SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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HEARING ON GRAZING REDUCTIONS AND OTHER ISSUES ON BLM LANDS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 30, 1997, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10552
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrinted for the use of the Committee on Resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
ROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
GEORGE MILLER, California
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
SAM FARR, California
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah, Chairman
ELTON, GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
JOHN B. SHADEGG, Arizona
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
ROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
RICK HILL, Montana
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
ALLEN FREEMYER, Counsel
TODD HULL AND P. DANIEL SMITH, Professional Staff
LIZ BIRNBAUM, Democratic Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Hearing held September 30, 1997
Statements of Members:
Hansen, Hon. James V., a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah
Chenoweth, Hon. Helen, a Representative in Congress from the State of Idaho, prepared statement of
Additional material submitted by
Statements of witnesses:
Atkin, Brent, President, Public Lands Council
Prepared statement of
Bruton, Wesley Neil, Rancher, New Mexico
Prepared statement of
Flake, Ray, Lincoln County Commissioner, State of Nevada
Prepared statement of
Gibson, Dr. Chad C., Wilder, Idaho, prepared statement of
Hunt, Frances, Director, BLM Programs, The Wilderness Society
Prepared statement of
Loper, Dick, Consultant, Wyoming
Prepared statement of
Menges, Jeff, Chairman, Federal Lands Committee, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Moyer, Steven, Director of Government Affairs, Trout Unlimited
Prepared statement of
Sharpe, Maitland, Assistant Director of Renewable Resources and Planning, Bureau of Land Management
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of
Smith, Allen E., Rancher, Utah
Prepared statement of
Brown, James L., Manager, Preston Nutter Ranch, prepared statement of
HEARING ON GRAZING REDUCTIONS AND OTHER ISSUES ON BLM LANDS
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 1997
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. James V. Hansen [chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JAMES V. HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
Mr. HANSEN. The Committee will come to order.
Good morning, and welcome to the oversight hearing today which will address grazing issues on Federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM oversees the majority of Federal lands used for livestock grazing. This land area comprises approximately 175 million acres, a significant piece of real estate in the West.
The grazing of livestock, especially cattle grazing, has been an important part of our heritage, cultural, and development of the western United States. In fact, most people, if asked to picture western America, would conjure up visions of cowboys on a cattle drive. Cattle grazing embodies the very personification of what the West is. However, as we will hear from much of our testimony today, this part of our heritage may be in jeopardy of quickly becoming extinct.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the last few years, nearly every state in the West has experienced reductions, sometimes severe reductions, in AUMs or Animal Unit Months, along with the actual use of livestock. In fact, according to the Department of Interior statistics, from 1979 through 1996, AUMs authorized by the BLM have been reduced by almost 2 million, nearly one-fifth of the total AUMs for those years. Many factors are responsible for these cutbacks and include BLM interpretations of law and regulation, a lack of monitoring, conflicts with other wildlife species, and mandatory compliance by the BLM of other laws like the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately for the permittees, these reductions have been, in many instances, damaging and even devastating to their livestock grazing operations.
The oversight hearing today is intended to fully explore the reasons why AUM and actual use of livestock numbers have been reduced across the West. Several permittees have been severely affected and have either had to go out of the ranching business or forced them to seriously contemplate that decision. This hearing is also intended to find solution and remedies to livestock grazing problems, both for the permittee and for the BLM.
I want to add that the hearing today is primarily focused on issues surrounding livestock reductions on BLM. It is not a hearing on the merits of H.R. 2493, a bill introduced by our colleague, Congressman Bob Smith. Testimony given today which directs itself toward H.R. 2493 is not compatible with, and not really appropriate for, the purposes of this hearing.
I want to welcome our witnesses here today. We will hear from Mr. Maitland Sharpe, Assistant Director of Renewable Resources and Planning in the BLM. We will also hear from a number of affected livestock operators representing five different states in the West and we will mention those as we start going on here. We appreciate all of you being here. And, Mr. Sharpe, we're grateful for your presence and you have the floor.
STATEMENT OF MAITLAND SHARPE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND PLANNING, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to be here today to discuss the Bureau of Land Management's range management program. I would like to address some of the concerns that the Committee has raised with respect to reductions in authorized grazing use on lands that BLM manages.
As you know, the invitation letter for this hearing indicated that the Subcommittee was interested in grazing reductions on BLM-managed public lands. Twenty years ago, BLM authorized approximately 10.8 million Animal Unit Months, AUMs, of forage use to approximately 20,600 lessees or permittees. In 1991 that figure had decreased to slightly over 9.6 million AUMs used by 19,482 lessees or permittees, and by 1996 that number was up to about 9.75 million AUMs and the number of lessees or permittees had declined further to 18,800. I attached a chart to my testimony that shows a year-by-year breakout of this information from 1977, 20 years ago, to the present.
A review of our grazing records reveals that overall restrictions having significant negative impacts on livestock operations are, we believe, the exception. Terms and conditions for grazing livestock on an allotment are designed, whenever possible, to strike a balance between public expectations of more rapid improvements to resource conditions, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the needs of permittees to have access to adequate amounts of forage. There have been site-specific reductions or restrictions that have been put in place to better manage rangeland resources and to restore the productivity of our public rangelands. The BLM is required to protect the public lands from degradation and seek to improve the condition of the range, while at the same time managing those lands for a full range of uses, including livestock grazing.
There is no single reason for the gradual reductions in AUMs that has occurred during the past 20 years. As you noted, the reasons are many, including land lost to grazing through exchange or disposal of lands, reductions for diminished forage supply or diminished carrying capacity, adjustments for riparian area improvements, adjustments which are usually temporary and restored after the riparian areas recover, and reductions in order to protect threatened or endangered species. Also, quite significantly, there are fluctuations of a temporary nature due to drought or wildfire emergencies.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me give you a couple of examples. The recent Delaware and Rio Bonito land exchanges in southeastern New Mexico demonstrate the effect of land exchanges on the available number of AUMs. Through this particular exchange, BLM acquired important habitat along the Delaware and Rio Bonito Rivers that contains important biological resources and offers enhanced public-access opportunities. As a result of the exchange, about 20,000 AUMs went into private ownership. So, those are no longer counted as AUMs on public land in New Mexico, although they're still available for grazing. An example of AUM reductions in order to protect the habitat of endangered species is the BLM's management actions to protect the threatened desert tortoise. The BLM has had to impose seasonal restrictions on grazing on a number of allotments in northern Arizona, southern Utah, Nevada, and the desert area of California because it was determined that livestock grazing had adverse impacts on desert tortoises during seasons of peak tortoise foraging activity.
Additionally, there are occasional but rare reductions taken for willful, repeated violations of rules or terms and conditions of permits. Over the past 5 years, the BLM has had to impose such restrictions against about 46 operators. Those 46 cases represent approximately two-tenths of 1 percent of our total operators. Most of our operators are, we recognize, good stewards and care deeply about the health of the land.
BLM has also made reductions in some allotments where weed encroachment has reduced the forage supply. Approximately 8.5 million acres of BLM-managed public lands have suffered invasion by noxious, exotic plants. These weeds continue to spread at more than 2,000 acres per day. These weed species have little or no value as livestock forage and contribute to the loss of carrying capacity.
In addition to making reductions where necessary, BLM also restores forage to active use or increases AUMs as conditions allow. Between 1992 and 1996 about 140 operators received increases, totaling approximately 44,000 AUMs.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In close consultation with permittees, lessees, and interested members of the public, the BLM will continue to strive to meet public expectations of improving the health of the public rangelands and continue to work to foster a healthy public land livestock industry. Livestock grazing remains a central component of multiple-use management and BLM is working to achieve a program that has broad public support for public land management that includes support for continued livestock grazing.
We believe that one important way to encourage public support is to provide a mechanism for meaningful public involvement in rangeland decisions. Public involvement permits ranchers to hear the views of others and also helps non-ranchers better understand ranchers and the benefits that ranching uses bring, such as open space, which is certainly an issue that increasingly resonates throughout the West with people of almost all backgrounds.
Through the Resource Advisory Councils and the collaborative management approach of the 1995 regulations, BLM stakeholders are playing a larger role in the land management process. We now see people working together at state and local levels to find shared solutions to very real problems. Diverse interests are forging a common vision of what the public rangelands should look like and what the land can produce. They are finding ways to put old conflicts aside. The result will be a healthier, more productive rangeland and a more stable future for the public land livestock industry.
The bottom line, in our view, is that the Bureau's grazing management program is working. We appreciate the Committee's continued interest in our range management program and I would be happy to answer any questions. I will be here throughout the hearing to hear what the other witnesses have to say and to listen to problems that may be occurring on the public lands so that we can respond to those and try to fix them. That concludes my testimony, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Sharpe may be found at end of hearing.]
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Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. The gentleman from Minnesota.
Mr. VENTO. Well, thanks, Mr. Chairman for yourfor the opportunity to be recognized. Mr. Sharpe, I'm interested inthere's a suggestion in my colleague's, the Chairman's, opening statement that there are allotments that are not within BLM that are not now being permitted. And, can you give us some overview of what the numbers are?
Mr. SHARPE. Congressman, I can't give you a number. We can find that and supply it for the record.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. VENTO. Well, I think it's important
Mr. SHARPE. The essential point here is the number of vacant allotments at any time on BLM lands is very, very small.
Mr. VENTO. Yes, I'm concerned. I mean, has there been any reassessment? I know that we have had a number of reports that we have done over the years, the last 7 or 8 years, which I'm certain that you, Mr. Sharpe, and others, as the Assistant Director, have taken a close look at, and they, of course, deal in glowing generalities all the time, and that's about all we have time for, I guess, today, is one of the issues had been the hot desert areas, the areas that have been extended. Has there been any thought about reframing some of those areas we found? For instance, an AUM, 2,500 of acres for a single, you know, AUM on these areashas there been any thought of retreating from those areas? They're marginally profitable.
Mr. SHARPE. The Bureau is not currently engaged, and has no plans to engage, in an exercise of reviewing the AUM allotments westside
Mr. VENTO. Well
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. [continuing] to make new determinations as to their general suitability for grazing.
Mr. VENTO. Does the research councilsdo they undertake that particular task themselves? I mean, at some particular point, there has to be some reframing of what are, you know, productive forages and what is not, I mean, in these areas. In terms ofwhen you put a cow, calf, or whatever AUMs you're putting on an allotment, it very often ends up being the dominant species. It obviously chooses out certain types of forages in terms of natural, and we get, of course, the many exotics that come in there, the sagebrush, the pinion-juniper-type phenomena
Mr. SHARPE. I understand.
Mr. VENTO. [continuing] other types of problems that occur.
Mr. SHARPE. Those decisions are being made quite properly, I think, at the local level through local land use planning efforts at the allotment level, focusing on the particular physical and biological conditions on a given allotment. The bulk of the reductions in permitted AUMs over the past years has stemmed from findings on the ground at the allotment level that the carrying capacity is not adequate to sustain the previous level of grazing use.
Mr. VENTO. Well, I know, but one of the ways that that's dealt with, just by expanding the number of acres that are coveredit doesn't alwaysI mean, one of the ways that that is addressed is by expanding the number of acres per AUM. It involves a lot more monitoring in terms of determining whether or not the permittee is, in fact, moving around the animals in a way that is consistent with the management of the allotment. I mean, you do reach a point of diminishing returns here, especially, isn't itwhat has been the problem in terms of allocating resources and management and rangers, and so forth, to the monitoring of these types of sensitive areas?
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. We have, as you know, limited resources available to us for monitoring. As for other purposes, we have allocated those resources very carefully, focusing them on the approximately 25 percent of the total number of allotments that have been placed by the Bureau in the ''I'' or ''Improved'' category. Those are allotments on which the grazing use is considered to be particularly sensitive, allotments on which physical and biological conditions may be less than we would desire and allotments on which there are notable conflicts among the various multiple uses. We believe that that's a rational allocation of limited monitoring capacity and we are monitoring those allotments on, essentially, an annual basis with interim monitoring taking place at, it varies, but roughly 3- to 5-year intervals.
Mr. VENTO. Are any of the states still doing chaining activities?
Mr. SHARPE. There is some chaining that has taken place on BLM lands in recent years, almost all of it, I believe, in connection with trying to rehabilitate rangelands after fires, after wildland fires. We've discovered that, in some areas, chaining is virtually necessary to bring the seed in proper contact with the soil bed, in order to get adequate regeneration of vegetation needed to protect the soil and provide soil stability, reduce erosion, and permit recovery of the productive capacity of the
Mr. VENTO. What would youwhat would be your sentence answer for me or brief answer with regards to riparian issues and BLM? Of course, as you know, that they have been scored, you know, in the last reports of GAO, some certain years ago now, in terms of having riparian areas that are in poor quality. And I guess that deals with this monitoring of these risk areas, I think, that are whatever the terminology that you use, but accurately depicting it, how would you respond to a question in terms of BLM's management of riparian areas these days?
Mr. SHARPE. We are very proud of our response to the need to place additional emphasis on riparian areas. We feel that BLM has been a national leader in that regard. We have now assessed, monitored, if you will, 78 percent of the riparian miles in the lower 48. We have classified those into three categories and we are focusing our recovery efforts on the middle category, the streams that have been identified as ''functioning at risk,'' simply because those are the streams that respond most quickly to management efforts and, obviously, from a strategic point of view, that's the most productive place to put our resources.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last year, 1996, we applied management to a little over 1,600 miles of streams in that category, functioning at risk, which amounts to about 11 percent of the total stream miles in that category. But we could make more progress. We would like to. We're committed to doing that, and we are working at it very hard through every means. It is absolutely a top priority for the Bureau.
Mr. VENTO. One of the suggestions here is that there's been a reduction in the amount of AUMs, in terms of the western rangelands. Can you give the reason? Is that a weather-related phenomena or is that just reflective of environmental problems or a meteorological phenomena?
Mr. SHARPE. Well, as I noted in my statement, it's a result of the interaction of a great many factors, some of them additive, some of them canceling each other out, all of them varying from year to year. It's very difficult and it would really be a mistake to try to pin this to any single factor. However, I can tell you that over the last 6-year period, the data that we have collected from the field indicates that some 89 percent of the reductions, the AUMs placed in suspended use, have been attributed to carrying capacity, as opposed to drought or fire or endangered species or wildlife or other such factors. The reductions have been made in response to limitations on carrying capacity on the ground.
Mr. VENTO. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. Mr. Sharpe, maybe I'm missing something here, but I've been reading this put outthe Council for Agriculture, Science, and Technology put out a rather extensive report indicating that the rangeland has been improving rather dramatically in the last little while, regardless of all these factors. At the same time, the number of slaughter animals on the ranges has been going down. It seems kind of an inconsistency to me that, while the range is improving, the number of animals is going down. I'm sure you mentioned other factors to the gentleman from Minnesota but there must be something else. What am I missing?
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. Well, I don't know for sure why the number of slaughter animals has been going down. I would point out that market conditions are also volatile, as we all recognize the market has been in a deep trough for the past several years. Market prices have been extremely low and, presumably, the number of animals on the rangelands, public and private, has reflected that over the past several years. I would expect that, as the market for beef picks up, that rangelands that are now less than fully stocked are likely to become more fully stocked. That's certainly one of the factors that needs to be considered.
Mr. HANSEN. I remember a few years ago reading a very exhaustive report that the managers of public land use grazing as a tool, as they use other tools. Chaining, for example, which I think has restored a lot of rangeland; contrary to popular belief, prescribed fires; thinning, all of those things which land managers, not environmentalists, not developers, but land managers say, something that's taken good care of it. Isn't it true that use of slaughter animals is used as a tool? In other words, keep down grasses, things such as that.
Mr. SHARPE. Well, the use of livestock grazing by various classes certainly can be used as a tool in order to achieve particular resource objectives identified for a particular allotment or pasture area within an allotment. I think that for the largest part, livestock grazing on the public lands is primarily a commercial use, that the reason that the cattle are out there is primarily in order to make economic use of the forage that is available and in order to secure the benefits for individuals and ranchers and for society at large from making productive use of that forage. I would point out, at the same time, that sheep certainly are used from time to time very directly as a management tool, particularly for the effective control of leafy spurge and other weeds. In fact, in certain instances, we charge no fee for such use because the Bureau recognizes that that use is being entertained strictly for management purposes.
