, if you will continue on to visual No. 2, we have tried to depict the nominal prices, i.e. what the real market is and discount them for inflation to see the real purchasing power of this industry.
If you look at that visual, you will see that the 1997 purchase power of the range livestock industry is less than 1970. In tracking back further, I found that actually continues on to 1953. The real purchase power of this industry is very, very negligible. It shouts that there is a major problem in this industry and that some very strong remedies need to be addressed.
I tried to track the PRIA formula performance itself. We have heard claims in the past that if the wheel ain't broke, don't fix it. Well, is the wheel broken? Has the PRIA formula performed?
The PRIA formula has been extended through the Executive order No. 12548, and that extension has two things to work with. It is the same formula with a 25 percent cap plus or minus in terms of annual change in a year and a floor. If you will examine the PRIA formula over its period of use, you will find that the cap has been reached at three different occasions. The floor has been reached on four of the years. So in total, 7 of the 21 years, or one-third of the time, the formula has not worked. We need to reexamine the basis.
That leads me to the formula that is proposed in this particular bill, based on the value of production. I see my light is rapidly going on but I really need to explain. PRIA demands that we look at the cost of production. When we look at the value of the array of products that come from the range livestock industry, not just the cow but the replacement cows, the steers, the heifers, the calfs, you have an idea of what this livestock industry is selling. And it would be good to take that value of production, subtract the cost of doing business, and finding out what sort of return we are adding to this industry.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, may I have a few extended minutes to finish this?
Mr. POMBO. Yes, go ahead.
Mr. FOWLER. When you track those figures in terms of value less cost of production, you will find that it is negative in every one of the last 25 years, a negative rate of return in every one of the 25 years, so back up a little bit. Only cover cash costs. You will find in only covering the cash costs, it was still negative in the vast majority of years. Many of my producer friends would obviously say that necessitates a negative fee for the factor of production. That is the wrong conclusion. That would mean Federal forage is a residual factor and that is not what we are here to deal with. But it does say the net income approach should be modified, and that is what this formula in front of you today does.
It looks at only the revenue side of the profit formula. It just tracks the value of what is being produced and leaves the cost efficiency aspects to the individual producers, whether they are private or public. So I would like to track that fee forward and give the Federal Government a reasonable return as specified by the statutes.
To do that, an approach to that would be to use the 6-month T-bills as an approach to value. That is what the Economic Research Service has offered to the private sector for their capital. That should also be germane to the Federal Government for its capital. And the first thing we had to do is how does that track with the discount rate, which is the money the Federal Government is receiving. It tracks beautifully with it and it is slightly more so. It is a conservative return to the Federal Government. Therefore, by tracking the two indices, the value production and the T-bills, we can have a fair return to the user, a fair return to the U.S. Treasury, and we can have an approach that allows the individual to maximize its own efficiency.
Now, this is basically an approach that needs to be studied very carefully because there are some dangers. If you track that proposed formula, you will find that during the early eighties when the T-bill peaked and the value production peaked, that grazing fees went from a very reasonable fee up to $3 in AUM in the 1980s or a 340 percent increase in 2 years, totally unacceptable. So, therefore, you need to look at an average over the two indices so you have the whole cycle in front of you and I would ask the committee to look very carefully at visual No. 5, I believe, and that is the beef cattle cycle.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If you will track the livestock prices backwards to 1908, you will find there is a very distinct 12-year cattle price cycle that captures the peaks and the troughs and it is repeated, cycle in and cycle out. So the formula being recommended to you is allow the value of the production to encompass the whole price cycle to be an average during that period, to allow the T-bills to be averaged, to smooth out drastic variation and to generate a fee, and that fee would yield a formula, at a rate of a $1.84 in the 1997 year, and if you look on table 1, the second to the last column shows that is a very stable fee.
At no time has it changed by more than plus or minus 10 percent in any year. It has all the attributes dictated by PRIA, dictated by Taylor Grazing Act, dictated by FLPMA and it is sustainable and it is reasonable and provides a rate of return to the Treasury, as well as to the user, and I would like to offer that to you, Mr. Chairman, as an alternative approach to value of Federal land grazing. Thank you, sir.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you. Thank you for your testimony.
- [The prepared statement of Mr. Fowler appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
STATEMENT OF ROBERT NELSON, PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, THE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Mr. NELSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased to be here today. I am a professor of environmental policy at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland. My expertise in the subject matter today was developed from 1975 to 1993, when I worked in the Office of Policy Analysis in the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, on some of the issues that are under discussion. I am also a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the author of a recent CEI publication, ''How to Reform Grazing Policy: Creating Forage Rights on Federal Rangelands,'' which I have submitted for the record.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, in my written testimony, I offer a number of specific comments on each of the areas covered by the bill. Here I will first make a few general comments and then I will turn to a few of the specific suggestions, although there are more in the testimony. In general, I would say the proposed legislation is a moderate bill that would not significantly alter directions in rangeland policy. There is, however, increasing agreement that the public land agencies are facing a real management crisis these days, so I would recommend that Congress may want to consider going further in some respects and possibly even moving towards a bolder measure.
In particular, I would suggest looking at the idea of trying to introduce a greater element of market processes into Federal rangeland management. There are a variety of ways of doing that. Under this general philosophy, the use of the Federal forage resource would be determined less by bureaucratic micromanagement and allocation and more by the market.
Existing ranchers would be given longer and more secure tenure to provide stronger market incentives for economically and environmentally sound management. Permit holders would have significant new flexibility to manage subject to compliance with performance standards that would be rigorously enforced by monitoring. Changes in rangeland use would be determined through a market means; that is to say, the ability of some party proposing a change in use to buy the grazing permit in a willing seller, willing buyer transaction with the existing permittee.
Now, I would say that there is a surprising degree of interest in these kinds of ideas across a broad part of the political spectrum. For example, in the February 1997 Economic Report of the President, President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors recommended that such a market approach be tried on Federal rangelands. The 1977 report suggested that environmental groups should be able to engage in willing buyer-willing seller transactions, with permittees to acquire the grazing rights.
Some prominent environmentalists are suggesting this kind of approach as well. Andy Kerr, certainly an environmental activist by any standard, wrote in a 1996 op-ed that he favors solving grazing problems by voluntary buyouts of ranchers, getting away from the old coercive stick methods.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another prominent environmentalist, Dave Foreman, has taken a similar position. Some environmental groups have begun to bid for and in a few cases to win State grazing leases in competitive State grazing lease sales. Some of the States have competitive sales, unlike the Federal Government.
Now, this creates a surprising possibility of a common interest with ranchers because ranchers have long wanted to firm up their 10-year permit situation. That would give them greater assurance of a long-term presence on the rangeland, greater flexibility of management, and other aspects of a market right to the use of Federal forage.
Also, environmentalists are increasingly deciding that they have to work cooperatively with ranchers because they both face a common problem in second home development in booming population growth in the West, which may be a much greater environmental problem than ranching.
In fact, ranching may be the protection for the environment, rather than the problem. So I would encourage the Congress to be at least somewhat bolder in its current effort to revise Federal rangeland policy. Environmental policy in general in the United States and in the world is in a state of rapid transition. Performance standards and market processes are coming to play a much larger role, replacing the old and failing approaches of Federal micromanagement of the past.
Markets are being introduced to solve environmental problems in areas like air pollution control and western water allocation and the same could be done in the Federal rangeland area. Now, at this point, I will offer a few of the specific comments I had on the legislation. I will try to make it brief. There are quite a few more presented in the written testimony.
As a matter of general economic principle, security of permittee tenure is essential to sound economic and environmental management of Federal rangelands. I would look to extending the permit period possibly to something like 25 years. I would look to giving ranchers or other users of a grazing permit, significant flexibility in their management processes, holding them to performance standards, but within those performance standards, and as long as monitoring documents that they are achieving them, letting them do things like set their own grazing seasons of use, set their own numbers, and make other changes.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would look for ways to empower the RACs, including possibly an involvement in the budget process of the Federal agencies, reviewing the budget before it goes up through the system. The last thing I will mention is I will look at putting into this legislation some specific provision for conservation use. If you had conversation use, I would allow people to renew at the end of 10 years on a conservation use basis and I would also create authority to waive the base property requirement for an environmental or recreation group that bought on the basis of conservation use. That concludes my testimony and I would be pleased to answer any other questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Nelson appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Dr. Nelson. Just on that last point you made about waiving the base property requirements, would that not give some a competitive advantage over others in bidding on these properties?
Mr. NELSON. Well, I guess it would giveI mean, if you were a rancher, it would giveyes, it would give the environmental organizations a competitive advantage relative to a nonranchingyou know, nonbased property holding rancher who might want to come in and bid for the property, so that would be true, that would be part of the package.
Mr. POMBO. If you are talking about going to a totally free market, competitive-based system, which I think actually we will end up doing one of these days, if you are talking about doing that, one of the dangers that exists is that the Federal Government gives one person a competitive advantage or one class of people a competitive advantage over others and when you do that, you dictate who is going to end up with those properties.
Mr. NELSON. Well, right now you are limiting it to the base property owners. They are the only ones who can get access. So if you wanted to open it up, you can loosen the base property restriction and that would make it more of a market system. I was suggesting admittedly more on the political/economic basis that it might be politically practical at this point to say, well, if an environmental organization comes in and wants to buy a lease, that you could waive the base property requirement.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have already actually had situations, for example, nature conservancy buying out grazing permits and essentially putting them into conservation use in Las Vegas as part of the desert tortoise conservation plan and they had to contrive kind of a Mickey Mouse method of getting around the base property requirement because that otherwise would have prevented them from doing something that was, in fact, a very pragmatic adaptation to the specific circumstance.
Rather than force environmental groups to come up with these Mickey Mouse procedures whereby they at least nominally comply with the base property requirement, it might be appropriate to say, okay, the agency has the authority to waive it under certain conditions that could be specified in the legislation. Of course, if you were to ask me, I would eliminate the base property requirement altogether, but that might be something that would go beyond what would be something that could fit well in this legislation.
Mr. POMBO. Let me ask you, where would the economic incentives be if we did a competitive bidding process on a 25-year plus lease for the grazers themselves? Where would the economic incentives be? What, in your opinion, would happen with those particular properties over the long-term?
Mr. NELSON. Well, if you had 25 years, I mean, then it would give people a chance to really look at what they could do with the range. Of course, we are looking at a very arid climate, as I am sure you know, and it is a long-term proposition managing these properties. Ten years is really not enough to get a full return in a lot of situations, so if you extended the 10 years out to 25, 40, whatever, then people could look at it. People could make their investment calculations. They could change the grazing system and do a lot of things, knowing that they would have an adequate amount of time to realize the returns on the investment and that wouldyou know, be economically more efficient, in that you would have investments made that made economic sense and it would be environmentally beneficial in that it would promote actions that would improve range conditions.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. Dr. Fowler, in your table 1, in your testimony, what you have here is the third column from the right on table 1. Just so I understand this, if your proposal were enacted, is that the column that represents what the fee would have been in that given year?
Mr. FOWLER. That is correct, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. POMBO. And by going to this kind of plan for setting the fee, it is your contention we would have greater stability over a period of time without the spikes and the valleys in the fee, but you also have testified that this would give the Government a fair return on the value of the forage.
Mr. FOWLER. Yes, sir. The reason so is we would be moving to a concept of a derived demand, that the value of the resource being used is a function of a value of the final product, and that allows you to recognize the interrelationships between the value of the product and the value of the Federal forage, so we are trying to track that through time. We are trying to give the Government a return on its investment, return on the value of product associated with a T-bill rate, and we are also trying to smooth out the large fluctuations that occur on an annual basis, recognizing that the long-term cycle of prices is gradually upward. This will yield a gradually increasing rate of return to the Federal Government through time.
Mr. POMBO. It is your estimation that this is a fair return, based upon the value of the finished product in a market driven economy, this is actually what this would be worth.
Mr. FOWLER. Yes, sir. Without peaks, without having a plus or minus cap on a change, without artificially acquiring that and without artificially having a floor, this is a market-driven approach.
Mr. POMBO. This is interesting, and in light of some of the previous testimony we have had, some of the previous rhetoric we have heard over the years on this particular issue, when comparing public and private lands and the rate of return for public and private lands, this does bring a different light into the debate, and I appreciate that a great deal.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After having the opportunity to spend some more time with these tables, I am sure I am going to have more questions for you and I would appreciate being able to correspond with you on exactly where we are going to go with this.
Mr. FOWLER. I, too, appreciate that, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. POMBO. I have no further questions at this time. Mr. Smith.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Fowler, I sincerely appreciate your contribution with respect to this formula, because I think, as you indicated in your testimony, it is more representative of production. It is sustainable, and arguably, it is very, very defendable when, with the PRIA formula, sometimes without the base price, that PRIA could have gone to 50 cents.
Mr. FOWLER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. So somewhere along the line, we as users of public lands have to find a way to contribute a reasonable amount for our use of public lands and I think your production market-driven structure is excellent, and I really appreciate your contribution.
