Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act
One of the simplest and most obvious solutions to address the impacts of livestock grazing on public lands is to allow grazing permittees to voluntarily relinquish their permits and for the Forest Service and BLM to permanently close the allotments to livestock grazing. Reducing the acreage of public lands available for grazing in this manner creates a win-win-win for ranchers, the environment, and taxpayers. The ranchers get to choose how and when they exit the public lands grazing business, public lands begin the process of recovery to benefit of fish and wildlife, native vegetation, and other public lands users, and taxpayers save on the costs of permit administration which is over $120 million in the red each year.
The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (H.R. 6935), which was introduced by Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Jared Huffman on March 3, 2022, is an important first step towards achieving a better future for public lands. The bill would allow for the permanent closure of 25 allotments per year in each western state. While that is only a drop in the bucket considering that there are over 25,000 grazing allotments in the western United States, a successful permit retirement program will help to alleviate immediate conflicts with at-risk wildlife and demonstrate a path forward for real conservation of public lands.
Please ask your Representative to support the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act and become a co-sponsor of this vital, common-sense legislation.
Coalition Sign-On Letters
Regulations and Accountability
The BLM and the USFS must develop comprehensive regulations for their respective grazing programs that ensure the preservation and conservation of public lands. The regulations must by crystal clear that any permitted grazing that negatively impacts wildlife habitat, water quality, native plant populations, and climate resilience must immediately cease until a new management can be developed. The regulations must also include accountability measures for both permittees and land managers so that rewards and incentives are based on current ecological conditions backed by consistent, transparent, scientific, and repeatable monitoring.
The BLM is currently in the process of revising their grazing regulations. Our coalition has developed a comprehensive alternative that we expect the BLM to analyze and hopefully adopt. The Forest Service currently has very scant regulations that only pertain to the mechanics of permitting. Instead they rely on agency handbooks and manuals which are developed internally and without any environmental analysis. We have urged the Forest Service to begin a public rulemaking process to develop comprehensive regulations.
The regulations that govern public lands grazing on BLM and USFS managed lands are in desperate need of an update. The current regulations are decades old and do not account for the impacts of climate change, the tremendous loss of biodiversity, the dramatic increases in invasive species and associated increases in wildfire, and the overall public sentiment about the purposes of public lands. They are reflective of a bygone era where maximum extraction was the driving force for management decisions and environmental impacts were largely accepted as consequence. This problem is compounded by a lack of accountability for both permittees and land managers and a system that is largely captured by the livestock industry. Maintaining the status quo is the measure of success regardless of the environmental impacts.