Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson has pooled his resources with other western and southern congressmen aimed at bring disaster relief to troubled farmers and ranchers.
He and 40 other lawmakers from across the isle wrote a letter to his friend, Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, asking for extension of two disaster compensation programs for ranchers and farmers. They are responding to widespread drought nationwide and extensive wildfires across western rangelands like the 652,000-acre Murphy Complex fire in Idaho and Nevada in July.
He could be calling the initiative the global warming compensation program. The drought and the wildfires fit the model of the predictions of the 2,500 researchers working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The IPCC today was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore for prompting international awareness and action on climate change.
Simpson had sent an earlier letter to the chairmen of several House Appropriations subcommittees asking for more detailed disaster funding. In that letter he jumped in the middle of the debate over the role of grazing in rangeland fire management.
Taking the role previously lead by Sen. Larry Craig, Simpson urged increased funding for collecting sagebrush and other rangeland plant seeds to help the burned area heal. But taking the side of ranchers led by Idaho Republican Rep. Bert Brackett, he urged the funding not be limited to native seeds.
Simpson also followed Brackett’s lead by asking the committee chairmen to fund a pilot program to study the use of livestock grazing for fuel reduction on rangelands. He also wants cattle allowed back into burned areas as early as next spring instead of after 2 years, which is the usual prescription.
Range ecologists reject these broad approaches that clearly favor ranchers. Cattle grazing breaks up the soil and contributes to the spread of cheatgrass
Simpson acknowledged he was reaching by seeking to include such a request in a supplemental appropriations bill. “I am hoping to begin a discussion of such an idea for possible inclusion in the upcoming annual appropriations bills,” Simpson wrote.
I expect most environmental groups involved in rangeland issues to fight all but a very targeted grazing program aimed at grazing cheatgrass in the early spring using goats under limited circumstances.
Others will oppose the idea outright and still others, like the Western Watersheds Project, will prescribe removal of all cattle off of federal range.