Dr. Nelson, very quickly, we don't have much time. We have a vote. Probably you will enjoy that, but the willing seller/willing buyer idea, of course, is in place now as you well know, but you have to buy the base property. Nature conservancy has been doing this for years. The only problem with nature conservancy is they don't pay the taxes. They have this little negotiating thing, as you know, with the Federal agencies, that they buy it and resell it and it goes off the tax roll. We have been able to stop them in many cases.
In one case, the Gillette ranches in Oregon, 11 million acres, which would have decimated the public school system in one county. But the point is, it is true, though, if there is a desired buy, the Wilderness Society, CURR, Nature Conservancy, they can buy these ranches, right?
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NELSON. Well, right now they have to buy the base property. I am actually suggesting you let them buy just the permit and that would actually help to solve the problem that you just referred to.
The CHAIRMAN. And I think you heard the advantage that would obviously give to environmentalists. The other thing I wanted to ask you, and I am violating a principal of law, but I am not a lawyer so I can do it.
Mr. NELSON. I'm not a lawyer either, so I won't know.
The CHAIRMAN. And the principle is, you should always know the answer to the question before you ask it. But you mentioned this was a moderate attempt, this bill. I am asking you, do you think the industry would be better off with the passage of this bill or worse off?
Mr. NELSON. I think it is probably not a huge effectI think they would probably be better off, to a small degree, but I don't think it is going to haveI don't think the bill would have a major effect one way or another.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree with you. It doesn't change major policy, as you have recommended. On the other side, of course, it does do some important things.
Mr. Buckhouse, from the point of view of resource management, do you see in any way this bill injuring, existing in resource management or do you see any benefits by the passage of this bill?
Mr. BUCKHOUSE. Well, as I indicated, the bottom line for us is the stewardship of the land and anything that can create a stability or an enhancement of that land is a positive attribute. This seems to hold promise for that. One of the things that I find interesting is a debate on cost of permits, the grazing fee issue. I see it basically as a red herring because as I view the rangeland resources, it is the stewardship of the land that is most important, and whether it is a dime or 100 dimes is sort of beside the point. To me, it is how the land is managed.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I think you are intimating, and let me quickly place it, that if the permittee has stability on the land, then he is frankly going to take better care of it, as a person who has to make a living from the land, and including the lease. So if there is stability and tenure, following all the regulations, obviously, since he is the only land manager there every day of the year, then it holds, it seems to me, that he is going to take better care of the land and the land which you are interested in, and will be better off for that purpose.
Mr. BUCKHOUSE. Your logic would appear to be impeccable.
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Obermiller, thank you very much. Sorry we don't have more time for questions. Quickly tell me, you heard the $5.81 per animal unit months figure used here. Can you respond to that or are you willing to discuss that quickly?
Mr. OBERMILLER. Yes, quickly.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that reasonable?
Mr. OBERMILLER. No, it is not reasonable. That is the total cost of the grazing program, which is a multiple use program, divided by the number of AUMs, the $2.18 and $2.40 that was reported to Congress in 1992 is the correct methodology and that is the right number.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Thank you, very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. POMBO. Well, I thank all of you for your testimony and answers to the questions that you gave. Like the other panels, there will be further questions that will be given to you in writing. If you could answer those on a timely basis for the committee, it would be greatly appreciated and, again, thank you for sticking with us all day. I appreciate it a great deal. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:40 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Material submitted for inclusion on the record follows:]
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM G. MYERS, III
I am honored to have the opportunity to appear before you today to testify on the Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
Before I discuss the specific elements of the legislation, it would be useful to take a moment and reflect upon how we arrived at this point in legislative time.
As you may know, during 104th Congress I served as Executive Director of the Public Lands Council and as Director, Federal Lands, for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. In those dual positions I labored as an advocate for that portion of the livestock industry that operates on some 270 million acres of Federal lands under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. I remember well the bipartisan, bicameral press conference held early in the 104th Congress to announce the introduction of the Livestock Grazing Act. Members from both houses took their turns appearing before the assembled interested parties and press to announce the importance of that legislative effort and the need to bring some stability to the Federal lands livestock industry.
As you recall, the Senate eventually passed the Public Rangelands Management Act as did the House Committee on Resources. Unfortunately, the innumerable hours spent by ranchers in voluntary service to their industry, not to mention their personal financial losses in coming to Washington to support that legislation, all came to naught with the end of the 104th Congress. This is not to suggest that the bill, as it existed in the final hours of the 104th Congress, was a magic pill for an ailing industryindeed, a vocal minority within the industry believed that it was so watered down in the final days as to not merit passage.
Unfortunately, the debate in the 104th Congress generated a great deal of heat and very little light. Immediately with its introduction, the grazing bill was attacked by professional environmental organizations. All manner of evil was attributed to the legislation which the drafters of the bill and its proponents could not fathom and did not intend. Dramatic revision of the legislation failed to placate the opponents. It became apparent that their goal was not to engage in meaningful dialogue but rather to assure that the use of the public lands was slanted more in the direction of their constituencies' desires and away from the multiple use of that land, including the grazing of livestock for the production of food and fiber.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Public lands historians would tell us that this is just the latest episode in a century of conflict over the use of the Federal lands. Indeed, when the National Cattlemen's Beef Association came into being one hundred years ago, its fledgling membership brought two primary issues to the table, the railroads and the use of the public domain.
I recount this brief legislative history to make the point that, as the decades have passed and the debate has continued, it has had a continuous eroding impact on the stability of the western livestock industry. The United States government has jurisdiction over three in every ten acres of the United States. The vast majority of that land is in the West. It is not possible to establish a viable ranching operation in many parts of the western United States without the inclusion of Federal lands. Without Federal lands there is simply not sufficient forage to raise enough animals to make a living, even a modest one.
In my tenure as an advocate on behalf of the industry, the one resounding cry voiced in many places, at many times and in many ways, was the demand for some stability in the relationship between the Federal Government and the livestock industry. I believe the Forage Improvement Act of 1997, while perhaps not perfect and certainly not all encompassing, is a step towards that stability and thus deserves the support of this Committee and the Congress as a whole. I will in my testimony illustrate, section by section, why this is so.
Before I discuss particular sections of the bill, let me emphasize one point. This legislative proposal is modest in its scope and impact. Many members of the ranching community would like to see a more expansive bill that addresses some of the major issues that are destabilizing the industrysuch items as the agencies' appeals systems, the abuse of the National Environmental Policy Act in a way that snarls management of the resource, the change in the management structure for the national grasslands and other equally important issues. But, again, this is a step in the right direction. Congress should not treat lightly this very important step on the road towards stability. While it may not be the full effort that the industry would like to see, it is at least an effort. Now to the proposal itself.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My comments will parallel the sections of the bill as drafted and thus should not be read as a rank ordering of the important issues.
Section 2: Rules of Construction. Under Section 2(a), the bill excludes application to lands that are held by the United States in trust for the benefit of the Indians. I recommend that you seek the advice of the many American Indians who ranch, often for subsistence. The Navajo Nation, for instance, is one of the largest grazing permittees in the country and they may find within this legislation a measure of stability that they too would greatly appreciate.
Section 102: Definitions. The definition of allotment is an improvement over the regulatory definition because it specifically incorporates the adjudicated or apportioned grazing preference that is appurtenant to commensurate base property. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 brought about a system for the adjudication of grazing rights. The adjudication took many years following the passage of the legislation and with that came the establishment of allotments. To ignore that historic reality in the definition of allotment, as is the case with the current regulations, is to ignore the statutory basis by which allotments were established in the first place.
Cooperative management agreements, as defined, are a good idea. These agreements provide for management flexibility, thus encouraging innovative approaches to resource management and forage production. I have, in the last several years, witnessed an important shift, perhaps not a sea change, but a shift nonetheless towards the cooperation of environmentalists and ranchers for the good of the resource. Environmentalists are coming to the realization that ranchers have known for yearsurban and suburban development of ranches is bad for the environment and it is in the best interest of both the rancher and the environment to maintain the open spaces afforded by ranching operations. Similarly, coordinated resource management is a long standing tool of cooperation among divergent groups. As long as coordinated resource management is completely voluntary, which is how it is defined in the bill, then it is useful. Of course, the opposite is also true. If CRM programs become mandatory then they can quickly become a tool for the political agenda of agency mandating the process at the time.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Monitoring is particularly important to the success of any Federal range management program. Everyoneranchers, environmentalists, range experts, range scientistsagrees that monitoring is the foundation for range management. Two specific points must be made. First, the bill's definition of monitoring specifically includes determination of trends on the range. This is a vast improvement over the definition contained in current regulations (43-CFR-4100.05) where monitoring is defined as periodic observations but without any attempt to tie those periodic observations together in some meaningful trend analysis. Occasional periodic monitoring, without an understanding of whether that monitoring is on an upward or downward trend, is meaningless and worse, a waste of resources. Second, the bill's definition of monitoring requires the evaluation of ecological changes whereas the regulatory definition provides for monitoring only of the effects of management actions. Ecological changes wrought by the hand of nature are far greater and have a much more significant impact on the condition of the range than management actions ever have or ever will. Ecological changes must be monitored and considered in the evaluation, and this bill requires that.
Another point needs to be made about monitoring. Authorizing monitoring is only half of what is needed. Congress should also authorize appropriations and, in fact, appropriate money for the Federal agencies to conduct the monitoring required by this bill. Appropriations should be specifically earmarked for the purposes of monitoring so that the funds do not get siphoned into other programs. Monitoring is time consuming and expensive, but, as stated above, absolutely essential. If Congress believes it is worth doing, then it is worth funding.
Section 103: Renewal of a Grazing Permit for a Lease. The importance of this section is really found in subsection (b). There has been a most disturbing trend in agency range management of late where permittees who are in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the permit are told that a condition of renewal is the surrender of private property rights for purposes of access to Federal lands. This is unwarranted agency intimidation. The rancher is placed in the untenable position of giving up a portion of his or her private property in exchange for ability to continue in ranching through the renewal of the permit. The agencies have denied that this has occurred. Perhaps they are right. If so, they will not mind the inclusion of this language.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Section 104. Monitoring and Inspection. Subsection (a) is important because it guarantees that monitors of Federal allotments will be (1) qualified, and (2) approved by the Secretary. Subsection (d) is a good idea because it is often the case, especially in these days of Federal workforce reductions, that where practicable, the grazing permittees or lessees are given notice and presumably a chance to cooperate with and inform the monitor. No one doubts that Federal lands ranchers have the greatest base of knowledge specific to their allotments. They are the ones who are there day in and day out, observing, working and caring for the range. In short, they know the land better than anyone else and their knowledge should be tapped whenever possible.
Section 105: Subleasing. Unlike current regulations on subleasing that attempt to authorize subleasing then price it out of existence, this legislation takes a much more even handed and fair approach. In effect, it prohibits subleasing in all but the most narrow of circumstances where a permittee is sick or dead, or a permit is under a cooperative agreement, or part of a grazing association. Page 13 line 19 of the September 11, 1997 (12:28 p.m.) draft contains a typographical error. Insert the word *or* between the words *permit* and *lease.* In those rare instances where subleasing is permitted, there should not be any surcharge. Subsection (b) is crucial to promote the ability of young ranchers to enter the industry. It is extremely hard these days to acquire sufficient capital to purchase both a base property ranch and the livestock to stock it. This provision allows relatives of a current permittee to run their livestock on the permit without being penalized by a surcharge.
Section 106: Fees and Charges. I will leave a full discussion of the grazing fee formula to the economists. It must be stated, however, that the instability of the grazing fee formula is a cause of great consternation for the ranching community. That is why many in the industry are willing to support the formula contained in this legislation even though it will mean an increase in the fees they pay.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Today, the grazing fee rests on the slim thread of the Executive Order signed on Valentine's Day in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan. The current or any future president may, with the stroke of a pen, nullify that executive order. Ranchers know this but, more importantly, their bankers know this. It is very difficult for ranchers to obtain annual operating loans from their bankers when they are unable to assure those bankers what their fees will be for the coming year. For a ranch operation in a marginal financial posture, this uncertainty can mean the difference between another year of operation or having to sell out and move on. It is an issue that has been in limbo for twelve years. Congress needs to resolve it.
Section 107: Resource Advisory Councils. When Resource Advisory Councils were first proposed by Secretary Babbitt, there was a great deal of angst within the ranching community that the Secretary would appoint members to the councils in an unbalanced fashion resulting in advice to the agencies that was ill informed and inappropriate to good range science. The ranchers' concerns were well grounded as earlier proposals of the Secretary encouraged membership on RACs by persons who had no local connection with the resource.
The Resource Advisory Councils, as established by Secretary Babbitt, have produced mixed results. Some have worked fairly well, others have been utter failures; and in some cases the councils have worked well to produce advice which has then been disregarded by the agencies.
Codification of Resource Advisory Councils is really little more than a reflection of today's political reality that competing interests have opinions on the use of Federal lands. Section 107 provides a structure for a clearinghouse of ideas and an opportunity for group advice to be submitted to the Secretary for his or her consideration. Both proponents and opponents of this idea should keep in mind that this is merely an advisory group and the Secretary is under no legal duty to implement the advice.
