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October 29, 1997

H.R. 2493 - Forage Improvement Act of 1997
(Smith (R) OR and 34 others)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2493 and, if it were presented to the President, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture would recommend that he veto the bill.

H.R. 2493 would increase significantly the administrative burden on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service (FS) while diminishing their stewardship of public lands. It could also create a new grazing property "right" on Federal lands and increase litigation. Further, it would undermine the improvements in communication and consensus-building that have been accomplished by the existing Resource Advisory Councils (RACs).

Among its more objectionable provisions H.R. 2493 would:

Create a potential for increased litigation and undermine multiple land uses. The bill's poorly defined monitoring standards could result in considerable litigation. In addition, the bill may give rise to litigation by permittees seeking to establish a grazing property right on Federal lands. Permittees could attempt, in effect, to create a dominant use and threaten all other users of the land and limit the Federal government's ability to protect natural resources. Land management agencies could face "takings" claims whenever they propose livestock reductions or modifications in grazing management. Further, the requirement that Federal land managers notify permittees of monitoring activities 48 hours in advance could severely hamper the government's efforts to protect public lands.

Undermine the success of the existing RACS. The bill would eliminate the current consensus approach to decision making that has worked well in fostering cooperative working relationships between RAC members. It also appears to limit the role of the new RACs to grazing issues, thus further undermining their usefulness.

Establish costly, rigid, burdensome, and counterproductive monitoring requirements that would undercut the ability of Federal land managers to protect the land. These requirements would limit Federal discretion to respond to changes in range management research and technological advances and would ultimately invite increased litigation and judicially imposed solutions. In addition, the bill would prohibit the use of valid monitoring data from sources other than those listed and would require the costly development of new site specific monitoring protocols.

Increase the complexity of the grazing fee schedule with little or no return to the Federal Treasury and eliminate certain surcharges on grazing fees. The bill would establish an administratively cumbersome process for developing a new fee schedule that would not achieve an equitable return to the U.S. Treasury for grazing privileges. In addition, it would eliminate the BLM's ability to impose a surcharge on permittees who charge third-parties to graze livestock on their allotments while simultaneously requiring the FS to allow such subleasing. These changes could result in a significant reduction in Federal receipts.

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