Mr. HANSEN. No, I think there's a basic philosophy that seems to permeate around here and in some places in America, that management versus non-management. For years, we've managed the forests. We've managed the public lands. I think it's interesting that some people now feel we shouldn't manage it. Out of that through 100 years or so, as history in my State of Utah shows, that the forests, the public lands, are in much better shape than the days the pioneers came to those valleys because people have managed it and they've used many toolscutting, when they had to; thinning, chaining, which, in my opinion, is a good management tool.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And this report that I was referring to went on to talk about our friends to the North and Canada, who, at one time, cutoff animals on the public graze and later put them back on, even paying people from Montana to take stock across the border to keep the grasses down, so they wouldn't have fires in the fall in dry years. So, I look at that as somewhat as a management tool, and that you folks who are charged with use of the public land cannot go to the idea of just let Mother Nature do it. Mother Nature, in my opinion, I know that's speaking against deity almost, but she manages by wind, fire, earthquake, areas that I totally disagree with, and I think man has to be a good steward of the ground. I do feel, even though I'm very pro-grazing on the ground, I do feel that some ranchers have violated their privileges. I know personally I have been kicked off ground before, as a young man, and went back to the county recorder and found out that it was public ground. I went back to the rancher and he apologized, said, ''I didn't think you'd look it up.'' And I was also in the legislature at the time, and it kind of irritated me that some of these people feel that they're owners of the land when they're merely or only have one use. I hope all the ranchers are cautioning your people not to do that, because that really hurts your cause. And, of course, I can't say as I blame you. Somebody coming in and messing up an area but you mess it up to a certain extent, also, so I'd be a little careful there, if you would be.
The gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Shadegg, is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. SHADEGG. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Sharpe, for being here. I'm sorry I missed the very first part of your testimony. Let me just begin with a question that you may have answered and I'm not sure I heard the answer clearly enough. Do you agree that the trends do, in fact, show that rangeland conditions are improving in the West?
Mr. SHARPE. The data available to us for the entire sweep of this century certainly indicates that range conditions have gotten better over the last hundred years. In the 1970's, Thad Box, the distinguished range professor from Utah State,tried to assess the available data and concluded with the much-quoted observation that the rangelands were, then, in the best condition that they had been in in the twentieth century.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHADEGG. At what time
Mr. SHARPE. I would not dispute that conclusion.
Mr. SHADEGG. How recent was that?
Mr. SHARPE. That was in the mid-1970's. BLM data, gathered since then has shown a modest but continued improvement in range condition overall. And we're very proud of that. At the same time, I should point out that this does not apply evenly across all the public lands. There are areas, there are sites, there are allotments that don't reflect that general upward trend and the additional management steps that the Bureau has been taking in recent years to put in place more effective management, which sometimes involves reductions in livestock use, and often doesn't, is in response to the continuing need, and the continuing opportunity, to improve the productivity for the full range of uses of those areas that have been somewhat laggard in terms of this general pattern of recovery.
Mr. SHADEGG. I appreciate that. It seems to me, and I think the Chairman already alluded to it, stated in a rather blunt fashion, which is kind of my way to do things, some ranchers do a good job of managing the range they're entrusted with and some don't as good a job. Have you foundwell, I guess two questions. One, do you have the ability now to identify which ones are doing a good job, and to either improve their management or deal with the fact that they aren't managing properly by perhaps reducing or taking away their allotment, as one question.
And second, are the advisory councils, resource advisory councils, helping in the education on both sides? That is, of those who have the land, and of those who kind of want to manage it from some other venue, such as the cities or a particular environmental group with a concern about it.
Mr. SHARPE. Taking your questions in reverse order, our experience to date shows that the resource advisory councils and the entire climate of collaborative management, of which the resource advisory councils are a salient part, have been very successful in terms of fostering those productive conversations from both perspectives. I believe that the most important thing we can do in order to provide for a stable future for the Western public lands livestock industry, is to continue to foster that kind of conversation. We need to improve the condition of the public rangelands and the riparian resources, including protecting endangered species and so forth and, further, to demonstrate to all of the parties who are interested in this, that, in fact, we are making progress and that the trend is up, and that the lands are getting healthier and that there's more there for everyone. I think it's that pattern, pursued and sustained over the years, that is going to put to rest the widely shared public illusion that these rangelands are in bad condition and getting worse and, by doing that, provide the foundation for a stable western livestock industry. And now I regret I've forgotten the first part of your question, if you
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Laughter.]
Mr. SHADEGG. That's all right; that answer, I think, adequately covered it. Let me justbecause I'm going to run out of time here in a minutethere are many people in my district, which is an urban district in the West, who have become persuaded that grazing on public lands is simply an idea who's time has come and gone and that grazing is, in fact, bad for public lands, period. They'd like to see it completely gone. The responsible ranchers that I know in Arizona say, to the contrary, that the evidence is quite clear that, managed properly, grazing is actually very good for the land and, indeed, improves its condition. Would you agree with the latter sentiment and do you have, or does the Bureau have, studies which you could cite for my use to try to make that point with those who are taking the other view?
Mr. SHARPE. I think that livestock use can benefit the land. You have to be specific as to what vegetation, what livestock use, the pattern of use, the precise situation. One of the difficulties in this entire business is that the truths are specific and the myths are general. And trying to
Mr. SHADEGG. Well said.
Mr. SHARPE. [continuing] get the two together, trying to bridge that gap is always difficult. That, specifically, is the genius of a collaborative approach. If we can get people with very different viewpoints, people who embrace very different myths or senses of the world, together looking, in detail, at the same piece of turf and learning to see what's there and understand the biological processes through the same set of lenses, then the disagreement, the perceived conflict, tends to dissolve.
Mr. SHADEGG. And the last part of the question was, can you provide me or are you aware of studies that the Bureau has underway that begin to make this case: that done properly, grazing, in fact, benefits the land?
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. I am not aware of specific studies. We will certainly look into that, do a quick literature search, and provide the information for you.
Mr. SHADEGG. That would be very helpful.
Mr. SHARPE. Be happy to do
Mr. SHADEGG. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mr. Sharpe submitted the following information:
The Bureau of Land Management has not done any recent studies on the issue of the benefits of livestock grazing to the land, nor do we have any underway at this time.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. We'll now turn 5 minutes to Mr. Hill from Montana, followed by the Republican side by Chenoweth, Hefley, and Gilchrest. We'll also get to Mrs. Green on the Democratic side.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Sharpe.
One of the issues, or at least when we hear complaints with regard to dramatic changes in land management decisions by the BLM, it often has to do with aspects of the Endangered Species Act. Would you agree with that?
Mr. SHARPE. That certainly is one of the factors at work here.
Mr. HILL. There are many who would want to reform the Endangered Species Act, including I think Mr. Babbitt has made some positive statements about putting greater emphasis on making land management decisions as part of recovery planning. In other words, one of the things that's occurring today is that you, evidently, are making arbitrary or rather short-term decisions with regard to land management's decisions involving leases. Or there really is no recovery plan. It's just a sense that there could be some threat to habitat. Do you think that those sorts of changes would be constructive in terms of helping you in cooperating with ranchers if we could put greater emphasis on the recovery plan before we made those land management decisions?
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. I'm not in a position to speak to questions about potential amendments to revisions of the Endangered Species Act. That falls quite beyond my purview and beyond my expertise.
Mr. HILL. But your
Mr. SHARPE. I would say that in terms of responding to our statutory and, I think, moral mandate to provide for protection for threatened and endangered species and their habitat, there are at least two important steps. The first step is to try to stabilize the situation when we have a situation of current jeopardy, so that we are certain that we are not further jeopardizing that species or that population. I think that the second step has to do with more comprehensive, systemic recovery planning. This often involves the development of recovery plans that involve public and private ownerships working together within a larger scheme designed to provide for the endangered species and its recovery in ways that make best use of the available resources and do impose the fewest constraints on other human uses. And, certainly, that's the direction in which society would want to move over the longer run.
Mr. HILL. One of the complaints that I hear is that decisions are being made without good science and good data. In other words, the monitoring is done for a short period of time and then decisions are being made on the basis of relatively short or small amounts of data, I guess I would say. Do you have criteria within the agency with regard to how long monitoring ought to take place, what the quality of the data ought to be before you make significant changes in terms of AUMs or utilization?
Mr. SHARPE. Monitoring within the Bureau is conducted in a variety of fashions, depending on the area, depending on the state and the resource conditions. In each case, it follows methodologies that have been developed by range scientists within the universities' faculties and adopted specifically by BLM and detailed within our internal technical references and other publications. This is not an activity that is conducted casually. It is firmly based in good science. There are ongoing arguments over the methodology to be used. There are a great many methodologies out there; each one has its adherent and no one methodology is appropriate to all circumstances and no one methodology meets with the full approval of all observers.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But we are quite confident that our monitoring is conducted according to sound scientific principles, and the duration of monitoring, before decisions are made, is typically 5 to 10 years. The state that has rendered the largest number of decisions in recent years is Nevada, and I'm told by our staff that in most of the cases the decisions are based on at least 10 years of monitoring.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. We have a vote on, and I would like to acknowledge Mrs. Chenoweth. Before we go, we'll have time for her 5 minutes and then a vote, possibly two votes. I apologize to the witnesses. We don't have too much control on that so we'll stand in recess while we get through these votes and then we'll be back. Mrs. Chenoweth.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I am glad you're holding this hearing and I wish I could be here for the entire hearing, but I have to chair another hearing, and so I appreciate being able to participate for just a short time. Mr. Sharpe, are you familiar with the BLM satellite network?
Mr. SHARPE. I don't believe I am, by name.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK. On August 7, there was a broadcast from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's National Training Center in Phoenix. Does that ring a bell?
Mr. SHARPE. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK. They introduced the new Director, Mr. Shea, and he made mention of several interesting things that were on the satellite. And I know that you're here on behalf of Mr. Shea, and I wish he were here so I could ask him directly. But certain things he said I think we need to get on the record for his benefit to clarify. And I hope he didn't mean it as he apparently stated it. He stated that multiple use takes a back seat to ECA system management, and he went on to say, ''and we would add for our ranching and mining readers that vision does not include mere citizens having any established rights'' on these maps. I'm very disturbed about this because, certainly, the right to the allotments is an established right. It's not just a permitted right. And so I would very much appreciate hearing from Mr. Shea on that.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Furthermore, Mr. Shea indicated that, on this satellite network, that he was skeptical of the states taking over duties from the BLM, saying that oftentimes the states are too lax in their enforcement responsibilities and in enforcing rules set up by the central government.
And then the third thing was that Mr. Shea indicated, that if any elected officials gave any employee of the BLM any guff, he called it, he will not stand for that and that he wants to know right away and he will put a stop to it. I'd like to know what he means by ''guff,'' and I would like to hear from him on that because there will not be one minute that I will neglect my oversight duties on the responsibility given to me to oversee what the BLM is doing. I took a little umbrage at that, and so I would very much appreciate hearing from Mr. Shea on that, Mr. Sharpe.
Mr. SHARPE. I'll be happy to communicate that to the Director.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Mr. SHARPE. I think there's been some difficulty in communication here. Those things do not sound like the Director that I think I know. I did not hear that broadcast myself.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. That's good and
Mr. SHARPE. So I can't speak to it directly, but I think that some additional conversation may make you feel a good deal better.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And my door is very open to get to know him better because that's not a good start and I'm certain something must have been lacking in the communication.
Mr. Chairman, I wonder if I could submit for the record my opening statement and also the testimony of Mr. Chad Gibson.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, all opening statement will be part of the record.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mrs. Chenoweth follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. HELEN CHENOWETH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
I want to thank the Chairman for holding this hearing on an issue of great concern to me, the recent and disturbing trends we are seeing on BLM lands with regard to grazing allotments. A substantial portion of my district, the Owyhee and Bruneau resource areas, depend on their ability to use by permit and by right BLM lands for the grazing of their cattle. The future of their livelihoods, families, and communities are literally at stake with what is to me clearly an arbitrary reduction in grazing allotments.
One of my constituents, Dr. Chad Gibson, was to testify today on this critical issue, but was unavoidably detained. However, he has offered his written testimony for the review of the Committee. Dr. Gibson has had over three decades experience studying the conditions of the range and how BLM policies affect those conditions. I know of no other more knowledgeable person in this issue than Dr. Gibson, and I strongly recommend the members of the Committee, and also the BLM, study and take into account Dr. Gibson's revealing observations. In fact, his comments center around how the lack of monitoring by the BLMone of the key issues we will be looking at in this hearingadversely impacts not only the agency's ability to accurately assess the conditions of the range, but also the trust that must exist between the agency and the people who have a stake in the use of the land.
Mr. Chairman, monitoring is the essential element of good land management. If the BLM is not properly monitoring the land, or they are not taking into account data collected by the county and other state agencies who monitor the land, then the agency is simply incapable of making good land management policy. It also means that the information that it does publish is incomplete, and thus incapacitates the ability for that agency to even conduct a legitimate public discussion.
Mr. Chairman, this notion is very troubling, especially in light of the fact that the BLM is basing its reasoning for across the board reductions in grazing allotments on this incomplete or inaccurate data. It leads me to believe that the reasoning behind the reduction of AUMs has little or nothing to do with science. Rather, it appears to be the result of a political agenda that has infiltrated the basic decision-making process of the BLM. Somehow, and tragically, over the past few years, officials within the BLM have become less of land managers, and more of people policers. Its way of managing the land is to cut humans, or citizens, out of the use of the land. This is not what Congress intended, and in my opinion, is an outright violation of established rights.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, for the sake of the health of the land and of the people who depend on that land, we need to get to the bottom of this issue. I anticipate that this hearing will continue to shed light on these problems. It is my hope and goal that we take this issue out of the political advocacy realm and back into a scientific and lawful realm where it belongs. That is the message that this Administration needs to hear.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gibson follows:]
STATEMENT OF DR. CHAD C. GIBSON, WILDER, IDAHO
Dear Chairman Hansen:
Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony to your Committee. I hope these comments will help you understand the impact of regulatory abuse on livestock grazing preference rights and the continued viability of public land ranches in Owyhee County, Idaho. I am sorry that I was unable to be present to answer questions. I would be happy to respond by telephone or in writing if you would like clarification or additional information.
By way of introduction I am a County Extension Educator with the University of Idaho stationed in Owyhee County. I specialize in range and beef cattle management and public policy, working closely with the Owyhee County Commissioners, Land Use Planning Committee and the Owyhee Cattlemen's Association. My concern for the subject of your hearing comes from my work and my interest in ranch here in Idaho belonging to my mother. I was raised on a ranch and have remained active in the management of the home ranch since that time.
Owyhee County Idaho has 250 cattlemen operating ranches over nearly five million acres. The Bureau of Land Management administers 74 percent of the surface area of the county and about 70 percent of the livestock in our county are dependent upon use of the public lands. Consequently, the County has a significant interest in the administration of those lands. I would like to focus my comments on a number of areas of regulatory abuse resulting in reductions in livestock grazing use on the public lands of Owyhee County. These areas include land use planning, faulty monitoring and junk science, arbitrary terms and conditions, coercion resulting from alleged violations, and a lack of meaningful Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination. I will also offer a suggestion for correcting some of these negative approaches to administration and management of the public lands.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Land Use Planning
In November 1996 the BLM Owyhee Resource Area released a draft EIS for the Owyhee Resource Management Plan. It contained four alternatives for management. One alternative was to continue management under the existing 1981 Management Framework Plan. This is a standard practice for the no-action alternative and such alternatives are never given serious consideration. A second alternative (B) was developed by Owyhee County. This alternative was developed with emphasis on rangeland health and multiple use and was developed with input from an array of multiple users. This alternative was presented in the BLM's EIS in an extremely negative manner and was given a heavily biased and inaccurate negative evaluation of environmental consequences. It appears that the biased and inaccurate negative interpretation and analysis was intended to slant public opinion against the alternative. A third alternative (C) was developed by the BLM staff and was termed the staff preferred alternative. This alternative was presented in the most positive manner possible with biased and inaccurate positive evaluations of environmental consequences. Again the apparent intent was to sway public review in favor of this alternative. The fourth alternative (D) was proposed by the ''desert group'' made up of environmental groups opposed to grazing. It also was presented in the EIS in a generally favorable manner.
