Oregon Farm Bureau joins lawsuit on grazing fees

OFB joins lawsuit on grazing fees
By Oregon Farm Bureau

Oregon Farm Bureau and 11 other state Farm Bureaus in AFBF’s Western Region have petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene in defending two agencies against a lawsuit over grazing fees on federal land. Two environmental groups, the Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, are the named plaintiffs in the suit.

The case, filed against the BLM and Forest Service seeks a court order to require agencies to reconsider how grazing fees are calculated and to perform environmental impact analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to issuing grazing permits each year. The effort seeks to increase the cost of permits and also slow down the approval process for all 200,000 permit holders in one fell swoop.

If the plaintiffs are successful, the Forest Service and the BLM would have to conduct an environmental impact study for every permit they issue, every year, thereby raising costs to the governing agencies and also potentially cause delays in the permitting process.

September 15, 2010 – For Immediate Release
Contact: William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO. Twenty-seven national and state organizations whose members engage in livestock grazing on the Nation’s federal lands today sought to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups that could kill livestock grazing in the American West. Represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), a defender of grazing rights since 1977, organizations from the eleven western states that reach from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean, plus their national affiliates, filed their motion with the federal district court for the District of Columbia where five environmental groups filed their lawsuit in June 2010. Grazing, which has been permitted since American settlers came West, has been a mainstay of the rural western economy and a mechanism for saving open space and western wildlife. The environmental groups demand that the agencies that manage federal grazing land conduct expensive environmental studies, which will lead to lawsuits that will end grazing, perhaps forever.

“Environmental groups have long opposed an activity that pre-dates the arrival of western civilization in the American West, to wit, grazing on federal lands,” said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president. “They think they have found the mechanism to kill that activity. We intend to stop them.”

The 1934 Taylor Grazing Act authorizes federal agencies to issue permits to graze live subject to “payment annually of reasonable fees” to be “fixed or determined from time to time” in order “to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range.” The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), did not alter this concept; in fact, FLPMA required an “equitable” grazing fee achieved by taking into account various factors to ensure “the reasonableness of such [a] fee.”

In 1978, the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA) provided directions governing grazing fees, including that the fees be “equitable,” “prevent economic disruption and harm to the western livestock industry,” and consider the cost of livestock production and the ability to pay. Today, the grazing fee is equal to the $1.23 base set by the 1966 Western Livestock Grazing Survey multiplied by the Forage Value Index (computed annually using National Agricultural Statistics Service data) added to the Combined Index (Beef Cattle Price Index – the Prices Paid Index) and divided by 100. In 1986, President Reagan ordered continued use of the PRIA formula, an Executive Order set aside as contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In 1988, after conducting environmental analyses, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service issued rules to continue the PRIA formula’s use. The PRIA formula is used annually to set fees.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

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