Section 204: Issuance of New Regulations. I recommend this section be made more stringent so as to require the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to coordinate the promulgation of new regulations to carry out this Act. The caveat in the draft which requires coordination only ''to the maximum extent practicable'' provides too much latitude.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I applaud the considerable effort that members of the Committee and their staff have put into the careful draftsmanship of an important piece of legislation. It is a good bill which should pass with bipartisan support in both houses. I would be pleased to answer any questions. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT H. NELSON, PH.D., SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
My name is Robert H. Nelson and I am a professor of environmental policy at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland. I am also a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute here in Washington. From 1975 to 1993, I was an economic policy analyst at the Department of the Interior, working in the Office of Policy Analysis, which is the principal policy office serving the Office of the Secretary. I am also the author of a recent book that addresses aspects of the subject of the hearing today,
Public Lands and Private Rights: The Failure of Scientific Management. I am pleased to be able to testify here today on the proposed legislation for a ''Forage Improvement Act of 1997.'' The Federal rangelands cover about 250 million acres, more than 10 percent of the land area of the United States. The economic and environmental policies for these rangelands have for many years been of great concern to the entire nation. The fee for grazing livestock on Federal rangeland has long been one of the most contentious policy issues facing the Federal Government.
The proposed legislation in essence deals with five matters: (1) renewal of permits, (2) monitoring and inspection, (3) subleasing, (4) the grazing fee, and (5) resource advisory councils. I will address each of these in turn. I will then turn to some areas not included in the proposed legislation that I think might also be promising areas for Congressional action at this time.
Renewal of Permits
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a matter of general economic principle, security of permittee tenure is essential to sound economic and environmental management of Federal rangelands. At present, the current political ''range wars'' between ranchers, environmentalists, and others are having detrimental impacts on security of tenuremuch as the old range wars of the nineteenth century did. The result is less effective management of Federal rangelands.
In principle, it would be desirable to provide a longer permit term than the current 10 years. Given the arid climate and general geographic circumstance of most Federal rangelands, 10 years is not long enough to provide for an adequate payout on rangeland investments and changes in grazing practices. In other nations such as Australia, grazing leases are for much more than 10 years. However, events in the United States seem to be going in the opposite direction today, as the Federal agencies often approve short term conditional permit renewals.
The proposed legislation makes an effort to set more precise criteria that would guarantee permit renewal. This is a good step. However, the legislation should go further. It could, for example, require the Federal land agencies to publish performance standards, including physical descriptions of goals for acceptable outcomes on Federal lands. If these conditions were met, the agency would be required to renew the permit for at least ten years.
Actually, going beyond this, I would encourage the Congress to consider the following approach. In consultation with range scientists and other groups, the Federal agencies would be required to define a condition of the rangeland that would demonstrate that an existing permittee had practiced ''good management.'' If this condition was met, the permittee would be entitled to a permit term of 25 years. There could be provision for review of rangeland conditions say in the 5th and 15th year to assure that past ''good'' rangeland conditions were being maintained.
Monitoring and Inspection. Environmental policy in the United States, including clean air, clean water and many other policies, is in the process of a basic transition. The first generation of policies, typically dating back to the 1970's, was characterized by detailed oversight and management by Federal agencies. It is now widely agreed among students of environmental policy that this approachwhile yielding some important environmental improvementswas also counterproductive in many ways. It has proven a significant barrier to innovation in ways of achieving environmental goals.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is an international move under way today away from detailed specifications of environmental compliance methods, and micromanagement of firm and industry environmental compliance, towards the establishment of performance standards. If a company can meet environmental compliance standards, it should be given the flexibility to find the most effective way to do this. In this approach, monitoring becomes especially important. Rather than worring about whether a company has dotted every ''i'' and crossed every ''t,'' environmental agencies should address, through monitoring, whether company actions have reduced pollution, or taken other actions to improve the environment.
This same kind of approach can be applied to Federal rangelands. The Forest Service and BLM need not, and should not, try to micromanage the operations of permittees. As long as the grazing permittees comply with rangeland performance standards, and do not do any harm to other resources, as verified by monitoring, they should have wide flexibility in how they actually achieve this compliance.
Again, the proposed legislation takes a useful step in this direction by providing for increased monitoring. The Congress should consider more detailed guidance for monitoring, including the subjects to be monitored (rangeland trend, rangeland condition, riparian condition, wildlife use of forage, water quality, etc.) It may be appropriate to specify some time frames and reporting requirementse.g., that monitoring in some form will be continuous but there will be some kind of formal site review every fifth year and a full fledged monitoring report every tenth year.
It is not necessary that the Federal agencies do the monitoring. They might well contract it out. In fact, the permittee might be responsible for doing much of the monitoring, subject to some kind of review. A large permittee role is appropriate, because many permittees already monitor for their own purposes, and permittees are situated to monitor at lower cost than anyone else. Permittees might get some kind of credit off their grazing fee, if they are the ones who provide the main monitoring data.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Assuming a good monitoring system is in place, and adequate performance standards are also in place, the Congress should consider going to the next stepsetting performance standards and then lifting some of the burden of agency micromanagement from the permittees. Some possibilities would be as follows: (1) permittees could adopt a new grazing system simply by informing the Federal agencies, as long as the agencies did not find that there would be an adverse impact on other users, (2) permittees could have the flexibility to change grazing numbers in a given year up or down within a band of say 20 percent, again so long as the agency did not find an adverse impact on other users, (3) permittees could have the flexibility to alter seasons of use each year within certain bands, (4) permittees would have the flexibility to provide supplemental feeding, and (5) other forms of new flexibility subject simply to informing the Federal agencies. The Federal agencies would have to make an affirmative finding that there would be a negative impact on some other aspect of the resource, if they wanted to block the permittee action.
The Congress might also want to consider formally providing for a more active role of the Resource Advisory Councils in the monitoring (and performance standard setting) process. The RACs could review monitoring plans, and take an active role in setting future performance standards.
Subleasing. In general, economically, subleasing is a desirable activity. There is no sound economic reason for restricting it. The presence of a sublease shows that someone else values the use of the grazing opportunity more highly than the existing permittee. One goal of rangeland policy should be to maximize the value of the product from the land; subleasing acts to further that goal.
The provisions in the proposed legislation to allow subleasing in certain circumstances thus are appropriate. The Congress should consider providing for further circumstances where subleasing would be allowed, or for the conduct of subleasing with fewer limitations. A provision that might be added to the law would allow open subleasing by recreational and environmental groups. If conservation use is allowed (as discussed below), unrestricted issuance of subleases for conservation use might be permitted. It might also be appropriate to create a general approval authority for the Forest Service and BLM to approve subleasing where certain conditions were metsuch as an agency determination that (1) ''the permittee is unable to make the msot effective economic use of available Federal forage,'' or (2) ''the making of a sublease available, as determined by the Federal land management agency, would advance the overall efficiency of use of Federal rangelands,'' or (3) ''the making of a Federal sublease available would advance recreation use and environmental protection of Federal rangelands.''
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The real objection of most people is not to the act of subleasing itself. Those who object are usually motivated by the fact that the permittee benefits monetarily from charging a higher grazing fee in a sublease. However, if subleasing is prevented, it does nothing to increase Federal receipts. ''Punishment'' of ranchers for perceived low grazing fees by denying subleasing opportunities is a counterproductive strategy for groups actually concerned with better economic and environmental management or rangelands.
The Grazing Fee. The grazing fee in my opinion has received a disproportionate amount of attention in public rangeland debates. The amounts of money involved$20 to $30 million per year from all Federal rangelandsare miniscule by Federal budget standards. Congress should concentrate on more important issues in the management of the Federal rangelands.
The debate over fair market value is also a red herring. Given 20,000 allotments, no one number can possibly represent fair market value for each allotment. The grazing fee, in short, is somewhat of an arbitrary figure. My recommendation to Congress would be to fix the grazing fee at some dollar figure, provide for adjustment according to inflation, and declare that this procedure will not be changed for the next 25 years. The amount of money saved in unproductive time and effort going into the grazing fee debate would be sufficient in itself to justify this approach. As a possible figure, I would suggest a grazing fee of $2.50 per AUM (no further questions allowed), adjusted in future years for inflation.
Resource Advisory Councils. Resource Advisory Councils seem to be working fairly well, at least in some areas, as a means for airing rangeland issues and getting the various ranching, environmental and other parties to look at practical solutions. The inclusion in the proposed legislation of provisions to formalize the status of RACs thus is a useful step.
However, the proposed legislation could be more specific about how RACs should be organized. The current language ''on a State, regional, or local level'' is rather vague. Statewide or regional RACs are not going to be able to get into the practicalities of many issues. But that is where RACs have the potential to do the most goodthey need to go beyond the old controversies to find solutions to specific problems. Hence, the legislation, in my view, should provide for RACs at the level of BLM districts and Forest Service National Forests.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ideally, there would be one RAC that would cover a single BLM District and a single National Forest. Obviously, that is not going to work out exactly in a lot of cases so some creative boundary drawing may be necessary.
In addition, I am not sure that the residency requirement is useful. It could prevent some valuable people, who in fact know local conditions well, from participating on a RAC. For example, what about a second home owner, who in fact spends much of the year in the area, but spends the winter in Arizona, where his or her formal residence is maintained?
The procedure for review of ''disregard of advice'' might better start with the BLM State Director, or Regional Director of the Forest Service, rather than the Secretary of the Interior or Agriculture (at least in those cases where the RAC is organized at the BLM District level, or National Forest level, and RAC interactions are mostly with the District Manager, or Forest Supervisor).
The RAC role in land use planning could be specified in somewhat greater detail. There might be a formal requirement that the BLM or Forest Service submit a completed first draft plan to the RAC at a certain time for review. The RAC would then have so much time to prepare comments, which would then be submitted to the agency. The agency would then have to respond in some formal fashion. The RAC might formally have to vote to accept or reject the revised draft plan, before it was sent up to higher levels of the agencies for review.
RACs could be given a similar role in preparation of agency budgets. A budget is a formal plan of a sort, if with a shorter time focus. Oftentimes, the ''budget plan'' is more important than the formal land use plan in deciding what an agency does. RACs need to be involved in this kind of planning too.
The RAC might be given the opportunity to participate in personnel decisions. Before anyone is finally selected to be a District Manager or National Forest Supervisor, that person might have to have an interview with the RAC. The RAC would then have the option of sending comments to the State Director of BLM or Regional Director of the Forest Serviceand conceivably in some cases, might hold a formal vote to convey its views.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Other Issues for Possible Inclusion in the bill. There are several matters, in addition to those mentioned above, that might be added to the proposed legislation.
Conservation Use Allowed. There is growing interest among environmental organizations in purchasing grazing permits for the purpose of limiting or retiring the livestock grazing use of Federal allotments. In some states, where existing policy makes grazing leases available through competitive bid, environmental organizations have bid upon and won state leases. They plan to eliminate grazing or alter grazing plans to better serve wildlife and other environmental purposes. They should be able to do this on Federal rangelands.
If an environmental organization acquires a Federal grazing permit, it should have the authority to reduce the grazing to any level desired for the term of the permit. As in other respects where a new degree off rangeland management flexibility would be provided, the environmental permittee would be required only to inform the BLM (or Forest Service). The Federal agency could block the action, but only by affirmatively showing that it would be harmful to some other resource.
Renewal of Conservation Use Permits. If a party holding a Federal rangeland permit chooses to make use of it for ''conservation'' purposes, the renewal of the permit for this party would be the same as any other party holding a permit. As long as monitoring data showed adequate resource conditions on the allotment, the party making conservation use of the permit would receive another 10 year (or whatever duration) permit with the full option to continue conservation use.
Waiver of Base Property Requirement for Conservation Use. In order to facilitate achievement of the highest value use of the rangelands, if an environmental organization could purchase a grazing permit in a willing seller/ willing buyer transaction with the existing rancher permittee, the Federal land agency would have the authority to waive the base property requirement. This would allow recreational and environmental organizations to acquire permits without having to buy base property, reducing the cost to these organizations and also allowing ranchers to continue in operation (using private lands and/or other Federal grazing permits).
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If recreational and environmental organizations could acquire Federal rangeland permits without acquiring base property, they might well decide to sublease the Federal permit to the existing rancher. This could significantly reduce the net cost to recreational and environmental groups of acquiring permits. Yet, they would control the terms of grazing (negotiated with sublessees), thus assuring that environmental compliance was satisfactory (in terms of their objectives).
A Recreational/ Environmental/ Biodiversity Fund. In order to provide funding for actions on Federal rangelands to improve recreational and environmental quality, say 20 percent of expenditures of moneys received from the Range Improvement Fund could be designated for this purpose. Money in such a fund, for example, might be used to purchase existing grazing permitson a willing seller/ willing buyer basisin some current wilderness areas. It might be used to make changes in fencing, water, or other investments on public lands that would not serve a livestock purpose but would alter the investments in ways to serve wildlife and other environmental purposes.
Creating Forage Rights on Federal Rangelands. The proposed ''Forage Improvement Act of 1997'' is a cautious bill that would not significantly alter the basic directions of rangeland management on BLM lands or Forest Service lands. There is, however, increasing agreement that the public land agencies are finding it extremely difficult to function effectively in the statutory and regulatory environment created by past Congressional action. The General Accounting Office issued a comprehensive report on Forest Service decision making this April, finding that as a whole ''the Forest Service's decisionmaking process is clearly broken and in need of repair.'' Given the major problems being experienced in current Federal rangeland (and forest) management, the Congress should consider a bolder approach that addresses some of the more fundamental aspects of Federal rangeland policy.