The BLM staff alternative (C) was chosen as the preferred alternative in the draft EIS. This alternative establishes initial stocking levels 35 percent below current authorizations. The document contained no justification for this proposal. The 35 percent reduction was arrived at by proposing to close all allotments, with riparian areas estimated to be in less than good condition, to grazing after July 15. The closure would not apply where approved and implemented grazing plans to address riparian issues were in place. The actual reduction ranged from 25 percent to 85 percent for the 40 affected allotments. When it takes 2 or 3 years to get clearance to install livestock management facilities, there is no possible way even one of the allotments could meet the ''approved and implemented management plan'' criteria. Even if an individual plan could be implemented in a timely manner, it would be impossible to complete all 40 of them in 2 years. Additionally the remoteness of many allotments and the roughness of the country would prohibit even turning cattle out if they would have to be gathered and taken off the allotment within a month and in some cases within 6 weeks. Since most of the turnout dates are within 2 to 6 weeks of the closure date the permittees would simply not be able to use the allotment, resulting in a 100 percent reduction in use.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is an example of where the BLM knows full well the criteria in the preferred alternative could not be achieved and would result in significant economic harm to the affected ranches (small businesses). This action is proposed without regard to current condition and trend of riparian areas. Many of the streams involved have only 1978 inventory data and many more have very limited and mostly subjective estimates of current condition and trend. In many cases there is reliable data demonstrating significant improvement and upward trends on the affected stream and riparian segments. This blanket reduction approach was selected as the preferred alternative and the bureau rejected the Owyhee County proposal in Alternative C. Owyhee County proposed to develop site specific allotment management plans based on current and comprehensive monitoring data which would adequately consider the livestock use constraints encountered by permittees.
While the planning process in not yet complete, the bias of the agency in trying to manipulate the public process in an effort to gain support for unjustified cuts in use is fully demonstrated in the planning process up to this point.
This example also demonstrates regulatory abuse based on unreliable, cursory, heavily biased, and largely subjective monitoring, combined with junk science. Much of the monitoring data is old (1978), based on potentially biased observations of, often, irrelevant factors, and in some cases good information is improperly interpreted. The national riparian assessment team made up of the most knowledgeable people in the BLM, USFS and other Federal and State agencies completely discredits one size fits all management such as the July 15 closure, utilization and stubble height standards. They advocate site specific management plans considering all of the climatic, soils, hydrologic, vegetation, upland landscape, and grazing use factors for each site. Such programs have demonstrated repeatedly that site specific management plans are effective. This is precisely the process proposed by Owyhee County that was totally rejected by the bureau. Contentions that seasonal closures are the only answer is simply junk science.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Inaccurate and Inappropriate Monitoring
I have personally been involved in disputes over monitoring results and the application of those results toward reductions in grazing use. In two specific cases BLM personnel performed utilization studies and indicated to the permittee that livestock would have to be moved to the next pasture in the rotation. Moving early from one pasture means that more time will be spent in other units or that cattle will have to be taken off of an allotment early. Early removal results in a cut in livestock grazing use. Upon investigation of the first instance we were able to confirm with a different BLM staff member that the utilization estimates were of the magnitude of 2.5 times the actual use which had been made. The BLM withdrew it's demand that livestock be moved out of the pasture in question. In the second case BLM staff agreed that the field studies of utilization were significantly higher than actual use and again withdrew a demand to move livestock.
Often land management agencies are so choked with red tape and paper work that they resort to use or blanket performance standards (junk science) for making decisions instead of relying on appropriate monitoring information. Proper and useful monitoring takes time away from meeting the paper work and red tape demands typical of a bureaucracy. In many of these cases the paper work and red tape take precedent and the appropriate monitoring is not done. Misplaced priorities lead to inappropriate standards and increased subjective observation of often irrelevant parameters. In such situations, individual biases and prejudices form the basis for decisions because objective and meaningful data is no longer available. Regulatory abuse is most often a product of the inability of a bureaucracy to maintain their statutory function as their primary objective because the focus changes from specific results to fulfilling procedural and paperwork requirements. Regardless of the reason, regulatory abuse occurs on a daily basis and in the case of the Bureau of Land Management many of the abuses result in economic harm to permittees through unjustified reductions in grazing use.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Improper and unworkable terms and conditions on grazing permits or leases
The new rangeland reform regulations allow an authorized officer, by decision, to place any term and condition on a grazing permit which he feels is appropriate. The new regulations also require a permittee to accept those terms and conditions or forfeit their grazing preference right. Unless a permittee is willing and financially able to initiate an enormously expensive request for stay of the decision, the regulations require that permittees live with the decision during the appeal process. In any case, regulatory abuse through imposition of punitive or unrealistic terms and conditions place extreme financial burdens on permittees.
During 1996 the BLM Boise District re-issued term grazing permits to nearly all of the permittees in the district. In many instances the terms and conditions on those permits were impossible to achieve or were simply inappropriate. Many permits contained a term and condition for leaving a 4 inch stubble height at the end of the growing season on specified riparian areas. Some allotments operating under a rotational grazing system will without doubt violate this term and condition in the years riparian pastures are used late in the season. This term and condition was imposed on every permit in the Owyhee Resource Area where the identified stream segments occurred. Allotments with demonstrated high rates of improvement in riparian areas and allotments with stream segments where stubble height is clearly an inappropriate standard all had the same term and condition applied. The National Riparian Assessment Team of experts favor site specific management plans and reject exactly the blanket one size fits all kind of management resulting from this term and condition.
Most term permits contained a requirement for obtaining a ''trailing permit'' any time livestock are moved on public lands. There is no reference in the law to any kind of ''trailing permit.'' A permittee could not move a sick animal to a different pasture or even back onto private land without first obtaining permission from BLM. Even moving strayed livestock from one allotment or pasture to their proper place of use requires prior BLM authorization under this term and condition.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another term and condition prohibits salting within one quarter mile of any riparian area or wetland. In some allotments one cannot find a location that meets this criteria.
The term permits also contain a requirement that all grazing be in accordance with a grazing schematic showing each pasture and dates of planned use for the allotment. There have been many instances where the BLM has pursued alleged trespass actions against permittees when a few, or even one animal, is found in a pasture outside of the dates listed on the schematic, even though livestock are within the allotment. Alleged trespass actions are initiated regardless of the reason an animal is outside of the use area on the schematic. Gates are frequently encountered along public use roads passing through pastures. Such gates are often left open by passersby allowing livestock to stray into unplanned use areas. Fences in good repair at the beginning of a use period are frequently broken by wildlife activity and storm events, again allowing unplanned livestock movement. However, permittees often face alleged trespass prosecution regardless of the reason for livestock escaping the assigned use area and regardless of how much effort was made to prevent it.
The new regulations allow an authorized officer to suspend in whole or in part a grazing preference for any violation of the terms and conditions of a grazing permit or lease. Arbitrarily placing terms and conditions on a permit or lease which the authorized officer knows cannot be met provides an avenue for regulatory abuse which is perfectly legal under rangeland reform regulations.
Resolution procedures for alleged violation of terms and conditions
There are many instances where a violation of terms and conditions actions against a permittee is settled through agreement. Such agreements take on the appearance of extortion or blackmail. The fact that a permittee could in no way prevent the violation does not prevent settlement by agreement. One permittee was forced to give up an established Allotment Management Plan in favor of annual management decisions by BLM in order to avoid further action for an alleged violation. One permittee was asked to assume maintenance responsibility for a fence previously the responsibility of BLM. Another permittee was asked to build and maintain a new fence to avoid further action. Permittees are often asked to reduce or change grazing use in order to avoid further action. Since legal action to fight an accusation of violation is extremely expensive, permittees often take the only avenue they can afford by agreeing to a settlement. Arbitrary terms and conditions provide a legal vehicle for regulatory abuse through arbitrary resolution of alleged violations.
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Fundamentals of rangeland health and grazing administration guidelines
The BLM Owyhee Resource Area has just released their process for addressing rangeland health through the standards and guidelines procedures. The initial process is prioritizing allotments and the second procedure is determinations of whether an allotment is meeting or progressing toward meeting the standards and guidelines. In both cases the last step in the process is Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination. The next two procedures are the selection of appropriate action and implementation of selected actions. Neither of these procedures even include Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination. It is very apparent that the program for implementing the rangeland health standards and guidelines will not include CCC with the permittees who have investments in preference right, who have intermingled private lands and or state lease lands and who depend on use of the public land for the viability of their ranching operations. It hardly seems credible that the current governing Federal statutes support this kind of regulatory procedure.
Curbing regulatory abuse through restoration of accountability
There are four primary administrative situations which lend themselves to regulatory abuse. They have been enhanced if not legalized by the new rangeland reform grazing regulations. (1) Inadequate or faulty range monitoring and use of junk science to support agenda driven decisions. (2) Authority to impose arbitrary terms and conditions on term grazing permits. (3) Accusations of violation of terms and conditions on grazing permits or leases must be disproved by the accused. (4) Legal recourse for bad decisions is limited to very expensive litigation.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Most of these situations leading to regulatory abuse could be corrected simply by requiring that an agency or proponent of a rule or order assume the burden of proof (accountability). This would significantly reduce the use of inadequate monitoring information and junk science. It would insure that terms and conditions imposed on term grazing permits or leases are achievable and scientifically sound. It would insure that accusations of violation of terms and conditions would have a demonstrably reliable basis. And it would significantly reduce the cost of legal challenges to improper decisions. I believe the appropriate language was developed in 1996 in one of the versions of H.R. 1713 which failed to gain approval in the House. ''When a grazing decision is appealed to an administrative law judge, the burden of proof shall be on the proponent of the rule or order. The standard of proof shall be by a preponderance of evidence in the record as a whole.'' If this language were made statutory, the regulatory abuses to which permittees and lessees are frequently subjected would be significantly reduced.
Please accept my sincere thanks for the opportunity to present these comments before your Committee.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Mr. Sharpe, in the Owyhee resource plan it is proposed that there be a 35 percent reduction below current authorizations, and in some cases the actual reduction was 85 percent. In your testimony, you contend that the cuts in the AUMs by the BLM have been negligible in their effects, and I'm concerned about that. I'd like for you and Mr. Shey to take a personal look at that because there's no way that our operators can operate on that kind of margin.
And, furthermore, in the Owyhee RMP, I consulted with a national assessment team made up of people from the BLM, the Forest Service, and other Federal and state agencies who examined the data that the BLM utilized in this alternative. And they found that it was a staff model and that the data that was used to support the management changes was as old as 1978, and that doesn't give us a very good analysis of what the range conditions are today because the range conditions have continued to improve, even through our drought years. And so, I would very much appreciate your looking into that and maybe when I meet with you or Mr. Shey, we can go over that.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And then, finally, Mr. Sharpe, and Mr. Chairman, Dr. Gibson in his testimony has asked some questions that I will not be able to, because my time is running out. And I just wonder if I can submit that to the Committee to ask the questions on behalf of me.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, we'll take that and send it to the Department for questions. Do you want to respond to that, Mr. Sharpe?
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SHARPE. I'd like to respond, particularly on one point, very briefly. And that is, that we understand that restrictions on grazing use are imposed on particular places. They're not spread evenly across the West, and we understand that, as a result, individual operators, individual allotments may be seriously impacted by these adjustments. There is no one in the Bureau, certainly no one at the field level, who does not take those impacts very, very seriously. Area managers agonize, they stay awake nights, before making a decision that it is necessary to impose serious reductions on grazing use on an individual operator. Those are difficult decisions to make for very human reasons, and we don't do that lightly. We do understand that people are affected.
Mr. HANSEN. We're going to run out of time here, so I think we're going to have to go
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Chairman, I, with your indulgence, I just want to add, though, that they are human decisions and humans make mistakes. But I would appreciate very much that they evaluate the range condition based on today's standards. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. We'll stand in recess. We have one vote on right now; we may have another one, and I don't know what's going to happen. I apologize. It's above my pay grade to control the floor, so enjoy yourselves. We'll try to get back as soon as we can.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Recess.]
Mr. GILCHREST. [presiding] The hearing will come to order. A vote is still going on, but I would assume that some other members will return here shortly, although the full Committee is having their hearing with Carol Browner, Bruce Babbitt, and Dan Glickman. So, that might have upstaged us, I'm not sure, although we still have Mr. Sharpe, which I think supersedes all those three people, and some cattlemen in the audience, I'm sure.
Mr. GILCHREST. And, to the cattlemen, I offer you some comfort, even though I'm from Maryland, I guess considered the East, and I'm in eastern Maryland, to boot. But I have a couple old horses so that'll balance some of this out.
Mr. Sharpe, did you have a chance to look at, or are you in any way familiar with, the bill that came out of the Agricultue Committee dealing with grazing?
Mr. SHARPE. I testified at a hearing that was held on that bill, although, because we had not received a copy of the bill prior to the hearing, my testimony was in the nature of background, in effect, on the Bureau's range management program, rather than testimony on the bill. Subsequent to that hearing, the Secretary of Interior, Secretary Babbitt, sent a letter to Chairman Smith in which he shared with the Chairman the Secretary's, the Department's view on and objections, concerns about, that draft legislation. I have a copy of that with me if you would like to have that. It's certainly part of the public record.
Mr. GILCHREST. Could you, then, in the short time that we have, could you tell us some of your reservations or Mr. Babbitt's reservations to the bill as compared to the kind of management tools or reforms you now use?
Mr. SHARPE. Well, most fundamentally, I think it's fair to say that the view of the Department and the view of the Secretary is that, as I noted in my testimony, that BLM's range management program is working. That it is not broken, it does not need to be fixed. We think that range management is proceeding extremely well across the West through the implementation of the 1995 regulations. We have created, as I noted, a system of resource advisory councils that covers the West to provide focus for state and local level input from the full array of interests concerned with public land management.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. It
Mr. SHARPE. Commodity interests, recreationists, environmentalists, wildlife folks, Native Americans, state and local government, everyone's at the table; they're talking together; they're focused on the land locally
Mr. GILCHREST. So, with what you know about the bill, how would that change what's happening now?
Mr. SHARPE. Well, the bill would change the structure ofamong other thingsthe resource advisory councils, so that they were advisory to both the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior, covering the National Forest System as well as the lands managed by BLM.
Mr. GILCHREST. So, that doesn't happen now?
Mr. SHARPE. No, it does not. The resource advisory councils are unique to BLM at present.
Mr. GILCHREST. Are there any resource
Mr. SHARPE. We think they are a very good idea, but we don't think that this is an appropriate time to, in effect, upset the apple cart.
Mr. GILCHREST. Are there any resource advisory councilsI guess you just answered my question. In other words, there are no resource advisory councils as far as grazing is concerned for the Department of Agriculture?
Mr. SHARPE. I believe that to be true.
Mr. GILCHREST. And the resource advisory councils that you now have in place for BLM, in your judgment work, are working very well?
Mr. SHARPE. Yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Wouldn't they act as a positive example of how things could be done for the Department of Agriculture as well, andwell, I guess they wouldif you're thinking they're working well now for BLM, they would probably work well for the Department of Agriculture.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. I think that they are a positive example. I think they provide a model from which other agencies could profit. However
Mr. GILCHREST. What would the
Mr. SHARPE. [continuing] in terms of the impact on BLM, we would hate to enter into a period of turmoil and uncertainty and change as a result of new legislation and the requirement to draft new regulations and, in the case of the resource advisory councils, a change in their makeup and their scope and their structure at the very time
Mr. GILCHREST. So is that
Mr. SHARPE. [continuing] when we have a new mechanism that is working
Mr. GILCHREST. So, you're saying the bill
Mr. SHARPE. [continuing] very effectively.
Mr GILCHREST. [continuing] the bill would not reflect the mechanism that is now in place; it would change the resource advisory councils?
Mr. SHARPE. As I understand the bill, it would substantially change the resource advisory councils because their scope would be different; an additional array of interests would be brought to the table, logically people whose primary interest is the National Forest system as opposed to the BLM public lands. There would undoubtedly be need for changes in the personnel who are the membership of the resource advisory councils. I'm afraid that there would be a serious loss of momentum for the resource advisory councils that we now have in place and we don't think that the business of managing the public lands can tolerate that sort of loss of current momentum.
Mr GILCHREST. I guess I'll have to take a close look at what you do now and how it would be changed by this bill. Is therecould youI just have one more question. Could you tell me something about the kind of grass that is grazed on now, whether it's onwell, I guess you can speak to BLM land, as opposed to grass that was grazed on by horses or indigenous species 300 years ago. And is there a difference as far as nutrient to the animal is concerned? Is there a difference between the indigenous grasses and non-indigenous grasses to the region as far as the soil is concerned, runoff is concerned, things like that?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHARPE. At some peril to veracity, I will venture a gross overgeneralization.
Mr GILCHREST. Oh.
