A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior (Department) on S. 1129, the Grazing Improvement Act.The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is dedicated to a broad range of stewardship goals, including the long-term health and viability of the public rangelands. Our Nation's rangelands provide and support a variety of goods, services, and values important to every American.In addition to being an important source of forage for livestock, healthy rangelands conserve soil, store and filter water, sequester carbon, provide a home for an abundance of wildlife, provide scenic beauty and are the setting for many forms of outdoor recreation.
The BLM recognizes that the conservation and sustainable use of rangelands is important to those who make their living on these landscapes—including public rangeland permittees.Public land livestock operations are important to the economic well-being and cultural identity of the West and to rural Western communities. Livestock grazing is an integral part of BLM's multiple-use mission, and at the right levels and timing, can serve as an important vegetation management tool, improving wildlife habitat and reducing risk of catastrophic wildfire.
The BLM is committed to collaborating with those who work on the public lands and takes seriously its challenge to conserve and manage healthy rangelands for current and future generations.
The Department shares the Committee's interest in identifying opportunities for increasing efficiencies in public land grazing administration, as well as finding ways to make permit renewal less complex, costly, and time-consuming
Further, S. 1129 requires that if a permittee appeals a grazing permit or lease decision, the BLM must suspend the decision until the appeal is resolved. Under current regulations, a typical BLM grazing decision is implemented while under appeal unless the permittee or interested public requests, and the Interior Board of Land Appeals grants a stay of the decision. By contrast, under S. 1129, if a permittee appealed a grazing decision, the BLM could not implement the decision unless it determined there was an emergency regarding deterioration of resources.Otherwise, the permittee could continue grazing at the current level of use until the appeal was resolved. The provisions would effectively give a permittee, by the simple act of appealing any grazing decision, the ability to continue current levels of use for an indefinite period of time (since appeals and litigation may take years).Moreover, grazing at the current level could continue even if the BLM determined land health standards were not being met and changes to the permit were thus warranted.
In summary, while S. 1129 contains provisions that would expedite permitting, the Department cannot support the overarching impact the bill could have on the 160 million acres of public lands used for livestock grazing.
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on S. 1129.The BLM looks forward to working with the Congress to develop improvements to the grazing permit renewal process while maintaining the integrity of NEPA, the Nation's bedrock environmental and citizen involvement law, and FLPMA, our multiple-use statute requiring consideration of many uses and values of the public lands.I will be pleased to answer any questions.