Environmental policy in the United States is increasingly finding that markets and environmental protection can be complementary. The new market for purchase and sale of ''allowances'' for emissions of sulfure dioxide pollutants, as provided for in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, has by a number of accounts promoted lower cost compliance with the pollution reduction goals of that Act. Environmental groups are finding that the best way to enhance in-stream water flows in many circumstances will be to buy out existing water rights and then leave the rights unused for any direct water consumptive purpose (the equivalent of ''conservation use'' for livestock grazing).
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A similar market approach would serve Federal rangeland management well. Indeed, there are a surprising number of voices now calling for what might be described as a ''free-market environmental'' policy regime for Federal rangelands. The use of the Federal forage resource would be determined, much less by bureaucratic micromanagement and allocation, and much more by market processes. Existing ranchers would be given longer and more secure tenure to provide stronger market incentives for economically and environmentally sound management. Permit holders would have significant new flexibility subject to compliance with performance standards rigorously enforced by monitoring. Changes in rangeland use would be determined through a market means, the ability of some party proposing a change in use to buy the grazing permit in a willing seller/ willing buyer transaction with the existing permittee.
In the February 1997 Economic Report of the President, President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors recommended that such an approach be tried on Federal rangelands. The 1997 Report states that ''increasing the transferrability of extraction rights [from Federal lands] is another market-oriented reform that may increase aggregate economic welfare. Some rights to extract resources from public lands are currently tradable in a limited sense. For example, Federal grazing permits are often transferred with the sale of a ranch to other qualified ranchers. One possibly beneficial reform would be to allow conservation interests to compete for extraction rights on an equal basis with other interests. For example, environmental groups could acquire grazing permits and use the land to introduce native plant species and improve wildlife habitat. ... Such voluntary transactions can provide value to the seller as well as to the buyer, and thereby maximize the value received by all elements of society from the stock of public land.'' (p. 224)
Some prominent environmentalists have endorsed such a market approach for grazing policy as well. Andy Kerr wrote in a 1996 op ed that he favors a grazing ''solution to an environmental problem that requires less government regulation and lets the free market work.'' He would allow a permittee ''to sell the grazing privilege to anyone: another rancher or to an environmental group who could elect to retire the permit in favor of salmon and elk.'' Dave Foreman has written that the best way to solve the problem of grazing in wilderness areas is for recreational and environmental groups to ''buy out grazing permittees in Wilderness Areas.'' This is preferable to the longstanding ''butting-head battles with ranchers'' that have proved to be ''bad news for all involved.'' As I noted above, some environmental groups have begun to bid for and in some cases win State grazing leases.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If environmental groups are going to spend good money, then they will have to get the same kind of tenure that ranchers have historically had to some extent and would like to firm up further. Environmental groups will want a formal longstanding grant of forage use controla ''right'' for practical purposes, whether it is explicitly so designatedas part of any transactions in which they engage. This creates a surprising possibility of a common interest with ranchers, because ranchers have long wanted to firm up their tenure situation, having greater assurance of a long term presence, greater flexibility of management, and other aspects of a ''right'' to the use of Federal forage. Just as communications spectrum licenses issued by the FCC have gradually been evolving towards an all purpose allowance or right to use a piece of the communications spectrum, privately held, so the same kind of direction could be taken in Federal rangeland policy.
Environmental groups increasingly have been seeing second home and other rapid population growth in the West as the greatest environmental hazard. They recognize that ranching can serve effectively as a buffer against such changeand thus some environmental groups have been considerably more supportive in recent years of the rancher presence on the Federal rangelands.
It is thus possible that, politically, the ranching and environmental communities may today share a common interest to an extent that has not been true in the past. They might be able to find mutual advantage and profit in moving toward a market approach to Federal rangeland policy, involving the establishment of some sort of transferrable and saleable long term legal instrument for providing access to and control over the use of Federal forage on Federal rangelands. It would be consistent with deregulation and privatization policies introduced into a number of areas of the economy in the United States and around the world over the past 20 years. These are policies that have been endorsed by both Democratic and Republican Party representatives over the years on many occasions.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Conclusion. I would encourage the Congress to be bolder in its current effort to revise Federal rangeland policy. Environmental policy in the United States is in a state or rapid transition. Performance standards and market processes are coming to play a much larger role, replacing the old failed Federal micromanagement approaches of the past, in many environmental fields. I would encourage the Congress to stop to consider whether it might not want to use this particular piece of legislation to make such an effort in one of the most important areas of Federal environmental policy, the management of the Federal rangelands.
STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION PRESENTED BY BARBARA CURTI, PRESIDENT, NEVADA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, good morning. My name is Barbara Curti, and my family raises dairy replacement heifers near Reno, NV. I am president of the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Farm Bureau Federation. I am testifying today on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Until a few years ago, our family had Federal permits for grazing livestock on Forest Service lands. We surrendered our permits when it became uneconomical for us to continue using Federal lands. When we added up all the costs of our operation, we found that we could pasture our livestock more cheaply on private lands in California than to continue grazing on the Forest Service lands.
But while we no longer graze livestock on Federal lands, many of the members of Nevada Farm Bureau and other western state Farm Bureaus do. These ranchers depend on the availability of Federal forage as an integral component of their ranching operations. Fair and efficient management of livestock grazing on the Federal lands will give ranchers across the West the certainty and stability that they need to continue operating in an economically viable manner.
Ranchers also recognize that we have a responsibility to take care of these Federal lands and keep them productive for both livestock and wildlife, because our livelihoods depend on the condition of those lands. Studies have shown that the Federal lands are in better condition now than at any time during the twentieth century, and I have particularly noticed it my area. Permittees have spent a great deal of time and money treating their allotments and making improvements that benefit livestock, wildlife, and the overall condition of the rangelands.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bill being considered todaythe Forage Improvement Act of 1997advances both the stability of the western livestock industry while at the same time fostering the overall improvement of rangeland conditions. The bill focuses on removing much of the controversy surrounding livestock issues. In the brief time that I have today I would like to address a couple of aspects of the bill that illustrate this point.
The bill promotes and encourages the use of Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) practices as a method of managing natural resources on Federal lands. CRM is a process that brings together all parties having an interest in a specific natural resource issue for the purpose of achieving consensus regarding the management of that resource. It brings local interests together to discuss local management issues on local Federal lands, and to make recommendations to Federal land managers that reflect the consensus of local communities.
CRM is a voluntary process that is intended to involve all local interests and arrive at decisions based on consensus. The consensus requirement is important, because it integrates all points of view into any decisions, generally resulting in resource management that balances the needs of the resource with the economic needs of the resource users. It has proven to be a very useful and effective tool in resource management where it has been used. Many farmers and ranchers who were skeptical of the process at first now wholeheartedly endorse it after having gone through it.
We are absolutely convinced that CRM is the most appropriate process for resolving possible resource management conflicts and providing recommendations that result in better management of those resources.
While CRM has been available as a management tool for several years, there is no clear authority for its use within land management agencies, nor is there any consistent policy position regarding its use. The Forage Improvement Act provides both the necessary authority for CRM on Forest Service and BLM lands, and also provides a very clear policy direction encouraging its use in appropriate situations on Federal lands.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bill also removes some of the impediments to effective use of CRM that have been identified. The primary impediment has been the uncertain relationship between CRM and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or FACA. Because the CRM committee is advisory in matters involving Federal lands, the possible need to comply with FACA is an obvious consideration. The Society for Range Management, one of the more ardent supporters of CRM, has identified this uncertainty of FACA application as the primary inhibitor of CRM use. Federal agency officials have been inhibited from initiating or suggesting the use of CRM within their jurisdictions because of concerns about violating FACA requirements.
The application of FACA to the CRM process would strangle it with red tape. Prospective CRM projects would have to apply to the applicable Secretary for approval. The Secretary of Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture would have to appoint the members to the CRM committee. The CRM project would have to draw up a charter, and meeting and travel expenses would have to be paid by the agency. Cash-strapped agencies would be reluctant to suggest CRM programs on the lands they administer. Department headquarters in Washington that have to process all the paperwork required for establishing FACA advisory committees would absolutely collapse if a large number of local CRM projects had to apply under FACA.
The bill exempts CRM from FACA requirements, so that local communities will have the flexibility to seek local solutions to local issues.
Another problem that the bill would resolve is the grazing fee issue. The bill would update and codify a grazing fee that is reasonable, fair and reflects the prices received by livestock producers. Ever since the grazing fee provisions of PRIA expired and were subsequently extended by Executive Order 12548 in 1986, it has been the subject of annual debate in Congress. Every year it seemed that there were a number of bills seeking to raise the fees. That brought a number of countering legislation to preserve the current fee. Western ranchers who use Federal lands have endured great uncertainty from one year to the next, not knowing whether the Executive Order would remain in effect. As important, their bankers did not know from one year to the next what the grazing fee might be. Any attempt at medium or long range financial planning was impossible.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC By codifying a grazing fee, the bill would restore a measure of financial certainty to the Western livestock industry. The fee would be set in accordance with a formula that considers the value of production of beef cattle, and takes into account the ability of the rancher to pay. While the bill would produce a grazing fee that is higher than the current fee, we believe the new fee is fair and equitable. We hope that enactment of this provision will end the grazing fee debate once and for all.
TESTIMONY OF FRANCES A. HUNT, DIRECTOR, BLM PROGRAMS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. The Wilderness Society was founded in 1935, and is a non-profit membership organization devoted to preserving wilderness and wildlife, protecting America's prime forests, parks, rivers, deserts, and shorelines, and fostering an American land ethic. Our organization and our members have a long-standing interest in the conservation of the Federal rangelands managed by both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The Wilderness Society has participated in land use and allotment-level planning efforts around the West as well as in the development and revision of the range management policies of both agencies at regional and national levels. Our members use the public lands for a variety of purposes. My testimony today is being given on behalf of both The Wilderness Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
I. Current Status: Range Policies and Ecological Conditions. Grazing by privately-owned domestic livestock is the most extensive economic use of the public's lands, occurring on over 250 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service. Although in certain areas of the western United States, grazing is well managed with limited negative environmental impacts, too often and in too many places livestock grazing as permitted by the Federal agencies is having serious negative impacts: soil erosion, water pollution, loss of plant and animal communities, lost recreational opportunities for fishing, hiking, and hunting.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Numerous authorities have analyzed and documented the fact that grazing has had and is currently having serious impacts on the varied resources of these lands. In vast areas of the West, domestic livestock on the public's lands are:
Overgrazing grasses and other plants. As a result of being consumed beyond their ability to renew themselves, vegetative species are disappearing from Federal rangelands, to be replaced by unpalatable weeds, thorny shrubs and unproductive woodlands (BLM, 1989) as well as by exotic, non-native species (D'Antonio, et al., 1992).
Contributing to erosion and the destruction of the vital living crust of rangeland soils (Anderson, et al., 1982). Erosion is estimated to be robbing millions of acres of public lands of valuable topsoil (National Research Council, 1994).
Competing directly with wildlife species for limited vegetative resources as well as for space. In many cases, wildlife are losing and their numbers are declining (Flather, et al. 1994). Among the species that have been and are being affected by domestic livestock grazing are prairie dogs, desert tortoise, Sonoran pronghorn antelope, and numerous species of birds, including game birds such as sharp-tailed grouse and sagehens. (Nowakowski, et al., 1982; U.S. General Accounting Office, 1991). Grazing has also negatively affected Neotropical migratory land birds and their habitats (Bock, et al., 1993).
Damaging riparian areasthe thin ribbons of green vegetation that border water sources and provide vegetation, cover and water vital to the survival of virtually all kinds of wildlife in the arid (water-poor) West. Livestock use of many of these areas is changing, reducing or eliminating the vegetation on their borders, trampling their banks, degrading water quality, and increasing water temperatures (Armour, et al., 1994; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1990).
According to the BLM, only about one-half of the total 160 million acres of public lands grazed by domestic livestock are in an acceptable or ''functioning'' ecological condition. Worse yet, an even higher percentagealmost 70 percentof riparian areas are in a damaged condition. U.S. General Accounting Office, 1988; Departments of Interior and Agriculture, 1994.)
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC degrading fish habitats and contributing to the imperilment of numerous fish species throughout the West, including in particular native trout (Fleishner, 1994) and salmon species (U.S. Forest Service and BLM, 1994).
References for this listing of environmental impacts are attached to this statement. Also attached to my testimony is a recent scientific report summarizing the scientific literature on the impact of livestock grazing on stream and riparian ecosystems in the western United States. This review, written by Dr. Joy Belski of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, provides compelling evidence of the damage that livestock cause to western streams and rivers. Dr. Belski's report has been accepted for publication by The Journal of Air and Soil Conservation.