Mr. SHARPE. By and large, across the arid and semiarid lands that the Bureau manages in the West, the native vegetation is typically an array of native shrubs, sagebrush, for example, and interspersed bunch grasses. The species of grasses that provide much of the forage base currently are, by and large, the same species that were there hundreds of years ago in pre-Columbian time, if you will, and for the reason that they are the species that have evolved on those sites under those climatic conditions and are best adapted to those sites. They are, by and large, perennial bunch grasses. Again, across the West, at the risk of overgeneralization, with the influence of European man's use of these lands, there has been, on a great many sites, a loss ofa degradation of the quality of the rangeland involving typically a loss of the perennial grasses and their replacement by annuals, and their replacement, furthermore, by a variety of shrub and woody speciespinon juniper over a great deal of the hotter portion of the West, for example. Those species are, by and large, not as effective at holding the soil in place, providing for capture and rainfall and infiltration. Erosion tends to go up and total productivity for livestock use or for wildlife tends to go down. The exercise that the Bureau's managers are engaged in, in terms of trying to adapt management in order to help restore the full productive capacity, or something closer to the full potential productive capacity at these rangelands, is very largely a process of trying to reverse that trend away from perennials and toward annuals and woody species.
Mr GILCHREST. Is that being successful?
Mr. SHARPE. Slowly. It is a slow process. That's one of the fundamental points that we Easterners often have trouble grasping about these lands.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr GILCHREST. Are you from Maryland?
Mr. SHARPE. I'm from Virginia.
Mr GILCHREST. Oh, Virginia.
Mr. SHARPE. Virginia, originally.
Mr GILCHREST. But it's the
Mr. SHARPE. These are arid and semiarid systems. On the uplands, in particular, the vast majority of the acreage, the rate of recovery, the rate of change, tends to be very, very slow. So, the public expectations for rapid change, for a dramatic recovery, with a change in management, are, by and large, misplaced. Nature does not allow for that.
Mr GILCHREST. Is it a specific policy of Interior to plant these native bunch grasses? And then, if it is, and you do that, how does that impact the present allotment system in areas that need the native grasses?
Mr. SHARPE. We are not, by and large, in the business of planting rangelands extensively. However, we are in the business, frequently, of trying to reseed post-fire where there is not an adequate seed stock available in the soil or in the area to get sufficiently rapid reseeding of vegetation to protect the soil. The soil is the most fundamental element in the equation and we've got to make sure that the soil stays there.
So, typically, post-fire, as in Utah this past year, for example, we may go in and seed either mechanically or aerially across vast expanses of acreage. In those cases, the policy is now to try to reseed with a mixture of native seeds and, in some cases, exotics, including primarily crested wheat grass, which regenerates very quickly and establishes itself very efficiently and is effective at holding the soil. But, we make sure now that the seed for native plants, including shrub species, is within the seed mix, so that over time, as competition takes place among the seeded species, the total mix of vegetation on the rangeland will be dominated by native species and much as it was before.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr GILCHREST. Thank you. We, unfortunately, have another vote. And I think what I'll dofirst of all, Mr. Sharpe, I want to thank for coming to testify before the Committee, and we appreciate the information that you've exchanged with us. I will run overI think I'm going to run over and vote. You have another 10-minute break, but I'll come right back and then we'll start with Mr. Flake, Mr. Menges, and Mr. AtkinNevada, Arizona and Utah. And, hopefully, we'll have enough time to finish your testimony. Thank you very much. We'll recess for 10 minutes.
Mr. HANSEN. [presiding] We have finished with panel one, Mr. Sharpe, and the second panel, and I apologize for keeping you folks waiting, but it's probably going to go on all day: Mr. Ray Flake, Nevada County Commissioner of Ely County, if you'd like to come up? Jeff Menges, Chairman of Federal Lands Committee, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Brett Atkins, President of Public Lands Council from St. George, Utah. Where's Brett? Send the Saint Bernards out to find him. Well, Brett Atkins will go third then. And, Mr. Flake, we appreciate you being here and we'll turn the time to you. I apologize, members will be coming in and out because it's just one of those days. So, if, Mr. Flake, you go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF RAY FLAKE, LINCOLN COUNTY COMMISSIONER, STATE OF NEVADA
Mr. FLAKE.. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I'm here today representing People for the West, as well as Lincoln County Commission.
Our organization, the People for the West organization, advocates responsible, multiple use of public lands, balanced solutions to environmental issues, and protection of private property rights. I'm a lifetime rancher and I strive to be an active environmentalist. I like to say that I'm an active environmental, not an environmental activist. I appreciate the interest of this Subcommittee and the time spent to listen to our concerns.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Lincoln County is 98.2 percent public land. As you can realize, it's a real struggle to provide services to citizens of a county in a large area with 1.8 percent of the land for a tax base. Public land grazing is of vital importance to us. Every AUM lost is not only a loss to the individual permittee, but a loss to the community as well. In the Ely BLM district, of which Lincoln County is a part, AUM numbers are down 30 percent since 1980. This represents a loss in permit value of $3 million and an annual direct economic loss to the livestock sector of $1.9 million. When this is factored into the turnover of money, this represents an annual loss to the communities involved of nearly $4 million.
In my testimony, I've outlined four areas of concerns and examples of AUM losses. No. 1, improper and incomplete range monitoring. BLM personnel are constantly changing. Monitoring methodologies are constantly changing and are not consistent from one district to the next. Overutilization of forage is frequently cited as a problem, but valid justification is not always provided. Regardless, reduction in cattle AUMs is the result. In my opinion, the problems found are often the result of improper livestock distribution and control and not overutilization. Distribution problems are best solved with water developments and more intensive management and not just by reducing numbers. Unfortunately, the policy seems to be just make cuts without attempting to solve the real problems.
No. 2, the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan. As a result of designation of critical habitat for the endangeredNevada County Commissioner of Ely Countydesert tortoise, many of the permittees in Southern Lincoln County and Northern Clark County have been so severely impacted as to nearly put them out of business by a full-force-and-effect decision issued by the BLM which removes livestock from the range from March 1 through June 15 each year, and has closed some allotments altogether. Currently, the BLM and the Callyanty Office is preparing a recovery plan that will close over 1,000 square miles in Lincoln County to a single-use desert tortoise habitatall this based on flawed and inaccurate data.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The recover plan affects 19 allotments, 25 permittees, over 900,000 acres in 37,000 AUMs in Lincoln County. No scientific evidence has been given to prove that cows are harmful to the desert tortoise. In fact, studies show they seem to do better in the areas where cows are grazed.
No. 3, the Wild Horse and Burro Act and its management and problems. The wild horse and burro numbers in Nevada have grown to such proportion as to cause serious degradation of the public lands in many areas. In these areas, the rancher has no choice but to reduce his cattle numbers to keep from causing and adding to the damage to the resource. These voluntary reductions would not be necessary if the BLM kept the wild horse population at the numbers they themselves have established. Frequently, even though wild horses and burros are the source of damage, only reductions in cattle AUMs are required. It's easier to write a letter to the permittee and tell him to remove cattle than it is to get horses off the range.
Nevada is home to over 20,000, or 60 percent, of the Nation's wild horses, yet Nevada receives only about 20 percent of the wild horse and burro budget. Funding deficiencies are partly to blame for the BLM's lack of action but, even when ranchers volunteer to help the BLM solve this problem, their help is refused. The wild horse and burro program should be a quality program and not a quantity one.
No. 4, probable AUM loss due to BLM acquisition of water rights. In Lincoln County, most water rights are tied tomost grazing rights are tied to water, rather than to private property, a piece of land as such. In Nevada, as well as other states, water rights can only be held in perpetuity if the user can continuously prove beneficial use. As a result of range reform, the BLM has applied for stock watering rights and some of these actions have been denied, and they've filed suit in Nevada for this reason. Why, after 50 years, without water rights does the BLM suddenly need them to manage public land? I'm also concerned with the BLM's attempts to gain ownership interest in privately held water rights.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm concerned about the overall direction of the BLM, the continued erosion of AUMs; a little here and a little there adds up to be an enormous impact on the local communities. Overregulation and micromanagement handed down from Washington bureaucrats undermines the local BLM employees' ability to make sound decisions. We must double and redouble our efforts for local, community-based consensus-building land management. We challenge you, our elected representatives, to review BLM policies in order to remove unnecessary regulation and eliminate top-down micromanagement from Washington, DC and to insist that BLM policies respect state laws and our individual property rights. These policies must protect the local citizens' opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. The continued loss of AUMs harms ranchers and their families and the communities. It also harms the public land because it eliminates the ranchers' continual monitoring stewardship, improvements, protection, and maintenance of the range itself.
There's been a lot of talk that public lands, ranchers, are welfare ranchers. But I tell you there is no such thing as a welfare rancher until he is literally out of business and standing in the welfare lines. If AUMs continue to be lost at the current rate, ranchers will be on welfare all right, but they won't be ranchers anymore. Thank you.
[The statement of Mr. Flake may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Commissioner.
STATEMENT OF MR. JEFF MENGES, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL LANDS COMMITTEE, NATIONAL CATTLEMEN'S BEEF ASSOCIATION
Mr. MENGES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name's Jeff Menges. I'm chairman of the Federal Lands Committee for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. My family and I currently have three BLM allotments and, although it is too soon to determine the impact of Secretary Babbitt's Rangeland Reform grazing regulations, I have found the BLM to be basically a reasonable agency to deal with. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ranch profitably on the public lands, and today I would like to articulate some of the problems public land ranchers face, and offer some possible solutions for those problems.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Implementation of the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the BLM is one major area of concern. We do not need two agencies duplicating administrative actions for the same purpose on the public lands. This is simply multiple layers of government working to accomplish the same result: protect and recover endangered plants and animals. These responsibilities could and should be administered by the land management agencies only. This would solve financial and administrative problems for both agencies.
Secretary Babbitt's grazing regulations required development of Grazing Standards and Guidelines which were required to address restoring, maintaining, or enhancing habitats of endangered species. Arizona's Standards and Guidelines were developed with input from the Resource Advisory Council and signed by the Secretary of the Interior. However, in the Draft Biological Opinion, for the BLM Safford and Tucson Field Offices in southeast Arizona, implementation of the Standards and Guidelines will be overridden by the terms and conditions in the Biological Opinion.
Our Smuggler Peak allotment is just one example. Since implementation of a winter grazing program on the Gila River pasture on the allotment in 1990, the riparian area in the pasture has been determined to be in ''proper functioning condition.'' This area will easily meet all requirements of the Standards and Guides. However, implementation of the terms and conditions of the Draft Biological Opinion will require complete removal of cattle from the riparian areas on my allotment and on 11 additional allotments. It further requires suspension of grazing on nine allotments, all to avoid habitat modification of habitat for pygmy owls.
Pygmy owls do not exist on any of these 21 allotments. It is not occupied habitat, nor has it been designated as critical habitat; yet, modification of this potential habitat for pygmy owls will be considered take. The resulting effect to the 21 permittees will be financially devastating as well as being contradictory to the Standards and Guidelines.
It is difficult to imagine any area that could not be considered potential habitat for some species that is listed, or may be listed, as endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs more avenues for local input. Expanding the BLM Resource Advisory Councils to include recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Service should be considered.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Standards and Guides require allotment evaluations. This will require accurate monitoring. In recent years, monitoring has been a low priority item that has not withstood the budget cuts. We believe that vegetation monitoring is very important and should be a high priority. We recommend making monitoring a line-item so that money that is appropriated for this purpose, will have to be spent accordingly.
Another major area of concern is the lack of accountability by state wildlife agencies for the impacts their actions have on the Federal lands. The number of elk on public lands have increased over 1,000 percent since 1960. There are also substantial increases for other big game species. Much of this increase can be attributed to livestock management and industry-initiated programs like the screwworm eradication effort, which have benefited wildlife as well as livestock. The result of these additional grazing wildlife has been reduction in available AUMs for livestock, without compensation to the permittees who pay for the use of the forage.
Some states provide depredation permits to compensate ranchers for loss of forage on private land. We would support expanding that system to include other lands. My suggestion is that state wildlife agencies should enter into MOUs with Federal agencies regarding resource outcomes. Local experts should be involved in determining the outcomes. They should also be held to strict levels of accountability, as Federal grazing permittees are for range condition and trend and for mitigating damage done to permittees, either in terms of private values diminished or private penalties imposed on permittees for failure to abide by his or her permit terms and conditions as a result of state wildlife agencies' action or inaction.
Temporary issuance of some type of permittee-owned hunting permits, to compensate the permittee for their economic loss could be an option. Some ways to achieve compliance from state wildlife agencies might include suspension of some portion of transfer payments from Federal Government to state wildlife agencies and making availability of Federal funds to state wildlife agencies contingent on compliance. Thank you.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Menges may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. I have an unanimous request, Mr. Bob Smith, to enter his statement as part of the record. Is there objection?
Hearing none, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bob Smith may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Atkins, the gentleman from St. George, Utah, I turn the time to you.
STATEMENT OF MR. BRENT ATKIN, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL
Mr. ATKIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the chance to testify today. I would like to talk today about some of the issues facing Federal lands ranchers with BLM allotments today that have arisen as a result of agency application of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. These laws were well-intentioned by Congress, but regulatory agencies have converted the mandates from these laws into some rather heavy regulatory burdens in situations where Congress never imagined that these laws would be used.
Earlier this year when grazing legislation was being considered by this Subcommittee, I had the opportunity to be out here with my son, T.J. You may remember that, Mr. Chairman. One day when we were in your office talking with you, T.J., who was 10 years old at the time, asked you, ''Congressman Hansen, what is the future of grazing livestock on public lands?'' Your answer was, ''I don't know.'' And I'm sure that was an honest and open answer. This is instability.
As a rancher and as a father, I would like to be able to tell my children that they will be able to continue our family's tradition of ranching and feel good about it. As things are, I don't feel good about it because I don't know if it's true. After ranching for six generations, we have taken good care of the land, and in return, it has given us the ability to make a living doing what we love to do. It is really hard for me to remain optimistic about the future of my family's ranch today. This is really a shame because, regardless of the distorted half-truths and outright lies about the effects of grazing on public lands that some interest groups continue to propound, ranchers really are stewards of the land. Abusing the resource only hurts their ability to make a living.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In my 25 years of dealing with the Bureau, with the BLM, I am finding that more and more frequently land management decisions are being made based on factors not at all related to sound land management practices. They are being caused by the applications of other laws. Ranchers are anxiously awaiting the appellate decision in a 1996 court case called Oregon Natural Desert Association v. Chief Jack Ward Thomas, better known as the Camp Creek Case. In that case, an Oregon Federal District Court judge held that pollution caused by cattle grazing constitutes a discharge into navigable waters under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, and therefore, the Forest Service was required to get a state certification before issuing a grazing permit. The case is being considered by the Ninth Circuit.
If the Ninth Circuit upholds the original decision, this will mean, in essence, that livestock grazing is equivalent to a water treatment plant for the purposes of section 401. It would also mean that the EPA would become yet another partner agency with BLM to help manage the livestock grazing. This, again, is instability.
Likewise, the Clean Air Act is having adverse effects on proper land management. In some instances, burning of rangeland is necessary for proper management of some types of grasses and shrubs. The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service have adopted policies to improve the approval process of prescribed burns. The EPA is limiting these necessary management activities, citing clean air concerns. With the President recently announcing new particulate matter regulations, I can only guess that prescribed burning will become a thing of the past at some time. When that happens, the range conditions in areas where burning is appropriate will deteriorate, which will lead to reductions in AUMs available for grazing. This, again, is instability.
The National Historic Preservation Act is basically being implemented on public lands through Memoranda of Agreement between the states and BLM or the Forest Service. But there are many inconsistencies between these agreements. In Montana, for instance, areas that have been grazed for the past 100 years really aren't being adversely affected by archaeological restrictions. In California, however, the MOU is resulting in restrictions on areas containing lithic scatter, basically pieces of stone leftover from making arrowheads, even though these areas have also been grazed for many years. Having different standards on Federal lands in different states does not add to stability.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Considered one at a time, most of the negative effects from the laws that I have described could probably be manageable. However, these negative impacts are cumulative. By the time a rancher is facing requirements from three, four, five, or six different statutes, his ability to graze livestock on Federal land is uncertain, at best. The same situation is also faced by BLM. Agency employees spend more time consulting with other agencies on how to administer those agencies' laws and dealing with paperwork or appeals than they do actually doing the on-the-ground monitoring to safeguard the resource.
