This page last updated January 06, 2009
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2003 4:37 PM
To: Dear Colleague
Subject: Dear Colleague; Environment; So-Called "Voluntary" Grazing Buyouts First Step to End Public Lands Grazing
September 25, 2003
End All Grazing on Public Lands? - "Voluntary" Buyouts Are
First Step by Radical Environmental Groups Supporting Effort
Recently, you received a Dear Colleague from Rep. Shays (Connecticut) and Rep. Grijalva (Arizona) asking you to consider signing on a bill to allow the voluntary retirement of grazing permits in Arizona. I urge you to very closely consider and do not cosponsor such a measure, for several reasons.
First, look at the groups backing this proposal. While I do not doubt that my Colleagues introducing this measure have forthright goals, you should be aware of the goals of some of the groups pushing these voluntary" retirements. According to Greenwire and statements in other press sources, the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign (NPLGC) overall goal is to eliminate all cattle grazing on public lands. (Brian Stembeck, "Grazing: Enviros trying to end public lands grazing, ranchers say range improving."
Greenwire, Feb. 8, 2002).
Second, these groups backing the legislation also have vigorous and well-funded legal teams that bankrupt ranchers while delaying and obstructing extensions of their grazing permits. So, if a rancher doesn't accept a "voluntary" buyout, they may become the unfortunate victim of lawsuits by well-funded groups targeting their grazing permits subject to renewal - potentially cutting off their ability to use these permits for years while the courts address the lawsuit against the BLM or Forest Service, to which they are only a bystander.
Third, many communities in the West are heavily dependent on ranches and public lands grazing, so eliminating grazing on public lands or similar steps toward that goal disproportionately impact the West. With all respect to my Colleagues, a bill that is the first step toward eliminating grazing on public lands championed by a member from the Northeast is a lot like me introducing a bill eliminating fishing in public waters off the New England coast.
Fourth, this proposal turns grazing policy on its head. The grazing
permit is not a property right, and cannot be separately sold. Currently, if a rancher chooses not to seek to renew the permit, that permit is then offered to other interested ranchers for grazing, subject of course to NEPA and other requirements. Allowing a single rancher who may have suffered an unfortunate string of bad years and drought to dictate the future use of public lands forever is a radical change in our public lands policy - and an abdication of Congress' and agencies' responsibility to make public lands use decisions.
fresh water, blue skies and big mountains, cattle ranching is an
unmistakably important part of our heritage throughout the West. But
like so many other important pieces of our western heritage, this way
of life has come under withering assault by narrow-minded interest
groups devoted to nothing less than building a wall between the
American people and their federal lands. Ignoring over 150-years
of evidence, these well-funded interest groups argue, wrongly, that
grazing has no place on our public lands because of the damage they
claim it does to our natural environment. I ask you to reject their
radical view, and beware the first step along the path toward their
ultimate goal of forcing cattle grazing -- and therefore American
cattle ranchers -- off of the public lands.
If you have any questions, please contact me or my Public Lands staffer,
Melissa Simpson (#5-4761). I hope you will consider these points closely before making any decision to support legislation soon to be introduced by Reps. Shays (Connecticut) and Grijalva (Arizona).
Member of Congress
P.S. - To offer some perspective about regional sensitivities, perhaps you should ask Representative Shays what his reaction would be to a Westerner introducing a bill with the ultimate goal of ending fishing in public waters off New England.
Rep. Scott McInnis