II. What Are The Principles Of True Range Reform? As controversy has raged over questions related to range reform policies and proposed legislation, conservation groups have developed a list of conservation principles which have been widely circulated over the last five years. A memo listing these principles was sent to Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) in August of 1995. The following is a listing of some of the most important principles that the conservation community maintains must be part of any legitimate attempt to reform the current fiscal and environmental problems associated with the management of Federal rangelands, and includes occasional references to the current Department of Interior grazing regulations, which were promulgated in 1995. Unfortunately, we do not find that the draft grazing bill that we have reviewed includes any of these important principles. In fact, in too many instances, the bill actually runs counter to these principles.
Overall Federal Rangeland Policy. We believe that the restoration and preservation of the ecological health of the nation's Federal rangelands must be the primary goal of the Federal range program. Therefore, current environmental protection laws and regulations must be maintained and indeed strengthened. To achieve this goal, we believe strong, responsible national environmental standards and guidelines must be established to promote healthy, productive Federal forests and rangelands.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Only by protecting the basic health and productivity of these important lands can the Nation receive the full array of Federal range resource benefits, economic and ecological. By extension, we maintain that Federal rangelands truly should be managed for this full array of multiple-uses and values which includes: hunting, fishing, hiking, birding, recreation, archeological, and other non-economic activities as well as for the economic uses which have had precedence for so long.
According to government documents published by numerous agencies, including the BLM, EPA, and the U.S. General Accounting Office, large acreages of the public's rangelands remain in unsatisfactory condition as the result of excessive and mismanaged grazing. Of absolute importance, given the finding by the EPA that riparian areas are ''in the worst condition in history,'' is the development of a concrete and objective timetable for restoring proper functioning condition and riparian health, with interim, enforceable goals adopted to achieve this restoration. In addition, the existing so-called Range Betterment Fund which presently provides a livestock industry subsidy that produces few, if any, improvements to the actual conditions found on Federal rangeland, should be reformed and reallocated to the protection and restoration of Federal streams and riparian areas.
The current Department of Interior (DOI) regulations provide four basic standing ordersor fundamentals of rangeland healthto public lands managers: 1) keep watersheds healthy, 2) ecological processes must be maintained, 3) water quality must meet state standards, and 4) habitat must be provided to Threatened and Endangered Species.
We believe that such appropriate fundamentals of rangeland health must be translated into actual on-the-ground resource conservation through strong and environmentally responsible standards and guidelines. These standards and guidelines must provide consistent direction on sound grazing management practices and prevent environmental degradation. If these standards for rangeland health are not met, the managing agencies must be able to take prompt and adequate action to halt and repair damage caused by livestock grazing.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, we believe Federal range policies should encourage good stewards of the land and hold accountable those who violate Federal environmental protection laws and regulations during their use of public lands for grazing. Given the environmental degradation that grazing has already caused, prompt, consistent compliance with all existing environmental protections must be guaranteed; there should be no exemption for grazing-related decisions or actions under NEPA or other laws.
The existing DOI grazing regulations promulgated in 1995 require that managers take action before the start of the next grazing season, if it is found that grazing is impeding the attainment of resource objectives. Such prompt action is necessary to stop resource damage from grazing. Previously, range management decisions have often been delayed by the agencies using the excuse that they had to monitor range conditions (often for years) before acting. These delays have resulted in continued damage to range resources, as the agencies have a very poor record of accomplishing planned monitoring.
Addressing Rangeland Suitability. The sound ecological management of our rangelands can only be accomplished if a process for assessing the basic suitability of Federal lands for livestock grazing is established. Not all public rangelands are capable of sustaining livestock grazing over time; still others should not be grazed because of the significance or sensitivity of their non-livestock resources and values (fish, wildlife, recreation, archeological, other). For example, the GAO has found that there is no sound ecological basis for classifying the arid, fragile lands of the hot deserts of the western United States as suitable for grazing. Yet these lands are currently being grazed and ecological damage is therefore occurring.
Providing Fair Returns to Taxpayers. Just as Federal range policy must insure the ecological health of our public rangelands, Federal grazing programs should also generate fair market grazing fees, or, at a minimum, grazing fees that cover the government's cost to manage grazing and protect Federal rangelands. In 1993, for example, the Forest Service and BLM each spent about $5.81 per animal unit month (AUM) on the grazing program, over $4 more than the current grazing fee. In addition, private ranchers should not be allowed to profit from artificially-low Federal grazing fees by subleasing their lands to other ranchers. As stated above, the so-called Range Betterment Fund should be reformed and reallocated to the protection and restoration of Federal streams and riparian areas.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Providing Fair and Open Public Participation. The public lands belong to all Americans, and must be managed sustainably to meet the diverse needs of the American public, including the needs of future generations. Therefore, we believe that all citizens who wish to be involved in grazing decision-making must be permitted to participate in all environmentally important decisions and actions. This means, for example, that individuals must be permitted to participate in annual grazing management decisions that are made at the allotment or grazing permit level, and to do so even if they do not live in the immediate vicinity of those specific Federal rangelands. Likewise, the ability of adversely affected citizens to responsibly appeal and protest unsound grazing decisions must not be abridged. In addition, all advisory councils established to guide management of the Federal lands must be fully representative, truly balanced, and broad-based.
The current DOI grazing regulations expanded public involvement to allow all interested citizens and groups access to grazing management and decision-making on public lands.
Conservation Use. Resting the public's lands from livestock grazing should be promoted, not penalized. Indeed, in some cases, especially cases of riparian area degradation, rest (conservation use) is the most effective tool for rehabilitation. In addition, conservationists believe that grazing permits should not be limited only to individuals and organizations in the livestock business. Consequently, we maintain that anyone who owns base property should be entitled to receive a grazing permit and to use that permit to rest the associated public lands for conservation purposes for substantial lengths of time. Specifically, conservation organizations, state agencies, and land trusts such as The Nature Conservancy should be allowed to hold grazing permits in order to protect and restore sensitive areas and important range resources.
The current DOI regulations were specifically intended to 1) allow permit holders to take conservation use, and 2) remove the previous restrictions which have limited grazing permits only to those individuals and entities which are deemed to be in the livestock business.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Range Improvements. We believe that title to both permanent and non-structural range improvements built on public land should be held by the Federal Government. Granting private interests title to range improvements on Federal lands leaves taxpayers vulnerable to so-called private property takings claims and likewise makes it difficult for the agencies to transfer or terminate grazing privileges if resource conditions or poor stewardship demands a change in range management.
Analysis of Smith Grazing Proposal. Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR) is drafting legislation The Forage Improvement Act of 1997that addresses Federal rangelands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. While we have had only limited time to analyze this bill, it is clear that the latest draft legislation offered The Wilderness Society (TWS) for review takes its lead from the failed Domenici bill in the 104th Congress. TWS will continue to analyze this legislation, but even our initial review clearly indicated that this draft bill is a dominant use bill for grazing that:
Ignores important considerations of resource protection and restoration; eliminates important progress toward improved range management made in the 1995 BLM regulations; promotes overgrazing by maintaining taxpayer subsidies to the livestock industry; hampers agency efforts to protect our nation's lands; limits public participation in public land management; and threatens to change the existing privilege of public land grazing into a private property right.
As a result, the bill threatens fish, wildlife, recreation, archeological, and other values enjoyed by millions of Americans annually from the over 250 million acres of Federal rangelands. Specifically, the legislation we were asked to review:
(1) Ignores the current significant ecological issues and problems facing our nation's public lands and fails to provide any viable policies to protect and restore our public rangelands.
The most fundamentally important component of any attempt to reform management of our nation's Federal rangelands must attend to the health and productivity of these important and valuable lands. The restoration and preservation of the ecological health of the nation's Federal rangelands must be the primary goal of the Federal range program. Although the current BLM regulations contain numerous provisions to address and protect rangeland health (conservation use, standards of rangeland health, increased public involvement in range management, greater attention to resource health and status at the beginning of each grazing season, etc.) the draft Smith proposal fails to include any provisions that will improve range management. In fact, in almost every instance, this bill actively undercuts rangeland health by eliminating existing protections and making it extremely difficult for the agencies to take future actions to protect resource conditions.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (2) Promotes overgrazing as it creates a new bargain-basement grazing fee formula and expands the ability of private livestock operators to profit at taxpayers' expense by subleasing the public's land to other operators.
Under the formula contained in Section 106 of the Smith bill, the grazing fee will return only a fraction of the costs of the Federal grazing program to taxpayers. The Forest Service and BLM annually each spend about $5.81 per animal per month on grazing. Incredibly, the previous draft of the bill would have produced a fee ($1.60 per animal per month) that is even lower than the grazing fee proposed last year by Sen. Domenici ($1.67) in S. 1459. This new fee is also far below the private land lease rates charged in most western states, which range from $5.30 to $9.00 in the arid West and up to $12.00 in the Great Plains where most National Grasslands are found.
In addition, under Section 105 of the bill, the Forest Service for the first timewill be forced to allow livestock operators to sublease National Forest rangelands to other ranchers. The Smith bill also eliminates provisions of the current BLM regulations which provide for a grazing fee surcharge that is charged to permit holders who sublease their permitted Federal rangelands to other operators. As a result, both Forest Service and BLM permittees will now be able to pocket the profit they receive by charging higher grazing fees to these other operators. Taxpayer and fiscally conservative groups have long opposed below-cost grazing fees and subleasing.
Bargain basement grazing fees are by no means just a fiscal issue. As the Council on Environmental Quality (1981), the Office of Management and Budget (1985), and many others have recognized, cheap grazing fees encourage livestock operators to run grazing operations on marginal Federal rangelandslands that would not be grazed if fees were higher. In far too many cases, the same conditions that make public rangelands marginal for grazing economically also make these lands marginal ecologically, for example: they are arid, have poor or highly erosive soils, minimal vegetative cover, etc. Grazing these ecologically marginal areas produces significant damage to fish and wildlife populations, water quality, recreational opportunities and other important public values. The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups have long advocated increasing the Federal grazing fee to reduce the damaging incentive to overgraze sensitive, marginal rangelands.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (3) Hampers Forest Service and BLM efforts to make sound and timely management decisions to protect and restore healthy fish and wildlife habitat and other valuable resources on our public lands.
The proposed bill hampers agency ability to protect Federal lands in at least four ways:
1. Section 102 redefines the concept of consultation, cooperation, and coordination in such a way as to strip much of the fundamental decision making and land management responsibility and discretion from Federal agencies and give undue influence over Federal land management to private interests. Specifically, the bill directs the agencies to try to reach consensus with permittees before taking needed actions to address resource damage. This new requirement is far in excess of an appropriate level of consultation. In fact, the Smith bill as currently drafted will give livestock operators a virtual veto power over both (1) agency land management decision making (Section 102) and (2) grazing permit renewal decisions (Section 103) and will likely increase damage to recreation, fish, wildlife and other values. These provisions undercut existing agency authorities that are clearly articulated in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) at Section 402 and elsewhere. Currently, the agencies are required to engage in consultation with permittees and others on a host of grazing decisions, but they have not previously been directed to reach consensus.
2. The bill contains damaging provisions that affect the monitoring and inspection of Federal rangelands (Section 104). The Smith bill appears to narrowly and inappropriately focus the agencies' monitoring and inspection activities almost solely on forage resources. Both the Forest Service and BLM now have the responsibility to manage for and protect the full range of multiple uses found on our nation's rangelands. If these agencies are not allowedand even encouragedto monitor the full spectrum of resources and resource conditions (fish, wildlife, water, recreation, vegetation, archeological, etc.) then it will be impossible for them to adequately protect the public's resources. Furthermore, with respect to the inspection of public rangelands (inspection addresses issues of livestock trespass and other violations of law or regulation) the bill's 48-hour notice requirementat Section 104 (d) will moot the effectiveness of this key element of the agencies' enforcement responsibilities.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 3. The bill seeks to scuttle current Forest Service and BLM grazing regulations (Section 204) and the conservation provisions that they now contain. For example, current BLM regulations address a number of important provisions that promote the protection of range resources, including conservation use (the voluntary resting of overgrazed Federal lands), standards of rangeland health, increased public involvement in range management, and greater agency attention to resource health and resource status at the beginning of each grazing season. None of these important issues are addressed in this bill, and none of the provisions in the bill begin to effectively replace these important features of the current regulations.
4. Although the Smith proposal appears to limit agency discretion and effectiveness and downplay public participation at every turn, it consistently maximizes the power and flexibility afforded to public land ranchers. The bill's provision for cooperative management agreementsSection 102 (6) is a case in point. Historically, grazing operations on Federal lands were guided by the terms and conditions of the grazing permit. In the 60's, the agencies began to develop allotment management plans in order to offer increased management flexibility to livestock operators. Now, Rep. Smith seeks to create yet another flexible opportunity: the cooperative management agreement. Nowhere in the bill's description of these agreements are conservation goals mentioned or accountability measures for such agreements described. While flexibility, in and of itself, can be an important goal, the whole thrust of the Smith bill appears to push flexibility for private livestock interests at the expense of agency efforts to protect the public's lands and resources.
(4) Limits the ability of hunters, anglers, recreationists and others to use public lands and participate in the management and protection of public land resources. By contrast, livestock operators are given new opportunities to expand their control over resource management decisions.