I know that it is unrealistic to think that these laws will ever be quickly changed to alleviate our problems. However, because most of the problems caused by these laws today are because of how the agencies are administering them, I don't think it would be unreasonable at all for the agencies to at least be able to work together in a manner that would allow both BLM and ranchers to do our jobs, rather than fill out papers and go to meetings. If the goal of BLM and ranchers is to protect, preserve, and improve the resource, which I think it is, then this kind of change is certainly needed.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Atkin may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. I get the impression you would rather be a rancher than fill out papers and go to meetings, is that right?
Mr. ATKIN. That's exactly right.
Mr. HANSEN. How often do you see BLM fellows out on the ground?
Mr. ATKIN. Well, if I make an appointment to go with them, I'll see them, but on a normal year we probably won't see our range con. maybe but once or twice throughout the whole year. Generally, that needs to be awe line up appointment to go look at some
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. So, maybe once or twice a year they come out to monitor things?
Mr. ATKIN. They're probably out there a little moreas far as our range con., I'm sure he's out there a little bit more than that. But, as far as us seeing him, actually I've only seen himI've only visited with him once in the last 2 or 3 years. My dad's, I think, seen him a couple of times. He's a good range con., too.
Mr. HANSEN. What affect has the environmental community had on your ranch, your ranching process?
Mr. ATKIN. Specifically, ours, in our operation, on our individual basis, probably the biggest effect that they've had right now is our headquarters is right on akind of the main road coming out there. And, instead of getting good decisions of land management, now the BLM, through pressure from the environmental community, wants to manage that main valley where our ranch headquarters is by perception, rather than if the publicand especially the environmental community doesn't perceive that it looks good, then they want us to move our cattle. It's had a upward trend for years. We've had the goal to help another species of grass come into there. There's more of that grass now than there ever was before, but yet, we've had a dry year or two and if it doesn'tisn't perceived by the public to look good, then they won'tthat's how they want to manage that valley.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Flake, I was a little disturbed about your comment where you said something about, if I got this right, that help from ranchers is always refused by the BLM for the wild horse and burro program. Can you elaborate on that?
Mr. FLAKE.. Yes, sir. If I could, thank you, by an example. Last year when we had a drought in our area and we wereit was determined to gather a lot of wild horses. And the cost, of course, of gathering these horses is very great, very large amount. In our area, I talked to them about the horses that needed to be gathered and they said that there was a limitation on finances. And I said, in our area, in our particular range, there's an area there where you can gather horses and have to drive them for 12 miles with a helicopter to get them out to where you can corral them and load them. I said, let's don't do it; let's just wait. They'll all come over on this side the hill and I can water trap them over here. And if you would give me permission, I would water trap these horses and tell you when I had them in.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I was toldit was told me that that contractor is paid a certain amount for gathering these horses and we don't care how much is costs him to gather them; he's paid so much to get them out. I said, you don't understand me. I would like to see more horses gathered and I'm willing to make a sacrifice and I would make the effort to water trap those horses myself and call you and tell you they're in.
The reply was, well, we have to have a load before we can haul them to the holding facilities.
I said, with your permission, I'd take them to my ranch and hold them with hay until I had a semi-load for you to take out.
And they said, well, we could never do that because the horse groups would not agree to it. Later, as I visited with the horse groups, they said that water trapping would be a way they would like to see horses gathered.
I would like to see more effort in that area, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice also. I realize there's budget constraints, but I'm willing to help. But you can't help where it's not
Mr. HANSEN. Commissioner, have you seen Representative Jim Gibbons' bill on wild horse and perils?
Mr. FLAKE.. I know of it some, but I haven't studied it any great deal. Sorry.
Mr. HANSEN. He wants to restrict the number of horses in each state to one herd ofI can't remember the amount of animalsto be watched very carefully by a veterinarian and hold it at one size because of the damage they do to riparian areas and areas such as that. You haven't looked at that in much detail yet?
Mr. FLAKE.. I have not, no.
Mr. HANSEN. I would very appreciate hearing a comment from you if you would get a chance to look at it. If you'd let me know, I'd kind of like to know because we will probably be doing a hearing on that bill and I'd kind of like to know where the western folks, the environmentalists, the cattlemen, everybody, ATV folks are coming from on that issue.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me ask Mr. Menges, you, in your testimony, talked about range allotment monitoring has been a very low priority of the BLM. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Mr. MENGES. Yes, sir. I've been on these allotments since 1979. Until about 6 years ago, the BLM did trend monitoring and utilization monitoring nearly every year. But then it was cut out, as the budget crisis got more intense; and they're saying there's just not enough money to go around to do that. We liked the monitoring. We've always contended that the rangelands are getting better and that monitoring did, in fact, reflect that. But now we're not getting it, and so we're much more vulnerable to them coming by with acoming out during a crisis.
For example, last year there was a severe drought down in our area. The BLM was getting hundreds of letter from people, environmental groups, I think, probably saying that a lot of damage is occurring out there, and so the BLM came out and did one-time assessments and then asked the ranchers to remove livestock ultimately. If we would have had monitoring data for the previous years to reflect that the rangelands were improving; then we'd have been on a stronger leg to stand.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. I hope you folks realize the warfare going on on the floor right now. Some of our friends want campaign reform, and I understand another vote is almost imminent. So I'll turn to my friend from Maryland for any questions that he has and also hand him the gavel, and I will be back at the conclusion of yourif you just hold it in recess, I'll get back as soon as I can, OK?
Mr. MENGES. OK.
Mr. HANSEN. After your comments.
Mr. MENGES. OK.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, and then we'll go to the third panel. We won't be long, but we're going to have another one, and I'm sorry, but, as I say, I don't control what goes on over there in the House ofthe bigshots.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. [presiding] I don't have too many questions, but I understand the nature of bureaucracy and the nature of farming and, to the extent that I can, the nature of ranching and all of the environmental questions that come into play, especially over the last 10 years or so. People are learning more about the best management practices, learning more about discharges, soil erosion, native species, non-native species, problems with drought and things like that. So, it's my position, as far as this bill is concerned and this oversight hearing, is to learn as much as I can in a way that is beneficial to the ranchers and to the land. So, the question I have, basically, is: Can you graze on public land and do it in such a wayMr. Atkin, you made a comment about the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and you have to get a discharge permit, if you want to graze in a certain area, because of soil erosion in the nearby stream. Can you graze, limit the grazing in such a way to stop sediment getting into nearby streams? Given there is no perfect solutions, but can you graze without negatively impacting a stream which is going to impact somebody downstream?
Mr. ATKIN. That question, for me, is a little bit unique because there is no running water in ourin our whole grazing
Mr. GILCHREST. Oh, that's interesting.
Mr. ATKIN. [continuing] vicinity. So, it's a little bit out of my area, but proper grazing can reduce erosion. It can actually stimulate growth of the grasses, which will reduce the erosion. In our area, the worst erosion places that we have are the places that are grazed the least, that have sagebrush and pinon juniper that have invaded that area, and that's the area that's been grazed the least and that's where those plants flourish the most. Mr. Vento referred earlier to something to the effect that overgrazing caused that. I think it's the reverse of that. And where we have the most erosion is where that takes place.
I think if there was a way to increase the grazing and stir that ground and helpwell, if you could actually light it afire and burn some of those off and then stimulate the ground by grazing, that you would actually decrease the erosion.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Menges, would theyou said that for a long time, while there was monitoring from the BLM, you had fewer problems than you do now. What did the BLM people do to make things better when they came out to monitor that? Without that monitoring, things seemed to be worse? Whether it's soil erosion, whether it's the juniper woody shrub, would you suggest that there be a directive or somehow more monitoring by BLM?
Mr. MENGES. Yes, sir. When the monitoring was occurring on an annual basis and the monitoring included rainfall data, vegetation data, then it was easy to establish the trends from year to year. You would get some ups and downs, but over the long period of time you were able to establish
Mr. GILCHREST. So, it was
Mr. MENGES. [continuing] trends, which was basically an upward trend when you could look at it over that period of time.
Mr. GILCHREST. It was a lot easier to manage that way instead of managing in what seems to be a periodic crisis situation?
Mr. MENGES. Well, we manage the same way now as we did then. It's just that with the monitoring data available to review and to make available to the public, we had that information and could show it to people that, you know, this is actually what is happening out on the ground. Since we haven't had that for 6 years
Mr. ATKIN. Did
Mr. MENGES. [continuing] then we're subject to, particularly in dry times, people coming out and making one-time assessment and saying that country looks terrible.
Mr. ATKIN. Could I respond to that
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Atkin?
Mr. ATKIN. [continuing] Mr. Gilchrest? There's the old saying that people are generally down on what they're not up on. And the monitoring itself doesn't do anything as far as helping the resource, but it does let them know where they're at. And all that Mr. Menges is saying is then we knew where we're at. You know, by monitoring, we had a record ofand if we're doing something that we shouldn't do, you know, if we're affecting the resource in a negative way, we want to know that as soon as anybody does. But, where the monitoring has taken place and your trend is up, it's easy to get along with people. But if you don't know, then it's common to start thinking that something's wrong.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. My district is predominantly agriculturesoybeans, chicken, dairy, you name it. And we have Agriculture Extension offices where the Agriculture Extension agent goes out onand every county has one and they have an assistant, so they are constantly not only monitoring and gathering data and helping with best management practices and nutrient management of the soil, and so on and so forth, but they constantly are in touch with, for example, in our State, the University of Maryland, the soil scientist, and the latest techniques and innovative methods of farming, to not only reduce soil erosion and reduce the amount of pesticide you use or herbicide or allall that other stuff, but they also save the farmer money when they see how they can manage in a much more scientific method. Does the BLMdid the BLM monitoring program come out and, not only gather data, but also relayed information about how to improve the range and how to move the livestock from place to place, that kind of information? Is that forthcoming from BLM as a regular course of action?
Mr. MENGES. Is that directed toward
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess any three of the gentlemen can respond.
Mr. MENGES. I think it varies from operator to operator. Some operators are much more knowledgeable about range management practices and are much more up to date with the latest and they know their allotments and know what'll work and what won't, and it's just a matter of getting withthen, there's also range conservationists that work for the BLM that have that knowledge also. They keep up to date. Right now it's more of a riparian focus, whereas 10 years ago it was more of an upland focus. But I think it's just a matter of sitting down with your range conservationist and getting out on the land and determining what is the best management prescription for that area between the rancher
Mr. GILCHREST. Do you have easy access to the range conservationist?
Mr. MENGES. Well, that's diminishing over time. Right now our range conservationists are in the office doing NEPA compliance and endangered species consultation nearly constantly. We're just like Mr. Atkin; we see them only whenever we ask them and set up an appointment. Otherwise, we haven't seen much of our range con. in the last 5 years or so.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Yes, sir?
Mr. ATKIN. I'd like to respond to that, too. You asked if that helped, you know, if there is that help. I think that varies, like Jeff said, between your range conservationist and your permittees. Our ranch con. right now ishe's helpful, he understands range. The one we had before him, that range con. had a forestry degree and was no help at all when that. And so, it varies a lot.
Mr. GILCHREST. Yes, sir?
Mr. FLAKE.. I also have a good range con., but he's been off on other projects, as was mentioned here, and we don't see him that often. I never go out with him, but what I learned something. And hopefully it's the same as we have an exchange of information with each other as we're out there on the land. You know, you're going to think about it and do more and make more wise decisions out on the land than you are sitting in an office where you're not thinking about it. That's where to make the decisions, is out there where you're looking.
Mr. GILCHREST. I think I would agree with you. Do you haveunfortunately, Mr. Hansen was right; we have another vote. Can you, in your perspectives, can youis there a way to manage the land to retain the allotments on public land where you could reduce the amount of unwanted woody shrubs, have more native species that seem to bewould, I would assume, seem to be able to thrive on the harsh conditions that are out there, the drought conditions. What would be your recommendation? We have a bill that came from the Agriculture Committee that we're going to work on in this Committee. We have the Interior Department saying that these Resource Councils and their methods are beginning to work now.
Could each of you give me one or two things that you could recommend to us as this legislation is developing that would be helpful for the ranchers? Mr. Atkin, you said you wantyou've been ranching a long time; you want your children and your grandchildren to stay on the land. What are a couple of things that we could do to help this process and become more informed?
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ATKIN. You say, what could you do?
Mr. GILCHREST. We, as Memberswe're going to develop the legislation here. What do you see as some of the priorities we should look at? Riparian problems, burning problems, prescribed burns, things like that? More money for the
Mr. ATKIN. I come from a particularly dry area, so Jeff will be more of a specialist on riparian, but one of the areas thatin our operation, if we could burn some of that country thatthe sagebrush and the pinon juniper have kind of started to dominate, the production off that land, and I think this would be a conservative estimate, would quadruple.
Mr. GILCHREST. Can you burn that pinon juniper and then manage the land so it doesn't come back again?
Mr. ATKIN. It would take quite a long time before it would come back. I don't know whether I can guarantee you that it wouldn't come back, you know
Mr. GILCHREST. What caused it to come there in the first place?
Mr. ATKIN. Well, I don't know for sure. We were just in Yellowstone Park Saturday and they, the Federal agencies there, told us that lack of grazing is what stimulates sagebrush growth in that area. I know, in our country, when there's been quite a use change, they used to bring a lot of winter sheep herds into that country and winter those sheep herds in that area. And it was when my dad was a younger man and he seems to feel like the sagebrush was a lot less dominant then. Now, the sheep herds have all left that country and so that grazing quit. We use it in the summertime with cattle and it seems to bethe areas that we graze the least is where it has flourished the most.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. Mr. Menges?
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MENGES. I believe that the invasion of pinion and juniper was primarily caused by fire suppression because there would be a wave of fires come through on a fairly regular basis that would take the little ones out. Prior to the time that the fires were being suppressed aggressively, well, I don't think that we saw near the invasion of those species.
As far as the riparian and what can we do to enhance all those things, infiltration, endangered species, we have standards and guidelines that we just developed that address all those issues. We're mandated to graze in compliance with those standards and guidelines but, unfortunately, we don't get the chance to work with the Bureau who is the land management agency. The other agencies, administering the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other acts that Brent mentioned are really causing havoc with us. We're meeting the standards and guidelines. We're progressing toward the goals, but then we're getting lawsuits filed against us with regards to endangered species management and site-specific micromanagement-type of things that are making it very difficult for us to stay within the management plans that we've developed with the land management agency, the BLM.
Mr. GILCHREST. Is thisis BLMif you meet the standards and guidelines that are set up, I would assume you would also directly or indirectly meet the standards of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act?
Mr. MENGES. You're supposed to but the lawsuits that have been filed have mandated consultations and biological opinions and
Mr. GILCHREST. So, are the
Mr. MENGES. So the biological opinion for my allotment, take, where it says we're meeting the habitat requirements described in the biological opinion and yet, for some reason, the Fish and Wildlife Service has come up with the idea that we're taking cactus ferruginous pygmy owls by grazing cattle in riparian
Mr. GILCHREST. Is this a problem between Federal agencies, then, to some extent?
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MENGES. Absolutely.
Mr. GILCHREST. The lawsuits are filed against BLM?
Mr. MENGES. The lawsuits are filed against the BLM, yes.
Mr. GILCHREST. By private citizens? Fish and Wildlife through
Mr. MENGES. Environmental groups.
Mr. GILCHREST. I have to run before I miss this vote. Mr. Flake, do you have any comment?
Mr. FLAKE.. Just shortlythat local decisionmaking will really help in trust between the rancher and the Bureau people and more freedom to do things locally. And I know it's public land and everyone should have an input, but decisions should be weighted toward those people that live there and understand and have lived there for generations and know that land when decisions on grazing are made.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Atkin has one more comment as I run out the door.
Mr. ATKIN. You ask things that you could do. In our particular area, there's one thing that's kind of concerning to me that you may be interested in. The fire budget for our BLM district is justit's unlimited. They can spend any amount of money they want on fire. I have never seen a bad fire on our district, and when my dad was a little younger they justthey kind of deputized the livestock producers out there and said, if you see a lightning strike, go over and put it out, and if they went over and put it out, they paid them like dollars or something to do that. I don't know how high that fire budget has gotten but it's unlimited. They can spend almost whatever they want.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very
Mr. ATKIN. That's kind of out of control.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Welcome to the Nation's capitol. We'll stand in recess.
