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Throughout the country’s history, and up to the present day, the use and corresponding management of lands belonging to the federal government has received widespread attention. The grazing of domestic livestock on federal rangelands has become the center of controversy resulting in proposals advanced in both the regulatory and legislative arenas. The issue has commanded the attention of the administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service, Congress, the livestock and related industries, the general public, and a myriad of special interest groups.
Established decades ago, public lands grazing supports many family-based operations and is vital to the culture, customs and economies of many regions. Ranching operations and public land grazing provide needed food for a growing population. These operations also maintain open spaces and important habitat conditions benefiting wildlife and recreation. Restrictions in public lands grazing have negative ecological impacts and dramatic negative economic impacts on ranchers and ranch dependent communities. Land management decisions are most effective when made through collaborative, cooperative and coordinated efforts. A majority of the land in the West is managed by the federal government, making public lands vital to Western agriculture. Continued grazing on public lands is essential to the future of ranching and farming in the West.
Land ownership patterns in the West underscore the purpose and vital need for a more coordinated and collaborative federal role in rangeland management. These public lands serve as critical economic drivers, and they provide numerous conservation benefits, wildlife habitat, water supply, and recreational opportunities for Western communities and the nation. States have a particular interest in improving the active management on federal lands. State governments have trust authority over water, and wildlife.. Poorly managed rangelands can have significant and broad impacts on the landscapes and communities, including negative impacts to air quality, economic sustainability, public health, degradation of rivers and streams and associated water quality (including drinking water), reduced forage for domestic livestock, impaired habitats for wildlife and fish, and associated jobs. Access to and the use of rangelands is essential to the future of agriculture in the Western U.S.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants authority to the President of the United States to set aside land of historic or scientific interest. Recently, over three million acres of federal land have been withdrawn from public use by authority of the Antiquities Act. In many instances, this action was taken without formal input from the state or local governments involved or the states’ congressional delegation, and was strongly opposed by the local citizens.
The Antiquities Act should be repealed, and the authority to withdraw land from public use returned to Congress. Failing repeal, the Antiquities Act should be amended as follows:
Various problems impacting the management of livestock grazing and natural resources management occur on existing federal wilderness areas. Pending or new legislation will likely propose certain new areas for wilderness designation in western states.
Any wilderness legislation must include the following provisions:
(Added February 8, 2010)
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) was passed to aid small business, public interest groups, and individuals forced to sue or defend against the government in order to secure some right, privilege, or interest. Under EAJA, these individuals or small businesses can obtain reimbursement of attorney fees if the individual or small business prevails in litigation.
In order to guard against abuse of the EAJA and to help protect agricultural producers from onerous and excessive litigation, NASDA supports policies that:
Rangelands are subject and vulnerable to extremely large range fires as in the past; suppression costs are extremely high and the risk to wildlife, homes, human life, wildlife habitat, and grazing lands increases with an increasing population. Livestock numbers have been reduced to a fraction of what they once were and a massive buildup of fuels has resulted from an extremely small percentage of the annual forage being grazed by livestock. Knowledge and technology exists to cope with extreme fire seasons by using fire resistant plant species in reseeding efforts following fire occurrence. Livestock grazing is the most cost-effective, natural, productive tool for reduction of excess fuel and an effective tool in the reclamation of burned areas.
Agriculture in the Western states is significantly different than in other regions of the country. There are greater variations in soil, climate, terrain, agricultural commodities and practices, and water availability. Agriculture is an important contributor to the economy in the West, open spaces and habitats for wildlife. More than 630 million acres of the Western U.S. is managed by the Federal government. This figure is greater than the landmass of Texas, California, Florida and New York combined. Agriculture in the West is irrefutably and undeniably tied to Federal land management policies.