The bill at Section 107 purports to legislatively continue the current Resource Advisory Councils (RACs), which exist in every western state as a result of the 1995 BLM grazing regs. However, the bill fundamentally alters the development and functioning of these RACs by failing to guarantee for balance in their membership and instead giving livestock permittees and related interests an inappropriately dominant role. Section 107 appears to specify that RAC membership is to be balanced between livestock interests on one hand and all other interests on the other. This membership imbalance, coupled with the bill's provision that RAC decisions will be made on the basis of majority vote, effectively undermines the broad public purposes and balanced guidance for which these councils were created.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bill also mandates at Section 107 (i)a role for rancher-dominated state grazing boards in RAC decision making and the management of public lands. No other interest has a mandatory role in the process or the benefit of such officially sanctioned, single-purpose boards. In fact, the Smith bill actually restores this inappropriate role to the grazing boards, as the BLM range regulations of 1995 eliminated the outdated and biased grazing boards and their undue influence over the management of the public's lands.
The Smith bill also eliminates any effective role for the public in the monitoring of range conditions on Federal landsSection 104. Currently, numerous conservation groups across the country provide important monitoring information and resource status updates for Federal lands to the Forest Service and BLM. The Smith bill appears to presume that livestock operators can and will provide unbiased information on range conditions, but the public has no useful role to play in monitoring for the protection and management of our public lands.
When the Smith bill's provisions with respect to the RACs and public participation are read in conjunction with the bill's treatment of consultation, cooperation, and coordination it becomes apparent that this bill gives dominant emphasis to grazing and grazing interestsnot to the provision of balanced, multiple-use, Federal land management that benefits all Americans.
Finally, the bill threatens the public's access to its Federal lands by limiting the ability of the Forest Service and BLM to bargain with ranchers during the Federal grazing permit process for public access to Federal lands surrounded by the rancher's private lands. Currently, the agencies can address issues of access to Federal lands that are surrounded by the rancher's private lands during the discussions involved in the permitting process. As written, Section 103 (b) eliminates the ability of the agencies to achieve such public access and effectively privatizes these public lands. Under the provisions of this bill, it would be almost impossible for the public to gain access to these land-locked Federal areas for hunting, fishing, or other purposes.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (5) Attacks long-standing legislative and judicial precedents by treating public land grazing as a private property right not as a privilege.
There are numerous provisions of this draft bill that seem intended to further the inaccurate perception that grazing is a right, not a privilege on Federal lands. Taken together, these provisions create a dangerous threat to the public's ownership of its Federal rangelands and to their sound and balanced management by the Federal agencies.
1. In Section 2 (c), the Smith bill references so-called valid existing rights. We are left with the implication that this language may refer to grazing operations on Federal lands. The Taylor Grazing Act and FLPMA both clearly indicate that a grazing permit is a revocable privilegenot a contractual righton Federal lands. The Taylor Grazing Act (U.S.C. Title 43, Sect. 315b) states: ''... grazing privileges recognized and acknowledged shall be adequately safeguarded, but the creation of a grazing district or the issuance of a permit pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter shall not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands.''
This distinction has both important fiscal and resource protection implications: if grazing is a right on Federal lands, than the agencies may have only limited ability to change grazing management and protect natural resources without being obliged to pay just compensation under the Fifth Amendment. If grazing is considered ''a right'' then the public may be forced to pay ranchers when grazing practices must be changed to protect public resources.
2. In the definitions of Section 102, the bill defines the term allotment to mean ''an area of Federal land subject to an adjudicated or apportioned grazing preference that is appurtenant to a commensurate base property.'' The use of the phrase ''appurtenant to'' again implies, in legal terms, a property right, not a revocable privilege.
3. In at least two instances, this legislation gives private ranchers effective veto power over agency decisions. In Section 102, the bill defines the concept of consultation, cooperation, and coordination in such a way as to strip much of the fundamental decision making and land management responsibility and discretion from Federal agencies and give undue influence over Federal land management to private interests. Specifically, the bill directs the agencies to try to reach consensus with permittees before taking needed actions to address resource damage. This new and inappropriate requirement is forced on agency planning, permit condition, and permit renewal decision making. This requirement runs counter to the management responsibilities and discretion as described by FLPMA in Section 402 and elsewhere.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC IV. CONCLUSION. Of all the uses made of our Federal lands, livestock grazing has the most extensive ecological impact, affecting some 250 million acres of land and associated resources. Too often, and in too many places, poorly managed grazing has degraded the public's resources: water, wildlife, fish, recreation, archeological, and other. The protection and restoration of our Federal rangelands and the provision of true multiple benefits to the public from these lands must become the priority for the Forest Service and the BLM. The Wilderness Society believes that achieving sound management of our Federal lands will require significant policy and legislative reforms, as outlined in this statement. Although we will continue to analyze this bill to more fully assess its impacts, our initial review clearly indicates thatas it is currently draftedthe Smith grazing proposal violates several of these fundamental principles of range reform. We encourage this Subcommittee and the Congress not to pass this legislation.
TESTIMONY OF THOMAS D. LUSTIG, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. My name is Tom Lustig, and I am the Senior Staff Attorney for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). NWF is the nation's largest conservation organization. Founded in 1936, NWF works to educate, inspire and assist individuals and organizations of diverse cultures to conserve wildlife and other natural resources and to protect the Earth's environment in order to achieve a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future.
NWF appreciates the opportunity to testify on the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 (FIA). I am particularly pleased to be here because public lands livestock grazing has been my specialty for the last seven years. There hardly seems a grazing issue I haven't been buried in from sampling water quality in riparian areas, to detailed meetings with Senator Domenici; from litigating in Federal courts and administrative tribunals, to cooperative working field sessions with ranchers and Federal managers seeking to resolve problems on the ground.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Given my own background, and the substantial conservation interests NWF's members have in our Federal rangelands, I respectfully offer the following comments on the Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
1.FIA restricts citizens' ability to participate in decisions affecting the management of public land.
At a time when more citizens are turning to public lands for recreation and enjoyment of the environment, FIA limits the public's ability to participate in the management of our public lands in seven ways:
(a) FIA 103(a)(3) provides an existing permit may be renewed if the permittee or lessee accepts the terms and conditions included by the authorized officer in consultation, cooperation, and coordination with the permittee or lessee. This language leaves out interested members of the public from the consultation cooperation, and coordination between the permittee and the Federal land manager.
Whereas interested members of the public now have substantial opportunity to participate in, examine, protest, and administratively appeal the renewal of a permit, under FIA's language that participation would be jeopardized. The critical site-specific decisions made in renewing grazing permits would be part of a closed-door process between the Federal land manager and the permittee.
(b) Cooperative management agreements, as defined in FIA 102(6), exclude the public from working to improve public lands. For example, a sportsman's group which has been actively working to improve forage or water quality on public lands could not be a party to a cooperative management agreement, since FIA only permits such agreements between the Secretary and the permittee.
(c) Under 104(a) of FIA, qualified and experienced members of the public are precluded from being authorized by land managers to provide monitoring data, although no such restriction is placed on permittees. This ignores the frequent expertise, familiarity, and devotion toward range improvement found in many members of the public, who sometimes know more about an allotment's condition than the permittee or the land manager.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (d) Section 104(d) of FIA provides for notice of monitoring to permittees, but not to involved members of the public who may have considerable interest and expertise on a particular allotment
(e) For the past two years, Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) established under Rangeland Reform have worked cooperatively to develop local and regional standards and guidelines governing the management of BLM rangelands. The broad composition of the RACs assured considerable public participation in the development of these criteria.
However, under FIA 107(b), RACs would no longer have a clear mandate (now found in 43 C.F.R. 4180.2 of Rangeland Reform) to develop standards and guidelines, jeopardizing the public's ability to shape the future condition of public rangelands.
(f) The composition of RACs are altered to dilute the voice of conservationists. For example, 107(d)(2) allows only representatives of local environmental or conservation organizations to be considered for membership on a RAC, even though an area covered by a RAC may attract an active and well-informed group of citizens who do not belong to any local conservation group. Current regulations recognize that interest and expertise in grazing issues often resides in persons representing [n]ationally or regionally recognized environmental organizations. 43 C.F.R. 1784.61(c)(2)(i).
(g) FIA 107(c) provides all decisions and recommendations of a RAC shall be on the basis of a majority vote of its members. This makes RAC decisions more susceptible to a tyranny of the majority than do the current RAC regulations, which provide for three different types of interest groups to provide membership in the RAC, and then basically require that a majority of each interest group vote to support a decision of the RAC. 43 C.F.R. 1784.62(a)(1)(iii), (a)(2)(iii), and (a)(3)(iii).
(h) Section 107(i) of FIA requires RACS to ''coordinate and cooperate'' with state grazing districts. Because the state grazing district boards are composed virtually exclusively of ranchers, requiring the more diversely constituted RAC to ''coordinate and cooperate'' will imperil the multiple-use advice that RACS are expected to offer.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 2.By requiring new grazing regulations without preserving BLM's recent Rangeland Reform regulations, FIA jettisons much of the recent progress in improving conditions on public rangelands.
In calling for the issuance of new grazing regulations within 180 days of enactment of FIA, 204(2) likely sweeps aside the considerable conservation benefits brought by Rangeland Reform to lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including:
The establishment of fundamentals of rangeland health and regional standards and guidelines to administer grazing (43 C.F.R. subpart 4180), and the requirement that these criteria be incorporated into grazing permits. (43 C.F.R. 4130.31(c));
The ability of land managers to make changes in livestock use based on ''monitoring, field observations, ecological site inventory or other data acceptable to the authorized officer.'' (43 C.F.R. 4110.3);
The right of interested members of the public to be notified on proposed decisions on grazing allotments and to ask that decisions be administratively reviewed (43 C.F.R. subpart 4160);
The ability of a land manager to immediately place a decision in effect in order to protect other resources. (43 C.F.R. 4160.3(f)); and
Violations of laws relating to grazing lands (such as illegally taking, destroying, or harassing fish and wildlife; illegally destroying or removing archeological resources; and violating the Bald Eagle Protection Act or Endangered Species Act) subjects the permittee to civil penalties. (43 C.F.R. 4140.1(c)).
3.The revision of the monitoring requirement will substantially undermine efforts to improve and protect the health of public rangelands.
The definition of monitoring (102(12)) and specification for its application (104) will impede the ability of Federal managers to protect and heal rangelands. While the agencies may have less data than theyand wewould like them to have, the data they do have confirm that serious grazing management problems exist on our public rangelands. Numerous government reports document severe management problems on many of our public rangelands.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Despite these acknowledged long-standing problems, FIA's monitoring provisions would essentially require monitoring to start all over, wasting the time, money, and effort that went into the collection of existing data and other resource information. This is a recipe for maintaining the status quo rather than improving the health of our rangelands.
FIA's re-creation of monitoring occurs in several places. Section 104(c) requires that monitoring ''shall be conducted according to regional or State criteria and protocols that are scientifically based and site specific.'' While there are a number of monitoring protocols used by Federal range mangers, the time necessary to re-examine these to ensure they are: (a) based on regional or State criteria; (b) scientifically based; and (c) site specific, will take years. Even then, the agencies will only have a protocol they will still have to again begin monitoring, which will take additional years.
While the agencies work on protocols and restart the process of collecting monitoring data, the lands will continue to suffer. Even now, before the onset of the delays FIA will cause by retooling monitoring methods and restarting data gathering, the Forest Service estimates that 40 percent of its riparian areas are neither meeting nor moving toward agency objectives, while the Bureau of Land Management estimates that only 15 percent of its riparian areas are in proper functioning condition.See, Draft Environmental Impact Statement - Rangeland Reform *94, p. 3-32, Table 3-7. A report issued by the USDA Forest Service indicates that only 34 percent of Forest Service lands are meeting their desired condition.Draft USDA 1995 RPA Program report, Table E.2, Appendix E:2.
Nor does it take reformation of monitoring to know there are problems which must be immediately addressed. Even to a layperson, it is obvious that excessive or poorly managed grazing in riparian areas has led to change, reduction, and/or elimination of vegetation along their borders, trampling of their banks, soil erosion, water pollution and increased water temperaturesall of which is quite obvious and extremely damaging to valuable fish and wildlife resources.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If the agencies must start over again, previously collected monitoring data and other information will be virtually worthless. The loss of existing data and time needed to gather new data under a new protocol will delay the changes in current grazing practices that are necessary to protect these critically important areas and rehabilitate the damage that has been done to them.
The real problem is not lack of monitoring data, but rather requiring all decisions to be based on such data. Conservationists are concerned about the lack of monitoring data because, from 1982 to 1995, BLM rules required that multiple years of such data be in hand before changes in grazing practices could be made, regardless of the damage being done and the other information available to support change. As documented by the General Accounting Office, throughout that period the agency lacked the funds and personnel to do the required monitoring for most of the lands it managed and, even in those few cases where it had the data, it lacked the staff to analyze them. The result, of course, was that environmentally harmful grazing practices were not changed and degradation of soil, water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat values and other publicly-owned resources continued.U.S. General Accounting Office, Rangeland Management - Interior*s Monitoring Has Fallen Short of Agency Requirements (GAO/RCED-92-51) (February 1992).