Mr. ATKIN. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. [presiding] Our third panel is Dick Loper from Wyoming, Wesley Neil Bruton from New Mexico and Mr. Allen E. Smith from Utah. If those folks would step up to the plate, I'd appreciate it.
I think that's pronounced Bruton, is that right?
Mr. BRUTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. I apologize.
Mr. Loper, we'll start with you, sir. What part of Wyoming are you from?
STATEMENT OF DICK LOPER, CONSULTANT, WYOMING
Mr. LOPER. Lander, sir. We're in the west central part of the state.
Good morning, Mr. ChairmanI guess it's afternoon now but anyway.
Mr. LOPER. Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify here today. I'm Dick Loper, I live in west central Wyoming and I'm here today on behalf of the permittees in Wyoming represented by the Wyoming State Grazing Board Central Committee, and we have about 2,500 permittees that have section 3 BLM grazing permits.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Loper, could you pull that microphone just a little closer to you, if you would please? Thank you.
Mr. LOPER. Thank you. I'd like to bring to the attention of this Committee an example of how public land AUMs are being reduced from the level that ranchers have been led to believe that they were have consistently available to them. In the early 1980's, the BLM policy on how to determine when changes in livestock AUMs available to ranches and wildlife were needed changed from a policy of reliance on one point in time inventories to a policy of reliance on a variety of studies over time. This secondary process that I'm talking about is called monitoring. This change in BLM policy was supported and still is, to my knowledge, by the range science community and the livestock industry, because monitoring is a much better way than an inventory procedure to determine if allotment objectives are being met over time.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Range management is still 90 percent art, 10 percent science, at best. And adequate quality and quantity of monitoring data from a variety of sources on the rangeland ecosystems will provide the manager a data base from which to manage the land. If we don't have that variety of data, though, the task of range management becomes difficult, if not impossible.
But for reasons most of us outside the BLM in this range profession don't seem to understand, the BLM policies over the last few years have encouraged and even allowed their decisionmakers to make decisions on a very limited amount of data, in some cases virtually no data at all. If we don't have a knowledge of whether or not a plant community is changing over time, and the annual studies, such as utilization, provide little more than a visual and cosmetic view of the rangelands, the levels of utilization being used as maximum limits allowed by some of these BLM proposals are not considered by the majority of the range science community to be use levels that would be normally detrimental to plant communities grazed under typical BLM grazing programs. As support for this statement, I've attached to this testimony the results of a symposium sponsored by the Society for Range Management last winter on this subject.
I'd now like to provide some actual examples of the BLM livestock grazing plans that contain language that place utilization limits on livestock grazing programs without the support data to confirm that these limits do, in fact, have a detrimental environmental impact on the public land. For example, Allotment 1803 in the Lander BLM Resource Area, a quote: They want to improve the distribution of livestock grazing by managing the utilization of perennial grasses on uplands and ephemeral drainages at 35 percent of the forage or less in all sub-units of the allotment by the year 2002. The plan goes on to say they want to decrease utilization of perennial grasses at the end of the grazing year from a moderate use today of 41 to 60 percent, to a light use in the future of 21 to 40 percent by the year 1999.
In the Cumberland allotment in the western part of Wyoming and in the Smithsfork allotment, the annual operating plans, the last 2 years they've had this statement in it: When a 60 percent seasonal use level is met on key species, a closure notice will be issued for the affected area. The permittees will have 3 days after the receipt of the notice to remove all livestock from the Federal lands in the use area. Mr. Chairman, most of the livestock permittees are running the Cumberland live in the Randolph area in Utah. You know most of these people, I'm pretty sure: ranchers such as Charlie and Connie Rex, Ed Brown and Burdette and Simeon Weston; these are people you probably know.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These restrictions by the BLM on their grazing program at the end of the grazing season on real short notice have caused them a lot of money and management problems. It's my professional opinion that the resource conditions in the Cumberland in 1996 did not support the type of action taken by the BLM to impose utilization limits and livestock closure limits.
If the forage production in the particular allotment is consistent with the allotment production levels that were there during the adjudication of the allotment, it is my testimony on their behalf that they have a right to assume that a deal's a deal. These types of reductions of AUMs will not show up publicly because this method is largely hidden from the view of the industry, the public and from Congress. To make matters even worse, if they own private land in the allotment being closed, they can't even use their own land for grazing because their private lands are unfenced and intermingled with the BLM lands under closure. Livestock don't know the difference in ownership and they're subject to trespass and even seizure by the BLM on these lands that are closed to grazing.
In 1995, BLM was in the process of revising their technical manuals when the Association of Rangeland Consultants was asked by the Bureau to review those manuals. I'd like to close my testimony with a quote from our review. ''Over the past several years, the land management agencies have abandoned the historic practice of using broad monitoring information and the art of range management to work through people in the resolution of rangeland issues. Instead, they have adopted an approach to manage rangeland issues based mainly on empirical data and established numbers or standards. The documents under review appear to continue this trend.'' I've seen the final documents, Mr. Chairman, and they haven't been changed to reflect our comments.
Thank you for this opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Loper may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. Mr. Burton?
STATEMENT OF WESLEY NEIL BRUTON, RANCHER, NEW MEXICO
Mr. BRUTON. Chairman Hansen and members of the Committee
Mr. HANSEN. Pull that microphone just a little tad closer to you, if you would, please. Thank you.
Mr. BRUTON. First, let me thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Wesley Neil Bruton. I am from San Antonio, New Mexico, where I live with my wife, son, and daughter. We are part of an agriculture operation that has been in central New Mexico since 1880, when my great grandfather moved there from south Texas.
With my parents, we ranch and farm on private, state leases, and Federal lands. In the West, you acquire lands and the public permits that go with them by inheriting them or purchasing it. As a family, we built the operation purchasing private land along with state leases and Federal leases. I am proud that my father is here with me today, Neil Bruton, and our intentions are to pass what we have on to my daughter, Brittany, who is 12 years old today, and son, Wesley, who is 4.
Our operation includes Bureau of Land Management land, BLM land, as well as Bureau of Reclamation lands that are administered by the BLM. In many cases, these lands are commingled with state and private property, with no fencing. Frankly, Dad and I would rather be home today doing what we do best, caring for our livestock and our lands. Actions of the Federal Government have made that impossible. We have heard the stories about how our Governmentour Governmentis taking away citizens' rights. We thought those things happened to other people.
We were wrong and we should have known better. It has happened to the family before. The Federal Government took land from my grandparents back in 1941 for White Sands Missile Range. At that time, it was patriotism that was the standard-bearer of land grabs. We are a patriotic people. My father served in the Korean conflict and we do believe in fighting for what is right and what is ours.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are here today to tell you about what the Federal Government has done to us in 1997 in the name of a bird. We learned this spring that Federal employees, or persons contracted by the Federal Government, trespassed on our private lands in search of endangered species, specifically the southwestern willow flycatcher. They then used the information they obtained while trespassing on our lands, our private lands, to remove us from our Federal lease lands. In that area, we ran 175 mother cows. The spring and summer of the year is the best time, for the forage is at its best, and it will also be the time that most of our cows are calving, lactating, and breeding back.
Based on the information gained through illegal entry, the Federal Government issued a decision to eliminate grazing in the area for three-and-a-half months during the prime portion of the year. That was bad enough. However, this decision was a full-force-and-effect decision, which requires immediate compliance. That immediate compliance, in our case, was for 6 days. We had only 6 days to remove 175 cows, along with many calves of varying ages and size. The river was high and flooding and the brush was in full foliage, making it virtually impossible to use horses or any other method of gathering the livethe cattle. We had to go in on foot and in small boats. We ended up hauling one heavy pregnant cow in a boat. We generally gather this area in the fall, when there is little foliage, and bait the cattle out with feed. Then it usually takes us 3 to 4 months to get the job done.
In addition to getting the cattle out of the river bottom, we had to find other pastures for them. That was no easy chore and was extremely expensive because most of our area was just recovering from a drought. The pasture we found was over 150 miles away. In all, we spent more than $32,000 in additional pasture rent, labor, and trucking to move livestock.
If we hadn't, if we had not complied with the order, removal order, within the 6 days allotted, we would have been guilty of willful trespass on Federal property which could have resulted in the impoundment of our cattle as well as large fines. In addition, all of the other permits on Federal lands would have been in jeopardy.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With that full-force-and-effect decision, any appeal which must initially be done through the administrative process cannot take place under after compliance with the order. We did try to use the courts to at least get more time to remove the cattle. However, in only 6 days to comply, by the time we got the lawyer hired and the proper paperwork filed, the time was up. We were denied the stay near the end of July, better than 90 days after we had to remove the cattle. We have filed an appeal administratively and have yet to hear anything about it.
The driving force behind this nightmare is the Endangered Species Act which caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a notice to the Bureau of Reclamation that grazing could result in a take of the southwestern willow flycatcher. A take of an endangered species can result in criminal action as well as stiff fines. The southwestern willow flycatcher is a bird listed in March 1997 and it is a subspecies that can only be identified by the way it sings. If you have not heard one, you wouldn't know one. It amazes me that Federal employees can identify such a creature by sound alone, but they do not have the ability to identify property lines between Federal and private lands on a map.
Since this mess started, we have learned that inventories were done on our private land in 1994, 1995, and 1996 for the southwestern willow flycatcher. In 1996, cowbirds were also trapped on our private land without our knowledge or permission. The primary concern with grazing in area where there may be willow flycatchers is a cowbird. It is believed, but not scientifically proven, that cows attract cowbirds. In any event, we are told that cowbirds lay eggs in the flycatchers' nests; then the Flycatchers end up raising baby cowbirds instead of their own. There is also some concern that cattle knock down nests, but most of the low nests are over water, and our cows, at least, are not big swimmers.
The last 5 months have been a nightmare that I would not have believed could have happened to me or anyone else in this United States. And, it appears to me that it has only just begun. We have been unable to get any commitment from the Bureau of Reclamation about our future in utilizing the grazing land. There is a land use plan in the works, but grazing has yet to be addressed. At the present time, there is no stability in our agricultural operation. We don't know whether, when, or whenever we'll be able to have to remove the cattle. Our private land has no resell value. Who in their right mind would want to get involved in this ranch?
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We were allowed to go back on the area August the 1st of 1997, but we did not know when we will have to be removed again. We want to leave this ranch to our children, but who would wish such a thing on their kids?
I know you are here today to discuss the reduction of the use on BLM lands. From my perspective, until and unless the Endangered Species Act is modified, future use of BLM lands will continue to be a target on the Fish and Wildlife Service, and citizens, like my family and I, are in serious trouble. There is no avenue in the Endangered Species Act for individuals to have any meaningful input. Science means nothing; economic impacts mean nothing; customs and culturals mean nothing. The Fish and Wildlife Service is a kingdom of it's own and a predator to Federal funding.
Other Federal agencies are being forced to spend millions on endangered species consultation and assessments. There are no checks and balances. Few of us have money to hire attorneys to protect our rights; that's why we elect people like you.
In 3 years of Federal research, we were never once contacted about the presence of this willow flycatcher on our property. Our local government was never consulted and there was never been an economic or culture analysis done on the area in relation to this issue. Common sense indicates this would have been an ideal year to study the true affects of grazing on the willow flycatcher.
The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit for the Bureau of Reclamation for trapping cowbirds. We had out-of-bank flooding on the river and the cows were happy. Instead, we were put through hell. Not only have we been put through a great deal of personal stress and expense, but our own tax dollars had been paying for the oppression upon us.
I thank you again for your time and consideration. My family certainly hopes and prays that you here in Washington can see what is being done to those of us the countryin the countrybefore too many more of us are put out of business. Thank you.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Bruton may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Bruton.
STATEMENT OF ALLEN E. SMITH, RANCHER, UTAH
Mr. ALLEN SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Allen Smith and I am here on behalf of the 22,000 members of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, many of whom, like me, are BLM grazing permittees. I'm also past chairman of the public lands for the Utah Cattlemen's Association.
We have deep concerns about the reductions of grazing on the western BLM lands. Back in 1934, in support of establishing the BLM, my grandfather, Maroni Smith, testified on the importance of protecting the stability of the livestock industry and sustainable grazing on public lands. As a third generation rancher in northeastern Utah and a recipient of a BLM environmental stewardship award, it is somewhat ironic for me, 63 years later, to be back here opposing what we believe to be unwarranted cutbacks in BLM grazing.
We've heard rumors of BLM pressuring the Hanley Ranch in Jordan Valley, Oregon, to reduce grazing. Other concerns are outlined in my extended statement. Papercuts, as they are often called, reduce permits from preference use, which the permittee bought, to actual AUMs used. Over the years, many ranchers have voluntarily have taken non-use in times of drought, et cetera, with the promise of getting their suspended AUMs back when ranges improve. Too many times these suspended AUMs were subsequently left, for wildlife, never returned to the permittee. No doubt this Committee will hear other examples. But I am here with a specific example of BLM grazing reductions on an historic ranch in my area, a ranch with which I am very familiar. My written extended comments and exhibits will more fully illustrate this situation.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Nutter Ranch in my area began grazing in 1860's. When the BLM acquired control of the public lands in 1934, grazing continued on the Nutter under a BLM permit. For 18 years, this ranch has been managed by a university-trained range conservationist. A recent range evaluation by Utah State Extension Range Ecologist James Bown shows livestock are not damaging the ranges in question, a fact concerned by a letter from Dr. Bown in my extended comments.
The authorized AUMs on the Nutter in 1979 were 8,584 active and 5,416 AUMs suspended, for a total of 14,000 AUMs under the year-around grazing permit. By August 1997, the BLM had reduced the Nutter permit to 3,038 active AUMs, a loss of 5,546 and 1,783 suspended AUMs. Recently, the BLM acquired ownership of 756 acres of private bottom land from the Nutter Ranch on the Green River near Nine Mile Canyon as a mitigation agreement. These 756 acres had been part of the ranch's private grazing area since the 1860's.
Now, the BLM has notified the Nutter Ranch that they can no longer graze these acres plus an additional 1,331 acres of adjacent public land. This closure will effectively make it impossible for the ranch to use much of their private grazing land and adjacent state school trust land sections because the closure shuts off water accesses and trailways. Like a missing link in a chain, this administrative decision denies the ranch a place to raise cattle from October 15 to February and between November and April 15.
A draft Environmental Assessment for the acquired Nine Mile Canyon and the Green River area was released August 29 with a closing date of October 2. Farm Bureau did not receive a copy of this EA until September 22, when I personally took one to them. Farm Bureau usually received BLM draft EAs in Utah because the Farm Bureau tries to help ranchers work through the proposals in a cooperative way. We have requested 30 days more comment period and we await formal reply on that request. In my view, the EA is very biased in favor of recreational river runners on the Green River.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Particularly disheartening to us was the EA justification for excluding livestock listed as, one, protect natural values; two, protect cultural resources, and three, provide a wilderness quality recreational experience.
Mr. Chairman, this is not a wilderness area. If it were, the 1964 Wilderness Act would have specifically protected continued grazing. We must ask where in the BLM charter do these stated objectives take precedence over the multiple use such as the continued, well-managed grazing and continued stability of the livestock industry provided for in the Taylor Grazing Act and other Federal laws?
Another serious concern is that now, all these many years after the fact, BLM is threatening to levy agricultural trespass charges against the ranch for corrals that have been on the ranch, land, over 100 years, long before a permit for such facilities was required. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, it looks to me like the BLM may be trying to harass the ranch until they agree to provide public access across private land as theira condition of this grazing permit. We will let the Committee form your own conclusions on this after reviewing the extended comments which include letters from the BLM to the ranch on these matters.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of this Committee, for your oversight on the BLM on these issues. I appreciate the opportunity to present these comments to you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Allen Smith follows:]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Smith.
I hope you folks realize that down the hall from us there's a hearing going on regarding fire as a tool on the public land and Secretary of the Interior Babbitt and Secretary of Agriculture Glickman and a few other heavyweights are down there. So, our Committee, I think, meandered down near the end of the hall. But, most of this will be looked at in great detail.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm a little concerned on what each one of you said about things. And Mr. Smith, maybe got this wrong on this Nine Mile Green River EA? You say partBLM, did they identify wilderness quality experience in justification for livestock inclusion? I mean, BLMwilderness is abundantly clear that livestock can go in wilderness.
Mr. SMITH. In the EA I read, and I think it is a veryit was the most biased EA. I've read many over the years, Mr. Chairman. This one would have been impossible for a layperson that hadn't studied the EAs to even understand it. But they listed three objectives, three objectives only, for the acquisition of these properties. I fail to seeI'd like to see the original documentation. I don't think that those three objectives that I listed here, in fact, are the true objectives for the acquisition of these 756 acres.
