CHEYENNE — U.S. Senator John Barrasso introduced the Grazing Improvement Act as Senate File 258 earlier this year. Now, the act has passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is moving through the senate.
Barrasso introduced the bill on Feb. 7, with co-sponsors Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Jim Risch (R-ID).
The bill, if passed, would extend the present ten-year term for livestock leases to twenty years. The bill also allows for grazing permits to be issued while environmental analysis is being done. One of the problems facing cattle and sheep ranchers who have grazing leases on federal lands is a massive backlog of renewals that can’t be approved until environmental studies are completed under the current law.
The bill also provides greater flexibility with categorical exclusions that have also hampered ranchers in Wyoming and surrounding states.
“For too long ranching families have dealt with uncertainty and been the target of anti-grazing litigation that puts much needed grazing permits in jeopardy,” Barrasso said. “My bill will streamline the permitting process and protect Wyoming’s livestock producers, their jobs and their ability to provide for our communities and our nation.”
The legislation comes after years of constant environmental legal challenges to the current grazing laws that have left many ranchers in doubt whether they would have enough land for grazing to continue operations.
Many of the grazing leases across Wyoming and around Uinta County are on Forest Service or BLM lands. The original Federal Land Policy and Management Act was passed in 1976 and revisions to the bill have not occurred since that time.
The BLM manages approximately 40.7 million acres of federal mineral estates and 17.5 million acres of public lands in Wyoming.
The grazing fees have been set for 2013 and are set at $1.35 per AUM (Animal Unit). One AUM is equal to the forage and area needed for one cow and her calf or five sheep.