GUEST EDITORIAL: NCBA Celebrates Huge Victory for Western Ranchers

Published on Tue, 01/06/2015 - 2:03pm

It was no small feat, but after decades of work, Western ranchers have a huge victory to celebrate. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passed the necessary provisions of the Grazing Improvement Act, amending the grazing section of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act for the first time in many years. Championed by Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Labrador (R-Idaho), the passage of these provisions is critical to providing a stable business environment for ranchers that utilize public lands.

One of the original intents for introducing the Grazing Improvement Act was to codify the grazing rider that has been in place for over a decade. Ranchers in the West need permanent authority for the federal land management agencies to maintain existing grazing permits in spite of the seemingly endless backlog of environmental analysis faced by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The grazing rider allows for land to remain in use while the land management agencies conduct environmental analyses for permit reissuing.

The provisions passed also allow for the application of environmental analysis to allotments rather than the permits, which will extend in some cases to multiple-allotment analysis. Grouping these analyses helps to streamline and increase efficiency of this review process for the BLM and Forest Service. Additionally, this language provides for both grazing permit decisions and trailing and crossing decisions to be categorically excluded from the National Environmental Policy Act allowing agency resources to be focused where most needed.

Ranching was one of the first uses for public land across the West and has proven to be beneficial for the land and wildlife. Yet, our ranching families are continually threatened by radical environmental groups pushing their agenda through process based lawsuits against the land management agencies. The Grazing Improvement Act has been a priority for the livestock industry for years; it is great to see Congress act, confirming their support for a continued strong presence of the 22,000 ranchers on federal lands.

This has been another great policy win in a rebuilding year for our industry. After years of drought, high input costs and low margins, and ever increasing regulation from the Administration; it was great to see a strong finish to 2014. There are a lot of reasons for everyone in the cattle business to be optimistic in this New Year.

Bob McCan of Victoria, Texas, is the 2014-15 NCBA President and oversees the cattle operations and recreational hunting and wildlife operations for his family’s company, McFaddin Enterprises, Ltd., in Victoria, Refugio, and Bee Counties. Bob and his wife Julie have two children, who are the sixth generation of their family to work on the McFaddin Ranch.