The House Interior appropriations bill passed through committee today 30 to 21. The Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) strongly support the bill, which allocates how federal dollars are spent for the departments of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies during fiscal year 2016.
The bill included language that would help provide relief from the regulatory burdens that continue to hamper the productivity and profitability of farmers and ranchers across the country.
From language that blocks the listing of the sage grouse, to requiring alternative allotments where ranchers are impacted by drought or wildfire without the need to complete extensive environmental analyses and many others, Dustin Van Liew, PLC and NCBA federal lands executive director, said the provisions are important to keeping livestock producers in business.
This bill would maintain the current grazing fee, fund the range budgets at the same levels as fiscal year 2015 and prohibit funding for the creation of de facto wilderness areas under Secretarial Order 3310. These are all critical in maintaining the viability of federal lands grazing and multiple use.
“This bill contained several priorities for public lands ranchers,” said Van Liew. “Our industry supports the current federal grazing fee formula, which is based on market criteria and accurately reflects the costs of operating on public lands. We also support maintaining range budgets so the agencies can retain staff and work to reduce backlogs, managing the additional burdens of red-tape and frivolous litigation.”
The bill also continues to block listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act through September 30, 2016.
“Due to a closed-door settlement between United States Fish and Wildlife Service and radical environmental groups, arbitrary deadlines have been set for making hundreds of decisions on species in all fifty states to be listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Van Liew. “We encourage Congress to provide direction to the agencies to defer to state sage grouse management plans so that land management agencies cannot continue to make decisions that will negatively impact livestock grazing. Research shows that livestock grazing is one of the only tools available to benefit sage grouse habitat, reducing fuel loads and preserving open space.”
Scott Yager, NCBA environmental counsel, commended lawmakers for including language that would help reign in the EPA’s attempt to control even more land and water on private property.
“This committee took the much needed step of defunding the implementation of the EPA’s Waters of the United States final rule,” said Yager. “The final rule released by the agency does not satisfy the concerns of cattle producers or landowners. The provisions contained in this legislation send a clear signal to the EPA that they need to start over, working with Congress, landowners, and the states to draft a rule that will work for everyone.”
The committee took a positive step, in line with last year’s bill, by including a provision to withhold funding to any rule that would require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. The committee additionally continued to include language preventing EPA from requiring Clean Air Act permits from livestock operations based on greenhouse gas emissions.
PLC and NCBA encourage the full House to take up this bill without delay.