Just When You Thought It Couldnt Get Worse

From the NRDC: The purpose of this memo is to alert you all to a number of critical events next week in respect to the grazing issue. Here is a rundown of the most important developments: BLM’s Proposed Revisions to Grazing Regulations It is practically certain that the Record of Decision for the new grazing rules will come out early next week in the Federal Register. Until a few weeks ago the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was delaying the release of the new rules until BLM could satisfy issues that OMB had with the agency’s proposal. Due to considerable political pressure that was exerted on Secretary Kempthorne by politicians on the Hill, Kempthorne decided to proceed with the rule change post haste regardless of OMB’s objections. Most if not all of the proposed revisions that made the final EIS are expected to appear in the ROD. The rule is also expected to be accompanied by a preamble that, at the very least, will be well over 400 pages (some reports have put the preamble above 700 pages). The extraordinary length of such a preamble undercuts the Interior Department’s contention that these rule changes are merely needed to streamline and rectify minor problems that occurred due to the changes adopted by Rangeland Reform a decade ago. It should also be noted that this decision will be one of Secretary Kempthorne’s first official decisions. Congressional Actions Connected to the Rule Change – The Introduction of Grazing Legislation In anticipation of release of the grazing rule next week, the House Committee on Resources has tentatively scheduled a hearing to oversee the promulgation of the new rule for Thursday, July 14, 2006. In essence, the committee is expected to congratulate the Interior Department on a job well done. Worse, there is also an expectation that Congressmen Walden & Pombo will unveil a Healthy Grazing Initiative (HGI) along the lines of the Healthy Forests Initiative. The HGI will gut the regulatory mechanisms that currently govern the administration of grazing on federal public lands. Some of the measures that are likely to find their way into the proposal include: 30-year grazing permits; the granting of permanent “property” title to grazing privileges; the exemption of grazing regulation from NEPA; and a ‘pay to ranch’ provision. The ‘pay to ranch’ provision is a new development that asserts that ranching is a vital component in maintaining and restoring the health of the public’s rangelands. In exchange for “restoration” grazing, where ranchers help improve the health of the range by combating invasives and other threats to the range, the federal government will waive the grazing fee and, in some cases, actually pay ranchers to graze federal lands. This bill is reportedly being written by House Resource’s staff under the auspices of Pombo and representatives from the cattle industry. Last year, Senator Larry Craig’s staff floated a previous draft of this bill in the halls of the Senate.