Idaho Rancher Urges Appropriators to Provide Ranchers Stability

WASHINGTON (NCBA) — The Public Lands Council (PLC), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA) were represented in a hearing before congressional appropriators Tuesday by Idaho rancher and PLC Vice President Brenda Richards. Richards presented the public lands livestock grazing industry’s funding priorities to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in a public witness hearing, urging them to improve business stability for ranchers through well-placed appropriation of funding to the federal agencies.

Richards, of Owyhee County, Idaho, runs a fifth-generation cattle ranching operation with her husband and three sons. Speaking from first-hand experience, she emphasized to appropriators the positive influence they can have in putting a stop to the overly-burdensome regulations on federal lands that provide radical, anti-grazing environmental groups with opportunities to litigate. She said adequate funding to range programs, implemented by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), is crucial to the agencies’ ability to defend their grazing decisions against these radical groups, whose goal is to remove ranchers from the landscape. She also thanked the Subcommittee for providing language--in every appropriations measure for over a decade--allowing ranchers to continue using their grazing allotments while the agencies work through the backlog of environmental review on permits.

“I would like to begin by thanking (Subcommittee) Chairman (Mike) Simpson (R-Idaho) and the Subcommittee for your recognition, through past funding decisions, of the importance of livestock grazing to the management of federal lands and to rural economies in the West,” Richards said. “However, it can’t be said that all is well for western ranching families like mine. In these times of constant and growing regulatory threats and resulting environmental litigation on public lands, it’s no wonder that grazing on BLM land…has been reduced by a full 30 percent over the past few decades. In counties like Owyhee, where a majority of ranchers depend upon forage from BLM-managed land to supplement their private base property, these numbers are more than statistics — they are an indication livelihood, families, communities and generations-old traditions in peril.”

Richards went on to explain how regulatory threats, such as the administration’s “Wild Lands” order; the administration’s proposal to levy an arbitrary new 74 percent grazing tax on ranching families; the burdensome new USFS planning rule; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempts to regulate water and dust; and the proposed listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse (GSG) under the Endangered Species Act, are poised to put ranching families such as hers out of business. She said in Owyhee County, the proposed listing of the GSG is already resulting in unfounded decisions to reduce grazing.

“You have the power to prevent the administration’s most damaging proposals,” Richards told the Subcommittee. “We are not looking for a handout; we are only looking for relief from the regulations and resulting litigation that are on their way to wiping out our way of life. I speak from the heart when I say thank you for calling me here today and giving me the opportunity to communicate to you what is truly the western ranching community’s plea for congressional action.”

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