The existing regulatory monitoring definition, requiring periodic observation and orderly collection of data (43 C.F.R. 4100.05) is more than adequate to uncover the problems that beset Federal rangelands. Raising the hurdle to require scientifically-based techniques to determine trend and condition ... (FIA 102(12)) merely impedes finally dealing with obvious problems.
4.The liberalizing of subleasing further deprives the US Treasury of windfall profits earned by permittees who take advantage of artificially low Federal grazing fees.
Subleasing represents a means by which permittees can profit from the disparity between Federal grazing fees and the true value of public forage. Section 105 of FIA would require the Forest Servicefor the first timeto allow subleasing on the lands it administers.[CITE??] It would also eliminate the surcharge BLM assesses permittees who graze animals they do not own (43 C.F.R. 4130.81(d)) and radically expand those instances when subleasing is allowed on BLM lands (43 C.F.R. 4130.7). For example:
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On BLM lands, a permittee must own or control livestock she/he grazes (43 C.F.R. 4130.7(a)). But 105(a)(1) of FIA would allow subleasingwithout any surcharge as is now required by BLM regulations (43 C.F.R. 4130.81(d))''if the permittee is unable to make full grazing use of the permit or lease due to ill health or death.'' Ill health is never defined.
Under current BLM regulations, a permittee may allow livestock owned and controlled by her/his children to graze on the allotment. FIA 105(b)(2) would allow generations of the permittee's relativesfrom a step grandparent to a brother or sister-in-law, to graze livestock on the allotment with no additional charge.
The surcharge on subleasesexcept to childrennow required by BLM rules is a way of capturing for the Treasury part of the profit that comes from the subsidized grazing fee. There seems no rationale to eliminate this requirement, other than to further increase the subsidy provided to subleasing permittees.
5.Grazing fees. (a) One of the most pervasive public lands issues in the Congress over the last decade has been the question of what industries should be charged for use of the public's resources. Oil and gas leases were shifted to a competitive bidding system in 1987 to ensure the public received a fair return from oil and gas development on public lands. For the last several years, Congress imposed a moratorium on the sale or patenting of public lands to mining companies under the Mining Law, to stop the transfer of valuable public assets to the private sector at minimal cost. Congress has been debating what royalty should be charged for mineral extraction of gold, silver and other hard rock minerals on public lands since 1990. Finally, Congress has been debating what fees should be charged the livestock industry for the use of public lands forage.
(b) Politically, there is strong public support to end corporate welfare on the public lands, which is reflected in recent Congressional actions on the grazing fee. The House of Representatives has adopted various grazing fee proposals over the last several years, including a provision (offered by Rep. Regula) to charge livestock operators the least cost private land lease rate for the western states (roughly $5.30 per animal per month). Senator Domenici's livestock grazing bill (S. 1459) was never acted on in the House of Representatives in part because the public would not receive a fair return for grazing on public lands under the fee formula contained in S. 1459. In short, the public and the Congress are looking for a fair return for livestock grazing on public lands.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (c) The proposal for a grazing fee in FIA 106 does not pass the laugh test. Under the formula in the FIA 106, the grazing fee is actually lower than the grazing fee that was proposed last year by Senator Domenici in S. 1459, the Public Rangelands Management Act. The fee proposal would result in a public lands grazing fee of approximately $1.63 per animal per month, compared to the $1.67 per animal per month fee projection in the Domenici bill. The fee proposal is far below the private land lease rates charged in most western states, which range from $5.30 to $9.00 per animal per month in the arid states, and up to $12.00 in the Great Plains states where the National Grasslands are found. The draft fee proposal is well below what is charged by every western state except Arizona.
(d) There will be no popular support for such an incremental increase in the grazing fee. The public already recognizes that the current grazing fee is far below market rates. There will be little public support, outside the livestock industry, for such a marginal increase in fees charged for a public good. There is a broad coalition of environmental and taxpayer organizations who will fight such a marginal fee increase in Federal legislation, such as the Green Scissors Coalition.The Green Scissors Coalition represents taxpayer groups, *good government* groups, and environmental organizations which are joining forces to fight government programs that waste public dollars and harm the environment. Livestock grazing fees continue to be a major issue for the conservation community, because the community believes a low fee encourages over-use of the resources on public lands, resulting in resource degradation. Further, increasing the grazing fee potentially increases the revenues that could be spent on rangeland restoration.
6.Ranchers are precluded from seeking better permit conditions in exchange for providing public access.
Section 103(b) of FIA precludes Federal land managers from providing permit terms and conditions that are more favorable to a permittee in exchange for the permittee providing access across her/his private land to the agency and/or public. This provision applies regardless of whether the permittee is strongly in favor of such an arrangement.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 7.Conclusion.
The National Wildlife Federation opposes enactment of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997. It will reduce public involvement in grazing management on public lands and the agencies' ability to address resource damage, while simultaneously failing to bring a fair return to the Treasury.
The National Wildlife Federation shares with the Chairman a desire to resolve conflicts over grazing use of public lands in the west. However, the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 will only exacerbate these conflicts.
TESTIMONY OF MAITLAND SHARPE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND PLANNING, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to come before you today to discuss the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) range management program.
The Department of the Interior has a long history of managing livestock grazing on the public lands. In response to widespread overgrazing and environmental degradation on public lands in the West, Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934 to regulate the occupancy and use of the public land, preserve the land from destruction or unnecessary injury, and provide for orderly use, improvement, and development. For more than sixty years the Department has worked with permittees, lessees and interested members of the public to achieve these goals. A great deal of progress has been made. We look forward to continuing to work with all these parties to achieve additional improvement in the health of the public rangelands, particularly in riparian areas.
A couple of years ago, the BLM made some important revisions to its regulations that affect livestock grazing on the public lands. Among other things, the revisions sought to provide tools to achieve consensus. A very important success story in achieving consensus has been the invaluable guidance that the Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) have provided to BLM managers. The role of the RACs is to provide advice and local perspectives to the BLM. RAC members must reside in the State of their jurisdiction. Each RAC has focused on the full array of multiple use issues associated with public lands within its area of jurisdiction. In terms of grazing management, the RACs have been instrumental in the preparation of State or regional standards for rangeland health and guidelines for grazing administration.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The standards and guidelines, as well as the RACs, are a central component to achieving consensus on improvement to the health of the public rangelands. The BLM and the RACsin close consultation with permittees, lessees and interested members of the publichave completed many of the standards and guidelines. The standards and guidelines are designed to provide specific measures of rangeland health and to identify best management practices in keeping with the characteristics of a State or region, such as climate and vegetation types. They seek to provide a consensus view of how to maintain and seek additional improvement in the health of the public rangelands, particularly riparian areas. The BLM is very grateful to the many RAC members, permittees, lessees and interested members of the public who devoted many hours to making the standards and guidelines a success.
Eight of ten States have completed standards and guidelines and received approval from the Secretary of the Interior to proceed with implementation (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming). All State Directors are making standards and guidelines implementation plans. New Mexico and California are still developing standards and guidelines. Fallback standards and guidelines will be in effect until specific New Mexico and California standards and guidelines are completed and approved by the Secretary.
Livestock grazing remains a central component of multiple use management and the BLM is working, in accordance with the 1995 regulations, to achieve a program that has broad public support. The way to encourage public support is to provide a mechanism for meaningful public participation. Meaningful participation not only permits ranchers to hear the views of others, but it also helps non-ranchers to better understand ranchers and the benefits they bring, such as open spacean issue that increasingly resonates throughout the West with people of almost all backgrounds. Through the RACs and public participation provisions of the 1995 regulations, more and more Americans are participating in the process. We strongly prefer upfront participation to paralyzing lawsuits and injunctions. Only with significant public participation and support can we achieve the stability that public land ranchers want and deserve.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To ensure that the 1995 regulations did not create unintended effects, we have been performing a review of how the regulations are being implemented and what their impact has been. The purpose of the review is to gather information about the effectiveness of the regulations, including a review of the program's costs and benefits, an assessment of the extent to which the regulations and goals are being accomplished and a measurement of the consistency of their application. The information will be used to identify existing or potential problems and inefficiencies and aid in the search for effective and innovative solutions. The review will occur this fall with hopes that we can compile the information this winter and complete a report by February or March.
We will also continue to make use of the tools that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provides us. NEPA has greatly facilitated our dialogue with the public and coordination with Federal, State and local agencies. This dialogue and coordination has led to better cooperation in seeking to reach our common goals of better range management.
The doomsday scenarios painted by some in the West concerning the regulatory revisions of a couple of years ago have not come true. Instead, ranchers, environmentalists and other interests are sitting around tables talking and making progress on specific issues rather than hurling rhetoric at each other. Many environmentalists and ranchers are realizing that they have a lot more in common than they originally thought. All of us want better wildlife habitat, improved water quality, open space, and healthy rural economies. Ranchers and environmentalists learned this by talking and working together on a wide variety of issues. Consensus and cooperation, I believe, are the future of public land managementnot protests, appeals and lawsuits. With all due respect, a lot of what all of us do back here in the nation's Capitol seems somewhat dull when one experiences the excitement of seeing people sitting around a table or walking around a grazing allotment honestly and respectfully sharing their views on how to solve a site-specific problemespecially considering that they were shouting and threatening each other a few years ago.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We at the BLM appreciate the Committee's interest in the BLM's range management program. I would be happy to answer any questions concerning the status of BLM's range management program.
STATEMENT OF JOHN BUCKHOUSE
The Society for Range Management (SRM) is a 4000+ member organization which is concerned with the rangeland resources of the world. Rangelands can be defined as those areas of the globe which because of physical attributes such as shallow soil, erratic precipitation, climatic conditions, or some other limiting factors are unsuitable for intensive cultivation. These areas are, however, suitable for a myriad of extensive herbivory, watershed management, recreation, and aesthetic values. Worldwide, rangelands compose about 40 percent of the earth's land surface. For SRM members the land is the ''bottom line''. Our goals and objectives center around enhancement of the land resources and professional development of our membership.
SRM's stance on pending legislation is that we will follow our established review procedures of using our Advisory Council and Public Affairs Committee as our input mechanism to the SRM Board of Directors. We anticipate that any evaluation of proposed legislation will be most valuable to our members and to society at large if it is done on an analytical basis; i.e. Section ''A'' will likely produce results ''X'' and Section ''B'' will likely produce results ''Y''.
SRM recently published a list of principles that the organization considers to be essential to public rangelands legislation or polity:
Based on science and/or proven experience.
Based on sustainable use, multiple use, and local community stability.
Provides consideration of riparian areas, fish, and wildlife habitat and water quality.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Emphasis on scientifically based monitoring and interpretation of ecological condition and trend, while at the same time honoring experience gained in the ''art'' of range management.
Employs consultation, cooperation, and coordination between agency officials and all interested parties as an essential ingredient (e.g. collaborative planning processes such as coordinated resource management).
Ensures predictability, stability, and fairness for all rangeland users.
Moreover, we believe: Avenues of public input on a local basis can advance sound resource management (e.g. advisory councils).
Locally established resource management goals and appropriate actions to achieve these goals are paramount to long term success.
TESTIMONY OF FREDERICK W. OBERMILLER, PROFESSOR OF AGRICULTURAL AND RESOURCE ECONOMICS, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Mr. Pombo, Chairman Smith, and members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
Legislative and Institutional History. A century ago, Congress passed and the President signed a bill, a portion of which (the 11th undesignated paragraph under the heading ''Surveying the Public Lands'') now is called the Organic Administration Act of June 4, 1897. That Act gave the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to administer lands withdrawn from the public domain and reserved for two express purposes: (1) to improve and protect the forest so as to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States and (2) for the purpose of securing favorable conditions of water flows. The Organic Act also gave the Secretary the authority to ''make such rules and regulations * * * as will insure the objects of such reservations; namely, to regulate their occupancy and use...'' (16 U.S.C.A. (( 475 et seq.). These provisions of the Organic Administration Act have not been repealed.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1905, the Forest Service was established in the Department of Agriculture and its new Chief, Gifford Pinchot, was delegated the authority, pursuant to the power of the Secretary to regulate occupancy and use, to issue permits to ranchers to graze their stock on Forest Reserve allotments (Congress renamed the Forest Reserves as National Forests at the request of the Forest Service in 1907, Act of March 4, 1907, ch. 2907, 34 Stat. 1269). These permits were preferentially allocated to property owners who had traditionally used and depended upon forested grazing lands located near their privately owned homesteads. (In the absence of explicit regulatory authority, Pinchot issued a regulatory Use Book explaining that the objectives of his new grazing regulations were to conserve public resources and, inter alia, protect local ranchers dependent of Federal forest forage supplies.) Since regulation of livestock grazing was not explicitly mentioned in the 1897 Act, the issuance of grazing permits was immediately challenged in the Federal courts.
In 1911 the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in two related cases, that the Secretary of Agriculture's authority to issue and enforce administrative grazing rules, including grazing permits with attached terms and conditions, was lawful under the 1897 Act. The Court found that the issuance of grazing permits with attached terms and conditions was not an illegal delegation of legislative power at odds with the Property Clause of the United States Constitution. (Article IV, ( 3, cl. 2: The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States... United States v. Grimaud, 220 U.S. 506; Light v. United States, 220 U.S. 523).