Mr. HANSEN. Now, some of this is private land that you own and some of it is contiguous to public land?
Mr. SMITH. The Nutter Ranch. I don't own it, but it's a neighboring ranch to me.
Mr. HANSEN. I see. That's
Mr. SMITH. But it was private and it was acquired by the BLM through a mitigation agreement.
Mr. HANSEN. I missed another thing. You mentioned cowbird trapping that took place on your property. What was that about?
Mr. SMITH. Then pardon me? I didn't
Mr. HANSEN. But that was Mr. Bruton
Mr. BRUTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. OK, could you respond to that? I kind ofwhat was
Mr. BRUTON. OK, we weren't aware of it. In fact, we didn't even know of the 3 years of the studying being conducted on our private land. We had noticed some cages up, but we never seen any personnel around them. We never was able to find anyone. And they were doing the trapping as of last year on our private land.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Well, did they trespass on your ground?
Mr. BRUTON. Yes, sir, they did.
Mr. HANSEN. What justification did they have for that? Did they ask for your permission to come on the ground?
Mr. BRUTON. No, sir, they did not. They
Mr. HANSEN. Did you talk to them about it?
Mr. BRUTON. We did talk to them about it. We told them they were in trespass. Actually, to a field trip that was on the grounds with the Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Reclamation, and the BLM, they showed us the spot where all the nest sites were at. And that was on our private land. We notified them, told them at that time, this is all private property. And they said, ''Oh, we're sorry, we might have made a mistake, but we still think we own it.''
Mr. HANSEN. Did they leave when you said that?
Mr. BRUTON. No, sir, they did not.
Mr. HANSEN. Well, I guess if they have a warrant, they can come on, or with your permission they can come on. And they had neither one of those, is that right?
Mr. BRUTON. No, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. It's kind of arrogant, I would think. Mr. Smith, have you ever seen where they have increased AUMs in the last, say, 20 years?
Mr. SMITH. Mr. Chairman, I've been very active in Federal land issues since I've been a full time rancher since 1960. To my knowledge, I don't know of one rancher that has ever received their suspended AUMs back. Matter of fact, it's my personal knowledge, the last land use plan that was made for our BLM further stated that any increases that forage may be available will automatically go to wildlife. No, I don't know of any place that hasany rancher that has received their suspended AUMs back.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Any of the
Mr. SMITH. It could have happened, but I'm not aware of any.
Mr. HANSEN. Any of the rest of you?
Mr. LOPER. I know of a very few examples, Mr. Chairman, but they're few and far between.
Mr. HANSEN. Now, Mr. Loper, I don't know if I understood what you're saying, but you're talking about intermingling land ownership patterns causing management problems. Explain that a little more, would you?
Mr. LOPER. Yes, sir, and I'd like to show you a map, if I could, please, of part of the area. It graphically shows an extreme example of the problems we face with the intermingled ownership. Even though it's a long ways away, you can probably see it's a checkerboard pattern. As you know, this came about as a result of the railroad situation
Mr. HANSEN. Typical western thing, though. You look at our western states, it looks like a patchwork quilt. It's like when the President came in and declared the monument in Utah: 1.7 million acres, 200,000 acres that belongs to the State.
Mr. LOPER. Yes, sir, that's the problem we have, of course, is that these lands are unfinished and intermingled and, as a result, when the Bureau of Land Management makes a decision on grazing that, you know, has their policies as a basis for that decision, a lot of our private and state lands don't necessarily want to fully comply with that. They have other high-priority objectives, but we don't have any choice but to go along. So, basically, we don't have any private and state land rights if we're unfinished and intermingled.
Mr. HANSEN. You also got into something about riparian areas, if I note you right, carrying more BLM grazing allotments and how important they are. Can you elaborate on that just a little bit?
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LOPER. Riparian areas are kind of a critical thing around here and
Mr. HANSEN. Personally, I think that the worst thing for riparian areas is the Wild Horse and Burro Act, but I won't elaborate on that. They go in there and mess up those areas more than anything there is around. I hope Jim Gibbons introduces his bill and I will promise him a hearing on it immediately, and I would think all these environmentalists should jump right on that one. This is where you and the environmental crowd could all get along, I would think. But, you want to elaborate on that?
Mr. LOPER. Yes, sir, and with respect to wild horses and the excess wildlife numbers, not traditional, but the riparian areas are the areas, of course, that are well-watered all year long and have the most luscious types of forage production. They represent only 1 or 2 percent of the lands in the West. Most of it's arid uplands and most of the arid uplands are owned by the BLM. And a high percent of the riparian areas are owned by private individuals or, in some cases, state lands. And most of those lands, riparian areas, are unfinished, intermingled within the BLM allotment. So, ranchers that own these riparian areas are more than happy to share the forage that they own on riparian habitat with wild horses and wildlife, so long as they feel like they're receiving fair and equitable treatment from the BLM. But, it's getting less and less of an ability to get along with the Federal agencies as a result of the policies that have evolved over the last 2 or 3 years. They're just getting hard to get along with.
Mr. HANSEN. Well, Mr. Sharpe, I hope you're taking notes on all this.
Mr. Smith, you want an additional statement?
Mr. ALLEN SMITH. I would like to just make a comment. It's coming secondhand to me by Jim Ecker, who represented the Utah Cattlemen's Association on our riparian committee in the State of Utah. He once made the comment to me and I think itI put it in my mind. I think it's very apropos at this time. But he said, in the West, much of the riparian areas are owned by the private landowners, the ranchers, the farmers. But us public land users out there, us that use the BLMs and the forest, sometimes the decision by the Federal land managers putting us off of the uplands in the forest in the BLMs earlier or in other times puts a severe amount of pressure back on the riparian areas. And so, in effect, their decisions, by sending home a lot of the permittees early, in many cases it's putting an additional riparian stress down on those private riparian areas.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. You notice on the back wall lights are flashing on again. A couple other questions I have, I'll just submit them in writing; hope you folks would respond to them. Appreciate that.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thanks for this panel. Let me get the next panel on, the last panel, if we could. We're going to run out of time and I'm embarrassed that we've played musical chairs with you folks like we have.
Steven Moyer, Director of Governmental Affairs, Trout Unlimited, and Frances A. Hunt, Director of BLM Programs, the Wilderness Society. If you folks would come up, we'd appreciate it. We appreciate you being with us and apologize to you, as we have the others, for keeping you here this long. This is a relatively short hearing that turned into a long one, and I said, I can't control the floor.
Mr. Moyer, I appreciate you being here and we'll turn the time to you, sir.
STATEMENT OF STEVEN MOYER, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, TROUT UNLIMITED
Mr. MOYER. Thank you. I think you should get credit for being involved in the debate that's happening today. We just have to sit here and wait for you to come back. Our job is easier, I believe.
I'm Steve Moyer. I'm the Director of Government Affairs for Trout Unlimited. Trout Unlimited is a national fisheries conservation group dedicated to the conservation and restoration of our Nation's trout and salmon resources, and the watersheds that sustain those resources. We have about 98,000 members in 445 chapters in 38 states.
Our members have a major stake in land management decisions that affect resources on our public rangelands because trout and salmon are often found there, as well. Our members generally are trout and salmon fishermen and women who voluntarily contribute a lot of time and energy into protection and restoration of streams and rivers around the country, including those on our public rangelands. Many TU members fish on streams and BLM lands and numerous TU chapters work directly with the BLM. We have a partnership agreement with them to conduct stream restoration projects on streams on BLM lands. So I'll comment today from our experience with working with the Forest Service and BLM on rangeland and grazing management, and our experiences with working with ranchers directly on cooperative projects where we managehelp them managetheir rangelands that help them and also help the fish.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Grazing can be compatible with healthy rangelands and riparian zones and fisheries, if it's managed properly. And like I've said, we've had first-hand experience of working with ranchers to do that. We've worked with ranchers from Mossy Creek, Virginia, to the Blackfoot River in Montana, to the Crooked River in Oregon to protect and restore riparian areas that are grazed.
But also, clearly, if not managed properly, overgrazing can destroy riparian areas and fish habitats, associated sport fisheries which are sometimes extremely valuable, and lower range productivity. The Forest Service and BLM manage about 270 million acres of rangelands and on those lands we see substantial economic value coming to communities from fisheries that can be affected by rangelands. On Forest Service rangelands, for example, a substantial portion of about $1.8 billion worth of expenditures from fishing is sustained by the fisheries that come from rangelands. But, loss of riparian habitat and widening of streams, raising of temperatures, can diminish the productivity of streams for trout and salmon.
And a paper that was done by the American Fishery Society, the professional society of the fisheries biologists of this country, in 1994, found that about 50 percent of western rangeland streams were damaged, at least to some degree, by grazing. Overgrazing has been a factor, sometimes not the largest factor, but a factor in just about all the endangered trout and salmon species that have occurred in the country. There are now 18 species of trout and salmon that are listed as threatened or endangered, including extremely valuable fisheries, like steelhead, which are now listed as threatened from the Canadian border in central Washington through Idaho and all the way down to Los Angeles. So, we have widespread problems with grazing affecting fisheries. Sometimes it's not the biggest problem that affect fish, but itit often is a problem.
And, for those reasons, we think that there has to be change that occurs in Federal grazing management practices. It's a big job, but we think that ranchers, conservationists, and the agencies can be up to the task. We're hopeful about it, and one of the reasons we're hopeful about it is because we see some positive developments that are occurring, one of which is the Resource Conservation Council that had been put into effect by BLM. TU members are all RACs in several states, in several places, and they report to us that those RACs are making headway in bringing people together to find solutions to difficult problems and to work on the standards and guidelines that will guide grazing. I think that's one very important example of important improvements that are occurring that should not be undercut by Federal legislation that's now pending before Congress.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are other positive developments as well. I listed some of those in my testimony, but one of the most important things that I think hasn't really been discussed here but we keep talking around it is the need to get more funding to the agencies to do things, like monitoring and management. It seems like we're all agreeing that monitoring could be better, that management could be better. It seems to me that we ought to figure out how much money that costs and how to get that money to pay for either the agencies or consultants, like the one that's here at this hearing, to do the work that would make us all happier.
And we would like to work with Congress and the agencies to get them to figure out how much more money is needed to get the people out on the ground to do a better job, rather than passing legislation, such as pending before the Committee, that we think would undercut the progress that we think is occurring.
So, with that, I'll end my testimony and again, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Moyer may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Moyer. We appreciate your testimony.
Frances Hunt, we'll turn the time to you.
STATEMENT OF FRANCES HUNT, DIRECTOR, BLM PROGRAMS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
Ms. HUNT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In the interest of time, I'm going to focus on four key concepts affecting range management today. But, before I begin, I'll note that there are several attachments to my statement, and one of those is an open letter to Representative Bob Smith signed by over 100 national, regional, and local wildlife and fish, conservation, fiscal, and environmental groups.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The first of the pointsfour pointsI'll make today is this, and that is, that we must never forget that our public rangelands do, indeed, belong to all Americans and that no one group or interest has the right to use these lands in such a way as to impair their productivity or to deny other legitimate range uses and benefits. Now, grazing is absolutely one of many appropriate uses of the public lands, but private ranchers do not have an absolute right to graze the public's land, and private ranching operations on our Federal lands cannot be allowed to degrade fish, wildlife, water, recreation, or other public values. This longstanding distinction between rights and privileges is clearly delineated in the Taylor Grazing Act, and I've attached that section of the Taylor Grazing Act to my statement.
The second important concept to remember is that, because the Federal rangelands belong to all Americans and because they should be managed for the greatest benefit of all American citizens, it is completely appropriate that these lands be managed to a very strict standard of resource conservation. Private livestock operators who choose to seek to graze livestock on Federal lands must expect that they're going to be required to operate their activities so as to safeguard the public's resources. And they shouldn't necessarily expect that the land management practices that they use on the private lands or state lands that they own or lease are going to be adequate or appropriate for the protection of the valuable and diverse Federal resources that Federal rangelands contain.
Third, it's unfortunately clear from a review of both BLM and Forest Service data that our Nation's rangelands are not currently in a very good condition. Although in certain areas of the western United States Federal land grazing is, indeed, well-managed and is managed with limited negative environmental impacts, too often, still, and in too many places, still, livestock grazing permitted by the Federal agencies is having serious negative environmental impacts: damage to fisheries, damage to water resources, damage to recreational opportunities. And, of course, the sad irony of this situation is that resource damage harms both the ranchers and the rest of the American public, who seek to use, enjoy, and benefit from these lands.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The final point I'm going to make today is related, again, to resource conditions. An examination of these resource conditions, and BLM and Forest Service policies and activities and funding levels all clearly indicate that the agencies need to do a much better job of monitoring, managing and protecting our public rangelands.
I have three charts attached to my testimony, Mr. Chairman.
This is a chart put together with BLM data. It depicts current rangeland conditions, current as of 1996. The first bar here is the total Federal acreage of rangelands managed by the BLM for grazing, some 156 million acres. The two bars that come next depict that amount of acreage that is in excellent and good condition. The two bars following that, the red bars, show the amount of rangeland that's considered by the agencies to be in fair or poor condition. And the final red bar is an unclassified or an unknown. And one thing you see, unfortunately, immediately when you look at this chart is that we have far more of our Federal rangelands in poor condition than are in excellent, and more that are in fair than are in good. In fact, over 50 percent of the BLM-managed public rangelands are considered to be in, to varying degrees, a damaged condition.
Now that data paints a troubling picture but, if you look at EPA and GAO reports, you'll see that that data probably underestimates the dataexcuse me, underestimates the damage because it is for all rangelands and, in fact, our riparian areas, our streams, our rivers, the very areas that provide the fish and wildlife habitat so important are actually in even worse condition.
I'll finish my testimony with one chart that quickly shows BLM monitoring activities. Unfortunately, as we have heard several times today, in many ways and in many places, the BLM has too few resources, too few people, and too little ability to get out and do the kind of on-the-ground job that needs to be done. That's spend the time on the ground, and spend the time with the rancher. If someone had testified to the number of acres that an average range con. has to manage, I think we'd all be astounded. It's not a job I would take willingly a this point.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But this is this chart summarized 1996 monitoring activity by the agency. Again, this is the total acreage or total number of allotments, a little over 21,000, 22,000 on BLM land. They were only able to get out on about 4,000 of them. And there are a lot of acres that they never get to and the result is not only that resource conditions may suffer but confusion and a lack of information between the agency and the ranchers and the agency and the public. And we think that one of the reasons our rangelands continue to be in poor conditions are because the agency just is not able for a number of reasons to get out there and do the monitoring job they should do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Hunt may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. I appreciate the testimony of both of you. I have a number of questions for you, but I also have a clock ticking on me up there. And I've got about 4 minutes to get to the floor and do something. So, could I submit those questions, not only to the present panel, but to others that were here? This is something we want to ponder, go over, examine the testimony, work on a few things, get a little more information from BLM, maybe the Forest Service and others regarding grazing.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. So, with that, let me thank each and every witness for being here and, gee, I appreciate your patience. It's a terrible thing when we're running in and out this way. Believe me, they used to say two things you don't want to see made: One is sausage and one is laws, and I can understand that. And today we're competing with some heavyweights down the block, but let me thank you for coming here to Washington, taking the time to give us your excellent testimony, and we will look at it. We do expect to be able to correspond with you on various areas.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With that, this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:30 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
STATEMENT OF JEFF MENGES, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL LANDS COMMITTEE, NATIONAL CATTLEMEN'S BEEF ASSOCIATION
Thank you Mr. Chairman, my name is Jeff Menges. I am the Chairman of the Federal Lands Committee for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
My family and I currently have two BLM allotments in Arizona and one in New Mexico. Although it is too soon to determine the impacts of Secretary Babbitt's Rangeland Reform grazing regulations, I have found the BLM to be a reasonable agency to deal with. However it is becoming increasingly difficult to ranch profitably on the public lands. Today, I would like to articulate some of the problems public land ranchers face and offer some possible solutions for these problems to this Subcommittee.
