A bill introduced by Raúl Labrador (R-ID), the Grazing Improvement Act, was incorporated into H.R. 2954, a bill the House passed today. The Grazing Improvement Act would extend Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service livestock grazing permits from 10 years to 20 years to give producers adequate longevity and production stability. The House also passed an amendment Rep. Labrador introduced today to discourage frivolous legal challenges to federal land management grazing decisions. These additions to H.R. 2954 are a big win for Idaho's agricultural community.
"The financial security of ranchers depends upon their responsible stewardship of the land," said Rep. Labrador in a floor speech today. "Unfortunately, the process to review the permits that allow them to produce food has become severely backlogged due to lawsuits aimed at eliminating livestock from public lands. My bill, the Grazing Improvement Act, would provide relief to Idaho's ranchers and ranchers throughout the country. I want to thank Chairman Hastings for recognizing the importance of this issue. I will continue to fight for Idaho's ranchers, who represent the foundation of a healthy, working landscape in the West."
The House also passed Rep. Labrador's amendment to H.R. 2954, requiring groups that are not substantially justified or directly affected by final federal grazing decisions to pay for the legal expenses of the other party when they lose in court. This "loser pays" system is a common-sense reform to discourage frivolous lawsuits by radical environmental groups.
"Environmental groups have been increasingly effective at abusing the current appeals process not to promote environmental health, but for the sole purpose of removing livestock from federal lands," said Rep. Labrador. "Each year, hundreds of appeals are filed on grazing decisions by environmental groups, and while the cost to ranchers can hardly be measured, in a recent case in Wyoming, for example, appealing the decision cost a small group of ranchers over $125,000 in administrative appeal and attorney fees alone. My amendment addresses this growing problem by clarifying the intent of Congress on who may appeal and litigate a final agency decision. It is time we ease the burden environmentalists have placed on our ranchers."
Rep. Labrador introduced H.R. 657, the Grazing Improvement Act in the 112th and 113th Congresses. The legislation would:
· Extend livestock grazing permits from 10 years to 20 years to give producers adequate longevity and production stability.
· Codify existing appropriation language to put into statute annual riders.
· Encourage the respective Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to utilize categorical exclusions to expedite permit processing.