Idaho Republican Rep Raúl Labrador’s “Grazing Improvement Act of 2012” passed the House.
The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California, would extend grazing permits from 10 to 20 years. The bill also would codify appropriation rider language that requires expired grazing permits to be renewed under existing terms and conditions until the renewal process is complete.
“My bill will help ranchers in Idaho and across America who are increasingly burdened with red tape by providing them a streamlined permitting process to help them access public lands,” Labrador said.
The backlog for permit renewal exceeds 4,200, he said.
“This is an unacceptable number of backlogged permits, all of which negatively affect America’s livestock producers,” he said.
The bill was passed as a part of the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, which would hand over operational control all public lands within 100 miles of the border with Mexico to the Border Control. This would include wilderness and wildlife refuges and would allow roads and other developments to be built.
That’s the main reason environmental groups like the Wilderness Society oppose it. But the group also opposes Labrador’s bill. It points out that no other government entity hands out 20-year permits.
David Moulton, senior legislative director at The Wilderness Society called the bill a “virtual giveaway of over 247 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and National Forest rangelands to the approximately 27,000 livestock producers who have grazing privileges on the lands managed by these two agencies.”
Ranchers pay $1.35 per month to graze a cow and a calf, and sheepherders pay 27 cents a month to graze one sheep on federal lands, a price critics have long said was too low. Ranchers say he high costs of grazing on public lands justifies the low fees, which don’t even pay for the agencies' oversight costs.