8 Federal Land Management

8.1 Introduction

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.

8.2 Grazing on Public Land

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.

  • NASDA supports the multiple resource use of federal lands, including livestock grazing.
  • NASDA believes that proper land management is the responsibility of all stakeholders, including but not limited to, livestock grazing permittees and local, state and federal agencies, and that coordination, cooperation and or collaboration between all stakeholders throughout the land management decision making process is necessary for effective land use management.
  • NASDA advocates for the use of sound, thorough, science-based processes in management decisions for federal lands.
  • NASDA advocates for consistency between permittees, ranchers, farmers, and agricultural operations in the application of federal land management policies.
  • NASDA believes appropriate management of livestock grazing on federal lands is compatible with recreation, conservation, wildfire control and wildlife management.
  • NASDA maintains that water rights, which are granted by the states for livestock grazing, be used by the right holder for beneficial use for grazing and other appropriate uses.

8.3 Rangeland Management

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.

  • NASDA supports sound rangeland management policies that maintain and promote ecologic, economic and social balance and sustainability.
  • NASDA is concerned with the lack of federal funding and resources for federal land management agencies to implement rehabilitation, restoration maintenance projects, processing NEPA, and rangeland monitoring.
  • NASDA believes clear, coordinated and consistent application of federal vegetation management practices is integral to maintaining the health of western forests, preventing dangerous and damaging fires and maintaining grid reliability.
  • NASDA supports implementation of standard monitoring procedures to evaluate program benefits and ensure that fish and wildlife, soil, water and air goals are met, in conjunction with production agriculture goals.
  • NASDA urges federal agencies to work with states and permittees on rangeland management decisions.

8.4 Antiquities Act

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:

  • All withdrawals should be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act;
  • Governors of the affected states should be formally consulted; and
  • No more than 5,000 acres will be withdrawn by any single executive action.

8.5 Federal Wilderness Areas

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:

  • Continue livestock grazing practices and protect private investments in a manner existing prior to passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964.
  • Protect the states’ and private water rights and water administration systems from federal encroachment by requiring the federal government to seek any water necessary for wilderness purposes through a state’s water process.
  • Include language which will release those lands not designated wilderness to multiple use.

8.6 Equal Access to Justice Act

(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.

  • NASDA supports policies, including those of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), that facilitate the ability of agricultural producers and other permittees on public lands to fully participate in the court system in order to address unreasonable government action.
  • NASDA supports policies that provide reasonable reimbursement of attorney fees to prevailing individuals, small businesses, and public interest organizations in litigation intended to address unreasonable government action.

In order to guard against abuse of the EAJA and to help protect agricultural producers from onerous and excessive litigation, NASDA supports policies that:

  • Provide greater transparency into the amount of funding provided to prevailing parties under the EAJA. This transparency should also include an accounting of the recipients of these funds.
  • Ensure a level playing field for recipients of EAJA reimbursements. Individuals and small businesses are subject to net-worth limits to qualify for reimbursement under the EAJA; appropriate limitations should be set to restrain the ability of non-profit activist organizations to abuse the system.
  • Enhance the ability of agricultural producers and other permittees on public lands to intervene in cases that could have direct financial consequences and other negative implications on these parties.

8.7 Forestry & Fire Management

(Updated September 2018)

NASDA strongly supports the efforts of state forestry agencies and continued cooperation between them and state departments of agriculture. Signified by the inclusion of the Forest Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), forestry is closely related and often intertwined with production agriculture. With nearly two-thirds of U.S. forestland state and privately owned, states play an integral role in managing our nation’s forests in a sustainable manner. Moreover, states provide a wide range of conservation, forest health, and fire management services and assistance through the Forest Service’s State & Private Forestry programs.

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.

  • NASDA strongly supports the Forest Service’s State Fire Assistance (SFA) and Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) programs. These programs provide financial and technical assistance to state and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention and suppression. While USDA can provide farmers and ranchers with disaster assistance for wildland fire damage to crops, fencing, and livestock, wildland fire prevention can limit the frequency and severity of fires as well as suppression and recovery costs.
  • NASDA strongly opposes the budgetary practice of fire borrowing, and encourages Congress to pass legislation to fund federal wildfires off-budget as many states already do, and ensure the federal land management budget for restoration, recreation, road maintenance, hazardous fuels reduction, and wildlife/watershed protection is fully restored if fire borrowing occurs.
  • NASDA strongly urges the Bureau of Land Management and other land management agencies to seed more fire resistant plant species such as edible browses and crested wheat grass following a fire to reduce the spread of cheat grass, future suppression costs, fire size, and wildlife and private property losses; and propose the use of livestock grazing as a resource management tool and deterrent to wildfire and encourage flexibility in using livestock as part of the rehabilitation process after a burn.

8.8 Western Agriculture

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.

  • NASDA supports federal programs that strengthen local farm families and communities, including programs for all agricultural working lands, forests, and rangelands.
  • NASDA recognizes the contributions of private landowners as an integral part of both the remote and rural landscape and America’s agricultural heritage, and support expanded opportunities for rangelands to support local farm families and communities.
  • NASDA supports risk management strategies and a combination of tools to support agriculture and strengthen food safety and delivery systems providing quality food to the world.
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