Western ranchers holding permits to graze their stock on the National Forests slowly came to accept the regulatory system imposed on them by Pinchot and his successors, although they insisted that grazing permits were in fact contracts subject to protection under contract law. (Hearings before the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, United States Senate, S. 2584, 1926.)
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Not until the Taylor Grazing Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 28, 1934, was grazing on the open public domain subject to similar regulation. Parallel to the statement of public purposes to be served as expressed in the Organic Administration Act of 1897, the preamble to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 declared that the public purposes to be served by the latter Act were ''to stop injury to the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent on the public range.'' Emulating the Forest Service, the Grazing Service in the Department of the Interior (renamed the Bureau of Land Management in 1946), issued grazing permits and leases to ranchers owning or leasing private property adjacent or near to the public domain lands upon which their stock had customarily grazed; and that base property had to be of sufficient productivity to permit the proper use of lands, water, or water rights, owned, occupied, or leased by them... (43 U.S.C. ( 315b). As with the Organic Administration Act, these provisions of the Taylor Grazing Act have not been repealed.
In implementing the Taylor Grazing Act, between 1936 and the early 1950's the amount of forage allocated to each permittee or lessee was adjudicated or proportioned based on prior use rates and the aggregate supply of public domain forage available, under the principle of sound conservation, to all competing livestock operators. (Public Lands Council et. al. v. Babbitt, 929 F. Supp. 1436 (D. Wyoming 1996)). The locations upon which the stock grazed were recognized as grazing allotments, or spatially defined parcels of rangeland aligned with prior use patterns. Consequently, and understandably, Grazing Service/BLM permittees and lessees traditionally have argued that their contracts are a type of inchoate property interest akin to a usufructuary water right, and that both water and grazing rights are founded on the principle of prior appropriation. [See Obermiller, Frederick W., Did congress intend to recognize grazing rights? An alternative perspective on the Taylor Grazing Act, Rangelands 18(5), October 1996, pp. 186191 Attachment No. 1].
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Almost a half-century after grazing was first regulated on the National Forests, the Granger-Thye Act of April 24, 1950 gave statutory authority to the Secretary of Agriculture for the issuance of Forest Service grazing permits. (ch. 97, Sec. 11, 64 Stat. 65). Four years later, the Secretary assumed administrative responsibility for the Land Utilization (LU) Grazing Projects located in the Great Plains, Projects stemming from a Depression-era land condemnation and purchase program administered by the Soil Conservation Service under the auspices of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of July 22, 1937. The public use specified in the Declarations of Takings filed in Federal district courts upon condemnation and acquisition of the LU lands by the United States was, without exception, demonstrational livestock grazing, hence the name LU Grazing Projects. [See, McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners and the McKenzie County Grazing Association, Legal and Administrative Scoping Considerations, Extract of Comment on the USDA Forest Service Request for Comment on Scope of Land and Resource Management Plans, July 30, 1997 Attachment No. 2]. As in the Taylor Grazing Act, Title III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act recognized that sound livestock management practices would promote the achievement of soil and water conservation objectives. (7 U.S.C. ( 10101012).
Thus, as of 1954 the Forest Service administered regulated grazing programs on National Forests reserved for timber production and watershed protection, and on non-timbered grasslands acquired for the purpose of livestock grazing and accomplishment of soil and water conservation objectives. Just as the Forest Service had renamed the original Forest Reserves as National Forests in 1907, so too did the Service rename the LU Grazing Projects National Grasslands by means of a 1960 Secretarial Order. (Federal Register, June 24, 1960).
Subsequent statutes have expanded the scope of multiple uses permitted on National Forests, National Grasslands, and public domain administered by the Bureau of Land Management. These supplemental authorities are identified in Section 101 (Application of title) of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997. In general, the primary or organic purposes to which those lands were originally put have not been repealed or revoked by Congress. Thus, in the sense of New Mexico v. United States, 438 U.S. 696 (1978), the original purposes of the land reservations, acquisitions, or classifications may be expanded but cannot be eliminated except by an express Act of Congress.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Forces Prompting Need for Current Legislation
Not since the Public Rangelands Improvement Act was passed on October 25, 1978, has Congress passed any Federal rangeland or western livestock grazing legislation. (43 U.S.C. (( 19011908). However, the Department of the Interior (joined initially by the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture) did attempt a major administrative revision of Chapter 35 (Federal Land Policy and Management) of the United States Code through a program known as Range Reform 94 via draft regulations published in the Federal Register on August 13, 1993, and published in final form in the Federal Register on August 21, 1995.
The western Federal land dependent livestock industry viewed these new regulations as excessive, in violation of existing statutes, arbitrary and capricious, and otherwise threatening to their economic welfare and way of life. A lawsuit ensued (Public Lands Council et al. v. Babbitt, 929 F. Supp. 1436 (D. Wyoming 1996)), and Clarence Brimmer, United States District Judge for the District of Wyoming, found four key provisions of the new regulations to be arbitrary and/or capricious, and in three instances in excess of statutory authority. The unlawful regulations were enjoined, and the decision now is on appeal to the 10th Circuit, United States Court of Appeals.
Separately, the 104th Congress debated bills introduced by Senator Dominici and others which would, if enacted, nullify the Range Reform 94 regulatory initiative. One such bill did pass the Senate, but died in the House of Representatives. To the extent that the Brimmer decision is overturned in the 10th Circuit or by the Supreme Court, Congressional resolution of the most deleterious economic and social aspects of the new regulations still is needed. At the same time, the Congressional resolution need not be one-sided, and should accommodate those aspects of Range Reform 94 that have been found to be workable and beneficial.
In an effort to formulate needed and broadly acceptable Federal rangeland management legislation, during the first half of 1997 Representative Robert F. (Bob) Smith, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, developed an outline of pertinent issues. These issues were jointly drawn from the new Federal rangeland grazing regulations issued by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in 1995 (and supported by national environmental groups), and also from expressed needs of the western ranching industry and rural communities.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Priority issues thought to be in need of legislation fell into six broad categories. The identified categories included (1) clarification of relevant terms widely used in Federal grazing administration and in range science; (2) continuation of the multiple interest group Resource Advisory Councils established by Secretary Babbitt; (3) increased focus on science-based monitoring of changes in rangeland vegetation and associated ecosystems conducted by trained professionals; (4) encouragement of coordinated resource management involving all interests, not just Federal land ranchers; (5) clarification of circumstances under which subleases of Federal land grazing allotments would be subject to surcharges by the Federal Government; and (6) implementation of a grazing fee formula approved by the Senate in the previous session of Congress and continuation of the ten year term of grazing permits and leases. Also considered, but because of strong protest from environmental groups ultimately excluded from the scope of the introduced legislation, was recognition by Congress of the unique nature and intended purpose of the National Grasslands.
These issues were discussed in a July 22 meeting organized by the Chairman involving representatives of both the environmental community and the Federal land ranching industry. Chairman Smith asked these interest groups to consider issues that might be addressed in a Federal rangeland grazing bill and to provide him with comments and suggestions prior to the end of the August recess. The Chairman's purpose was to incorporate suggestions that were acceptable to both grazing and environmental interests in a draft bill for introduction in the House of Representatives in early September, 1997.
Comments on Sections of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997
As introduced, the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 states that its purpose is to provide a mechanism by which the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior can provide for uniform management of livestock grazing on Federal land. No doubt, some will argue that the statutes governing grazing administration on lands managed by the Forest Service are very different from statutes governing grazing administration on BLM lands. Not really. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 is patterned after grazing administration as reflected in the Forest Service Use Book and as authorized in the Forest Service's Organic Administration Act of 1897. More recently, and more to the point: All the rangeland provisions of FLPMA are expressly made applicable to livestock grazing on the national forests as well as on the BLM lands. (Coggins, Wilkinson, and Leshy, Federal Public Land and Resources Law, Foundation Press, Third Edition, 1993, p. 723). Grazing administration by the Soil Conservation Service under the Bankhead-Jones Act of 1937 for the LU Grazing Projects (today's National Grasslands) paralleled grazing administration on the public domain under the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. There are no significant statutory barriers to uniform grazing management challenging the efficacy of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The permit renewal language appearing in Section 103 (Renewal of a grazing permit or lease) of the introduced bill is plain, clear, and perfectly consistent with the intent of Congress as expressed in Section 3 of the Taylor Grazing Act, i.e., ...no permittee complying with the rules and regulations laid down by the Secretary of the Interior shall be denied the renewal of such permit, if such denial will impair the value of the grazing unit of the permittee, when such unit is pledged as security for a bona fide loan. (43 U.S.C. ( 315b). For further detail on the proper statutory construction of this phrase, see Attachment No. 1. Grazing permits were meant by Congress to be perpetuable usufructs, or indefinitely renewable use rights. They were expressly meant to be comparable to appropriative water rights, subject to revocation only if not continually put to the beneficial use of livestock grazing, assuming such grazing did not violate the rights of others as defined under the conditions of the grazing permit and other valid law.
In a somewhat similar vein, the Taylor Grazing Act did not intend to make illegal either leases of base property and appurtenant Federal grazing allotments to a second party or pasturing agreements. The latter occur when a permittee takes in someone else's livestock and actively manages that stock while allowing it to graze, under the express conditions of the grazing permit, on the permittee's Federal grazing allotment. These arrangements are properly permissible under Section 105 of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 (Subleasing). A third circumstance, allowing someone else to graze his/her stock on the permittee's allotment without providing management services was not clearly envisioned by the framers of the Taylor Grazing Act or in its implementation, and such arrangements certainly should be subject to surcharges or other taxes or disincentives.
Flexibility in management is necessary if the knowledgeable livestock operator is to respond quickly and appropriately to changing weather, insect infestation, and related conditions. Flexible management is an incentive for sound land stewardship because it places the full responsibility for the sustained productivity or health of the forage resource upon the direct userthe permittee. Flexible management may be more acceptable to all parties interested in rangeland forage and related resources if those parties have a say in establishing the framework within which flexibility is possible. In Section 105, participation in grazing management planning is sanctioned through an approach known as coordinated resource management, a cooperative effort involving the permittee, the Federal land management agency, other affected agencies at the State and Federal levels, private land owners, and other users of the Federal rangelands. Given this process, the tool granting the permittee flexibility in decision-making is the cooperative management agreement. This section is needed because, even though coordinated resource management and cooperative management agreements have been very successful and widely acclaimed, a Federal court found that in the absence of authorizing language such as appears in the Forage Improvement Act of 1997, such processes and amendments exceed statutory authority. (Natural Resources Defense Council v. Hodel, (Ramirez Decision), 618 F. Supp. 848 (E.D. California 1985)).
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Section 104 of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 (Monitoring and inspection) deals with monitoring and inspectionbringing science to the art of grazing administration. Although Professor Buckhouse, President of the Society of Range Management, is far more knowledgeable of this science and the need therefor in statutory language than the present witness, it may be noted that a Federal court also has ruled that scientific monitoring is needed, and that only such scientific information can justify agency-mandated adjustments of livestock grazing levels. (Natural Resources Defense Council v. Hodel (Burns Decision), 624 F. Supp. 1045 (D. Nevada 1985)). Here the court said, inter alia, that reliable long term trend data via monitoring is necessary to justify livestock grazing adjustments because one point in time (not to mention occular recognizance) observations cannot be used to determine actual forage use levels by domestic livestock.
Continuation, with slight modification, of the Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior in the new 1995 regulations would continue with statutory authorization under Section 107 of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 (Resource Advisory Councils). The Governor of the affected State would have a more definite or explicit role in the affairs of the Councils. It should be noted that ( 309 of FLPMA (43 U.S.C. ( 1739) authorizes advisory councils whose scope of responsibility could include the responsibilities of the new RACs in any case, so the issue is essentially moot.
Finally, just a word about grazing fees. Section 106 of the Forage Improvement Act of 1997 (Fees and charges) would authorize the same Federal grazing fee formula as had been proposed in legislation in the 104th Congress. Whether by means of this formula or some other, Congress must resolve the contentious grazing fee issue. It is obvious that the agencies will not be allowed to do so, and the resources squandered on the Federal grazing fee debate vastly exceed the importance of that rather insignificant issue. The point both Congress and the public must understand is that the geography of the Federal grazing lands, coupled with the excessive Federal regulations imposed on ranchers grazing their cattle and sheep on appurtenant Federal allotments, cause the total costs of grazing stock on Federal lands to be much higher than the total costs of grazing stock on nearby private lands. For this reason, if all are to compete on a level playing field, the actual Federal land grazing fee must of necessity be much less that the private land grazing rent.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is no subsidy in Federal land grazing. Unlike most other Federal Government programs, the net cost to the American taxpayer or to the United States Treasury is very small. The proposed fee formula would set the grazing fee at about $1.84 per AUM in 1997. In 1992, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture submitted a formal written report to Congress on the grazing fee issue. There, they said that based on agency records the full cost of administering the BLM grazing program was $2.18 per AUM. The difference, 34 cents per AUM, is not very great. The Federal grazing fee subsidy story is a figment of American mythology.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I want to close by expressing my sincere appreciation to Chairman Smith for his moderation, foresight, and balance in introducing the Forage Improvement Act of 1997, and to the members of this subcommittee for so expeditiously hearing it.