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Public Statements

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LABRADOR. I rise in support of title XI, the Grazing Improvement Act of 2012.

Livestock grazing is an important part of the rich ranching tradition in America. One need look no further than at the iconic images of cowboys driving huge herds of cattle across open land to realize how big a part ranching has played in American history. Today, my home state of Idaho produces some of the world's finest-tasting lamb and beef, which makes its way to dinner tables across America and as far away as Korea. Food production is a major part of Idaho's history and is an integral part of our cultural fabric and our economic security. These traditions are under attack, and we must preserve them for future generations.

Ranchers are proud stewards of the land. Their reputations and financial security depend on this basic fact. Yet, the process to review the very permits which allow them to produce food has become severely backlogged due to lawsuits aimed at eliminating livestock from public lands. The local Federal land managing office, staffed by fine men and women, cannot keep up with the pace of litigation and the endless environmental analysis. This diverts the already limited resources from these offices and leaves ranchers at risk of losing their grazing permits and of jeopardizing their livelihoods.

Agriculture is a difficult way to make a living, but producers choose this path because it is their livelihood, their passion, and their way of life. When my constituent, Owyhee County rancher Brenda Richards, testified in March on behalf of H.R. 4234, she talked not just about the efficiencies the bill would bring to the overall system, providing cost savings to taxpayers, but she passionately expressed the unstable situation facing ranchers like her: 78 percent of Owyhee County is public land, making local ranchers and the county economy dependent on reliable, yet responsible, access to public land forage.

According to Richards, ranchers not only face uncertainty each year about whether permits will be renewed, but they are also being threatened with new bureaucratic red tape when it comes to crossing and trailing their animals across public lands. Radical special interest litigants have driven the agencies to consider this low-impact activity a ``major agency action'' that requires full environmental analysis under NEPA.

The Grazing Improvement Act of 2012 would accomplish three important goals. First, it extends livestock grazing permits from 10 to 20 years in order to give producers adequate stability. Second, it reduces the workload on overburdened Federal land managers at the local level, and it allows them to get out into the field, which is where they belong. Finally, the legislation includes bipartisan language to encourage land managers to use existing tools in order to expedite permit processing.

We can be good stewards of our land and resources without hurting American ranchers. We must alleviate the problems caused by a tedious bureaucratic process that was created only to respond to the litigious environmental agenda. We can no longer allow the Federal Government to maintain an enormous backlog in processing grazing permits. My legislation aims to ensure grazing certainty and stability for America's livestock producers. Our ranchers depend upon it.

I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation.


Mr. LABRADOR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment, and let's talk about some facts and some figures and some numbers.

The good gentleman from Massachusetts continues to say that we need to treat this land the same as private land. The thing that's really fascinating to me is that we have in Colorado and Utah and Idaho many people who would like to actually do their grazing on State lands or private lands, but the difference is that in Massachusetts only 1.6 percent of the land is actually Federal land. In fact, if you look at the acreage, 81,000 acres in Massachusetts are Federal lands. That's why they can actually rely on many other things for their grazing and many other things that they do.

In Idaho, 68 percent of the land is Federal land. In fact, we're talking about 32.5 million acres in Idaho that are actually having to be managed by the Federal Government and that we have to deal with on a daily basis in the State of Idaho.

I think most grazers, most producers would actually like to be doing it on State lands where they actually will be paying more, but they actually receive more benefit for being on the State-owned lands than the State-managed lands. My question to the gentleman is: Why doesn't he allow Idaho and other States in the West to do what we want to do, which what we want to do is we actually want to manage our own lands. We have been asking that for a long time.

But it's interesting to me that the States that only have 1.4 percent of Federal lands continue to tell the States that have 68 percent of Federal lands that they cannot manage their own land. If we were allowed to manage our own lands, we would actually be able to charge a little bit more, but we would do away with all the NEPA requirements and all the other requirements that we have to deal with right now when we're on Federal lands.

So I think it's a little bit hypocritical for somebody to come here to the House floor and object to something that they don't even have to deal with in their own State.


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