Implementation of the Endangered Species Act by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is one area of major concern. We do not need two agencies duplicating administrative actions for the same purpose on the public lands. To draft a Biological Opinion for BLM lands, the BLM biologists must first draft a Biological Evaluation which is then reviewed and rewritten by USFWS biologists as a draft Biological Opinion. Consultation between the agencies then occurs and the result is a Final Biological Opinion. On Federal land this is simply multiple layers of government working to accomplish the same result: protect and recover endangered plants and animals. These responsibilities could and should be administered by the land management agencies only. This would solve financial and administrative problems for both agencies. It would also allow more timely, achievable decisions so the land management agencies and the multiple users can function efficiently.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary Babbitt's grazing regulations required development of Grazing Standards and Guidelines (S&G's). These S&G's in turn were required to address ''restoring, maintaining, or enhancing habitats'' of endangered species. Arizona's S&G's were developed with input from the Resource Advisory Council (a group on which I served) and signed by the Secretary of Interior. However in the Draft Biological Opinion developed by the USFWS for livestock grazing administered by the BLM Safford and Tucson Field offices in southeast Arizona, implementation of the S&G's will be overridden by the mandatory terms and conditions in the Biological Opinion. Our Smuggler Peak allotment is just one example.
Since implementation of a winter grazing program on the Gila River pasture on the allotment in 1990, the riparian area in the pasture has been determined to be in proper functioning condition, the highest category. This area will easily meet all requirements of the S&G's. However, implementation of the terms and conditions in the Draft Biological Opinion will require complete removal of cattle from the river riparian area on my allotment and on 11 additional allotments to maintain habitat features necessary to support breeding populations of pygmy owls. It further requires suspension of grazing on nine allotments, again to avoid habitat modification for pygmy owls. Pygmy owls do not exist on any of these 21 allotments; it is not occupied habitat, nor has it been designated as critical habitat for pygmy owls, yet modification of this potential habitat for pygmy owls will be considered ''take.''
The USFWS takes this position even when Section 2 of the Endangered Species Act defines ''take'' as meaning ''to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.'' Also, in a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court stated:
in the context of the ESA, that definition naturally encompasses habitat modification that results in actual death or injury to members of an endangered species.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chap. Of Communities for a Greater Oregon, 132 L. Ed. 2d 597, 610 (1995).
Even with this seemingly clear direction, the USFWS continues to determine that a modification of potential habitat is a taking of an endangered species. The resulting effect to the 21 permittees will be financially devastating as well as being contradictory to the S&G's which were approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
It is difficult to imagine any area that could not be considered potential habitat for some species that is either listed or may be listed as endangered. The USFWS needs more avenues for local input. Expanding BLM Resource Advisory Councils to include recommendations to the USFWS should be considered.
The S&G's require allotment evaluations. This will require accurate data to be gathered from monitoring. In recent years monitoring has been a low priority item that has not withstood the budget cutting process. We believe that vegetation monitoring is very important and should be a high priority for the BLM. We recommend making vegetation monitoring a line item so that monies appropriated for this purpose will have to be spent accordingly. An annual monitoring report should follow.
Another major area of concern is the lack of accountability by State wildlife agencies for the impacts their actions have on Federal lands. Using BLM's own numbers, the number of elk on public lands (excluding Alaska) have increased from 18,278 in 1960, to 142,870 in 1988, to 201,904 in 1996this is over a 1,000 percent in the past 36 years. There are also substantial increases for antelope, deer, bighorn sheep, and moose. For the elk population, much of this increase can be attributed to livestock management and livestock industry-initiated programs like the screwworm eradication effort, which have benefited wildlife as well as livestock. The result of all these additional grazing wildlife has been resource degradation and reduction in available AUM's for livestock, without compensation to permittees who pay for use of the forage. Again, accurate vegetation monitoring is needed to accumulate data needed to address this problem.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some states provide depredation permits to compensate ranchers for loss of forage. We would support expanding that system to include other lands. A process emphasizing local input need established whereby wildlife population and management can be incorporated into management of Federal lands. My suggestion is that State wildlife agencies should:
1. Enter into MOU's with Federal agencies regarding resource outcomes. Local experts should be involved in determining the outcomes. Participation with RAC's should be encouraged.
2. Be held to strict levels of accountability, as Federal grazing permittees are, for range condition and trend, to the extent that their actions or inactions impede the meeting of desired outcomes.
3. Be held accountable for mitigating damage done to permitters, either in terms of private values diminished by some action or inaction, or by the penalties imposed on permittees for failure to abide by his or her permit terms and conditions as result of State wildlife agencies' action or inaction. Available options might include:
A. Temporary issuance of ''permitte'' hunting permits for a special hunting period to correct adverse wildlife impacts and compensate permittee for economic loss;
B. Issuance of permittee owned hunting permits on an annual basis to compensate permittee for economic loss.
C. Payments by State wildlife agencies to permittees for economic loss.
Some ways to achieve compliance from State wildlife agencies might include:
1. Suspension of some portion of transfer payments from Federal to state governments (particularly those payments that go directly to State wildlife agencies).
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC2. Make availability of Federal funds to State wildlife agencies contingent on compliance.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I look forward to working with your Subcommittee to make improvements with respect to these issues.
STATEMENT OF BRENT ATKIN, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the chance to testify today. I would like to talk today about some of the issues facing Federal lands ranchers with BLM allotments today that have arisen as a result of agency application of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. These laws were well intentioned by Congress when they were passed and have no-doubt solved many problems that gave rise to them in the first place. However, over time, as is the case with many laws, regulatory agencies have converted the mandates from these laws into some rather heavy regulatory burdens in situations where Congress never imagined that these laws would be used.
Earlier this year when grazing legislation was being considered by this Subcommittee, I had the opportunity to be out here with my son T.J.you may remember that, Mr. Chairman. One day when we were in your office talking with you, T.J., who was 10 years old at the time, asked you, ''Congressman Hansen, what is the future of grazing livestock on public lands?'' Your answer was ''I don't know.'' This is instability.
As a rancher and as a father, I would like to be able to tell my sons that they will be able to continue our family's tradition of ranching, and feel good about it. As things are, I don't feel good about it, because I don't know if it's true. My family has been ranching for six generations. We have taken good care of the land, and in return it has given us the ability to make a living doing what we love to do: ranching. It is really hard for me to remain optimistic about the future of my family's ranch today. Some days I even wonder who in their right mind would ever want their children to ranch on Federal lands. This is really a shame because, regardless of the distorted half-truths and outright lies about the effects of grazing on public lands that some interest groups continue to propound, ranchers really are stewards of the land. They have no choice: abusing the resource only hurts their ability to make a living from it.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In my 25 years of dealing with the Bureau of Land Management, I am finding that more and more frequently, land management decisions are being made based on factors not at all related to sound land management practices that are being caused by the application of other laws.
Right now, western livestock producers everywhere are anxiously awaiting the appellate decision in a 1996 court case called Oregon Natural Desert Association v. Chief Jack Ward Thomas, better known as the Camp Creek case. In that case, an Oregon Federal District Court judge held that pollution caused by cattle grazing constitutes a ''discharge into navigable waters'' under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, and therefore the Forest Service was required to get a State certification before issuing a grazing permit.
For a while, no one was sure if the government was even going to appeal the original decision. EPA did not want to appeal, the Forest Service did want to, and fortunately the Solicitor General sided with the Forest Service. Now, however, the case is being considered by the 9th Circuit. If the 9th Circuit upholds the original decision, this will mean, in essence, that livestock grazing is equivalent to a water treatment plant for purposes of section 401. It would also mean that the Environmental Protection Agency would become yet another partner agency with BLM to ''help'' manage livestock grazing. This is instability.
Likewise, the Clean Air Act is having adverse effects on proper land management. In some instances, burning of rangeland is necessary for proper management of some types of grasses and shrubs. In many areas this burning has not occurred for several decades, and now that the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service have adopted policies to improve the approval process for prescribed burns, the Environmental Protection Agency is limiting these necessary management activities, citing Clean Air Concerns. With the President recently announcing new particulate matter regulations, I can only guess that prescribed burning will become a thing of the past at some point. When that happens, the range condition in areas where burning is appropriate will deteriorate, which will lead to reductions in AUM's available for grazing. This is instability.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, I want to touch on how the National Historic Preservation Act creates instability. As I understand it, this Act is basically being implemented on public lands through Memoranda of Agreement between the States and BLM or the Forest Service. But, there are some inconsistencies between these agreements, which results in ranchers in different states being subjected to different standards, even though it is still Federal land. In Montana, for instance, areas that have been grazed for the past 100 years really aren't being adversely affected by archaeological restrictions. This seems to be based on common sense: if an archaeological site has been subjected to grazing for the past 100 years, any damage that could have been done, has been done, and it doesn't make any sense to put restrictions on it now. In California, however, the MOU is resulting in restrictions on areas containing ''lithic scatter'' (basically pieces of stones leftover from making arrowheads), even though these areas have also been grazed for many, many years. Having different standards on Federal lands in different states does not add to stability.
Considered one at a time, most of the negative effects from the laws that I have described today could probably be manageable. However, these negative impacts are cumulative: by the time a rancher is facing requirements from 3, 4, 5, or 6 different statutes, his ability to graze livestock on Federal land is uncertain at best. The only thing that is certain is that he will spend more time trying to comply with regulatory requirements than he will spend actually ranching. This same situation is also faced by BLM: agency employees spend more time consulting with other agencies on how to administer those agencies' laws and dealing with paperwork or appeals than they do actually doing the on-the-ground monitoring to safeguard the resource.
I know that it is unrealistic to think that these laws will ever be quickly changed to alleviate our problems. However, because most of the problems caused by these laws today are because of how the agencies are administering them, I don't think it would be unreasonable at all for the agencies to at least be able to work together in a manner that would allow both BLM and ranchers to do our jobs, rather than fill out papers and go to meetings. If the goal of BLM and ranchers is to protect, preserve, and improve the resource, which I think it is, then this kind of change is certainly needed.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Once again, thank you for the opportunity to appear here today.
STATEMENT OF WESLEY NEIL BRUTON, SAN ANTONIO, NEW MEXICO
Chairman Hansen and members of the Committee, first let me thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Wesley Neil Bruton and I am from San Antonio, New Mexico, where I live with my wife, daughter and son. We are part of a family agricultural operation that has been in Central New Mexico since 1880 when my great grandfather moved there from South Texas.
With my parents, we ranch and farm on private, state and Federal lands. In the West, you acquire land and the public permits that go with it, by inheriting it or purchasing it. As a family, we built the operation purchasing private land along with state and Federal leases. I am proud that my father is here with me today. It is our intention to pass what we have on to my daughter, Brittany, who turns 12 today, and Wesley, who is 4.
We earn everything we have. We do not have Federal insurance or retirement plans. We do not get paid vacations. We pay our taxes and we've never been on welfare.
Our operation includes Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land as well as Bureau of Reclamation lands that are administered by the BLM. In many cases, these lands are co-mingled with state and/or private property, with no fencing.
Frankly, Dad and I would rather be home today, doing what we think we do best, caring for our animals and our land. Actions of the Federal Government have made that impossible.
We have heard the stories about how the government, our government, is taking away citizens rights. We thought those things happened to other people. We were wrong and we should have known better. It has happened to the family before.
The Federal Government took land from my grandparents back in 1941 for White Sands Missile Range. At that time, it was patriotism that was the standard bearer for land grabs. We are a patriotic people. My father served in the Korean conflict and we do believe in fighting for what is ours and what is right.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are here today to tell you about what the Federal Government has done to us in 1997 in the name of a bird. We learned this spring that Federal employees or folks contracted by the Federal Government trespassed on our PRIVATE land in search of endangered species, specifically the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.
They then used the information they obtained while trespassing on our land, our private land, to remove us from one of our Federal land leases. In that area, we run 175 mother cows. The spring and summer of the year is when the forage is at its best, and it is also the time when most of the cows are calving, lactating and breeding back.
Based on the information gained through illegal entry, the Federal Government issued a decision to eliminate grazing in the area for three-and-a-half months during the prime portion of the year. That was bad enough.
However, the decision was a ''full force and effect'' decision which requires IMMEDIATE compliance. That immediate compliance in our case was six (6) days. We had only 6 days to remove 175 cows, along with many calves of varying ages and sizes. The river was high and flooding and the brush was all in full foliage, making it impossible to use horses or any other method of gathering the cattle. We had to go in on foot and in small boats. We ended up hauling one heavily pregnant cow out in a boat.
We generally gather this area in the fall, when there is little foliage and bait the cattle out with feed. Then it usually takes us 3 to 4 months to get the job done.
In addition to getting the cattle out of the river bottom, we had to find other pasture for them. That was no easy chore and was extremely expensive because most of our area was just recovering from a drought. The pasture we found was over 150 miles away. In all we spent more than $32,000 in additional pasture rent, labor and trucking to move the animals.
If we had not complied with the removal order within the 6 days allotted, we would have been guilty of willful trespass on Federal property which could have resulted in the impoundment of our cattle as well as large fines. In addition, all of our other permits on Federal lands would have been in jeopardy.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With a full force and effect decision, any appeal, which must initially be done through the administrative process, cannot take place until after compliance with the order. We did try to use the courts to at least get more time to remove the cattle. However, with only 6 days to comply, by the time we got a lawyer hired and the proper paperwork filed, the time was up.
We were denied the stay near the end of July, better than 90 days after we had to remove the cattle. We have filed an appeal administratively, and have yet to hear anything about it.
The driving force behind this nightmare is the Endangered Species Act which caused the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to issue a notice to the Bureau of Reclamation that grazing could result in a ''take'' of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. A ''take'' of an endangered species can result in criminal action as well as stiff fines.
The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher is a bird listed in March 1997. It is a subspecies that can only be identified by the way it sings. If you haven't heard one, you won't know one.
It amazes me that Federal employees can identify such a creature by sound alone, but they do not have the ability to identify property lines between Federal and private land on a map.
Since this mess has started, we learned that inventories were done on our PRIVATE land in 1994, 1995 and 1996 for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. In 1996, cowbirds were also trapped on our private land without our knowledge or permission. The primary concern with grazing in areas where there may be willow flycatchers is the cowbird. It is believed, but not scientifically proven, that cows attract cowbirds. The cowbird is also present where there are several other forms of livestock.
In any event, we are told that cowbirds lay their eggs in flycatcher nests. The flycatchers then end up raising baby cowbirds instead of their own. There is also some concern that cattle knock down nests, but most of the low nests are over the water and our cows, at least, are not big swimmers.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The last 5 months have been a nightmare that I would not have believed could have happened to me or anyone else in this United States. And, it appears that it has only just begun. We have been unable to get any commitment from the Bureau of Reclamation about our future in utilizing the grazing land. There is a land use plan in the works, but grazing has yet to be addressed.
At the present time there is no stability in our agricultural operation. We don't know where or if we will be able to use the land we have paid to use and have maintained for years. Our private land now has no resale value. Who in their right mind would want to get involved in this mess?
We were allowed to go back on the area with the cattle on August 1, 1997, but we do not know when we will be forced to remove them again. We have been told that we will be allowed additional AUMs this winter to make up for those lost. But, our livestock are unable to benefit from the prime nutritional value in the forage that was there in the spring and summer because we were forced to remove them. And, you cannot make up for the nutritional value lost to the cattle at a critical time in their life cycle.
We want to leave this ranch to our children, but who would wish such a thing on their kids?
I know you are here today to discuss the reduction of use on BLM lands. From my perspective, until and unless the Endangered Species Act is modified, future use of BLM lands will continue to be a target of the Fish & Wildlife Service and citizens like my family and I are in serious trouble.
There is no avenue in the Endangered Species Act for individuals to have any meaningful input. Science means nothing. Economic impact means nothing. Custom and culture mean nothing. The Fish & Wildlife Service is a kingdom of its own and is a predator to Federal funding. Other Federal agencies are being forced to spend millions on endangered species consultation and assessment. There are no checks and balances.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Private citizens like us cannot constantly patrol their property to keep Federal intruders from trespassing. And few of us have the money to hire lawyers to protect our rights. That's why we elected folks like you.
In 3 years of Federal research, we were never once contacted about the presence of the willow flycatcher on our property. Our local government was never consulted and there has never been any economic or cultural analysis done on the area in relation to this issue.
Common sense indicates that this would have been an ideal year to study the true affects of grazing on the willow flycatcher. The Fish & Wildlife Service was trapping cowbirds, we had out-of-bank flooding on the river, and the cows were happy. Instead, we were put through hell. Not only have we been put through a great deal of personal stress and expense, but our own tax dollars have been paying for the oppression upon us.
I thank you again for your time and consideration. My family certainly hopes and prays that you folks here in Washington can see what is being done to those of us in the country before too many more of us are put out of business.
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