House Of Representatives Passes Grazing Improvement Act


Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced legislation he cosponsored to improve the permitting process for livestock grazing on public lands has passed the House of Representatives. The Grazing Improvement Act, included in a combined lands bill, will grant greater economic certainty to ranchers and landowners by extending the longevity of grazing permits and decreasing the wait period for permit renewals.
The legislation extends grazing permits with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service from 10 years to 20 years, giving greater business certainty to ranchers who pay a fee to graze their livestock on federal lands and dealing directly with a mounting backlog of associated renewal paperwork at these federal agencies. More than 22,000 ranchers hold federal grazing permits on approximately 250 million acres of land in the United States. In North Dakota, more than 1.1 million acres of federal grassland are either open to, or currently included in a grazing permit.
Currently, grazing permit renewals must undergo redundant environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The bill would exempt transferred, renewed, or reprocessed permits from undergoing another NEPA analysis, and also allow ranchers to continue their current grazing operations in cases where a permit expires due to paperwork backlogs or delays in environmental studies.
“North Dakota ranchers have been excellent stewards of public land for decades, only to face the delays in permit renewals, or losing their use of the land altogether. This bill recognizes our ranchers’ good care for federal lands and gives them greater certainty so they can focus on running their operations and producing our nation’s food supply,” Cramer said.
“We are grateful that the House has passed the Grazing Improvement Act,” said Jason Zahn, President of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.  “It is an important piece of legislation that will help save taxpayers money and provide business certainty for the ranchers who hold federal grazing permits and employ thoughtful stewardship of the grasslands.”
Cramer also voted for a successful amendment to the bill which will spare ranchers from frivolous lawsuits challenging grazing decisions. It establishes a “loser pays” system requiring groups found by a judge to be not substantially justified in filing a lawsuit to pay for the legal expenses of the other party when they lose in court.