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Calendar No. 589
105th Congress Report
2d Session 105-338
FORAGE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997
September 21, 1998.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 2493]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was
referred the Act (H.R. 2493) to establish a mechanism by which
the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior
can provide for uniform management of livestock grazing on
Federal lands, having considered the same, reports favorably
thereon without amendment and recommends that the Act do pass.
purpose of the measure
H.R. 2493, as ordered reported, would provide for more
uniform administration and management of domestic livestock
grazing in the sixteen contiguous Western States on National
Forests administered by the Forest Service (excluding the
National Grasslands) and public lands administered by the
Bureau of Land Management.
background and need
Federal statues controlling grazing on lands now
administered as National Forests, Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) grazing districts, and the BLM scattered parcels outside
of organized grazing districts evolved from customary open
range control practices of the nineteenth century. Prior to
1905, domestic livestock grazing on Federal domain lands in the
West were regulated only under State and territorial laws.
In 1905 the first Chief of the Forest Service, Gifford
Pinchot, was delegated authority under the 1897 Organic
Administration Act (Act of June 4, 1897) to issue permits to
ranchers to graze their stock on Forest Reserve allotments
(Congress renamed the Forest Reserves as National Forests at
the request of the Forest Service in 1907). These permits were
preferentially allocated to property owners who had
historically used and depended upon forested grazing lands
located near their privately owned homesteads. In the absence
of explicit statutory authority, Pinchot issued a Regulatory
Use Book explaining that the objectives of the new grazing
regulations were to conserve public resources and, among other
things, protect the financial welfare of ranchers dependent on
federal forest forage supplies by shielding them from outside
competition. Forage supplies were apportioned among local
ranchers based on prior use rates, but the total amount of
forage allocated to livestock could not exceed the carrying
capacity of the range.
It was not until the Taylor Grazing Act (June 28, 1938, ch.
865, 48 Stat. 1269) was signed into law by President Roosevelt
that grazing on the public domain lands became subject to
similar regulations. The preamble to the Taylor Grazing Act
declared that the purpose of the Act was ``to stop injury to
the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil
deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement,
and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry
dependent on the public range.'' Emulating the Forest Service,
the Grazing Service in the Department of the Interior (which
was merged with the General Land Office to become the Bureau of
Land Management in 1946) issued grazing permits to ranchers
owning or leasing private property adjacent or near the public
domain lands upon which their stock had customarily grazed.
These grazing permits and leases were issued to ranchers with a
base property of sufficient productivity to permit the proper
use of lands, water, or water rights, owned, occupied, or
leased by them.
Grazing fees have been charged for domestic livestock
grazing on National Forests since 1906, a year after the Forest
Reserves were transferred to the Forest Service from the
General Land Office in the Department of the Interior. Although
the Forest Service relied on the broad administrative powers
given to its Chief in the Organic Administration Act of 1897 as
an early rationale for setting grazing fees, explicit statutory
authority did not exist until the Granger-Thye Act was passed
in 1950. The Taylor Grazing Act gave the Secretary of the
Interior authority to charge grazing fees on rangelands now
administered by the BLM. But neither the Taylor Grazing Act nor
the Granger-Thye Act gave specific direction on fee levels.
It was not until 1969 that both agencies adopted a uniform
fee system. The purpose of the 1969 Federal grazing fee system
was to charge a single grazing fee in the West (except for the
National Grasslands). The goal of this fee was to keep total
grazing costs on BLM and National Forest lands equal to total
grazing costs on comparable privately-owned rangelands. Because
ofits unpopularity, the Congress imposed a series of moratoria
on this grazing fee. Congress temporarily settled the grazing fee
debate by enacting the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978
(Public Law 95-514), establishing statutory grazing fee formula
commonly known as the PRIA fee system. However, authority for the PRIA
fee system expired December 31, 1985. Since February, 1986 the PRIA
formula has remained in effect because of Presidential Executive Order
12548 which set a minimum grazing fee of $1.35 per Animal Unit Month.
Since 1987 numerous bills to create a new statutory grazing fee formula
have been introduced in Congress but none were enacted.
Not since passage of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act
in 1978 has Congress passed significant Federal rangeland or
western livestock grazing legislation. However, the Department
of the Interior did undertake a major administrative revision
of its grazing regulations known as Range Reform '94. These
revisions were accomplished through a regulatory process with
final rules taking effect on August 21, 1995.
In response to numerous concerns voiced by western public
land livestock interests, Representative Robert F. (Bob) Smith,
Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, introduced H.R. 2493.
This bill addresses five broad categories of issues which the
grazing community did not believe had been adequately addressed
in existing livestock grazing legislation or regulations. These
included: (1) the need to clarify relevant terms widely used in
Federal grazing administration and in range science; (2) ways
to increase science-based monitoring of changes in vegetation
and other resources on rangelands by trained professionals; (3)
putting in place methods to encourage coordinated resource
management which involve all interests, not just Federal land
ranchers; (4) clarification of circumstances under which
subleases of Federal land grazing allotments would be subject
to surcharges by the Federal Government; and (5) establishment
of a statutory grazing fee formula.
Public land livestock operators believe that the
uncertainty associated with the current method of establishing
grazing fees makes long range financial backing and planning
efforts extremely difficult. They also believe that not having
a fee formula established through legislation makes them
vulnerable to changing Administration policies.
H.R. 2943 was introduced in the House of Representatives by
Congressman Robert F. (Bob) Smith on September 18, 1997 and was
jointly referred to the Committee on Resources, and the
Committee on Agriculture. On October 24, 1997, H.R. 2493 was
reported to the House (Amended) by the Committees on
Agriculture and Resources. On October 30, 1997 the bill, as
amended, passed the House by a vote of 242-182.
H.R. 2493 was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy
and Natural Resources. At its business meeting on July 29,
1998, the Committee ordered H.R. 2493 favorably reported.
Committee Recommendation and Tabulation of Votes
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in
open business session on July 29, 1998, by a majority vote of a
quorum present recommends that the Senate pass H.R. 2493
The rollcall vote on reporting the measure was 11 yeas, 9
nays as follows:
Mr. Murkowski Mr. Bumpers
Mr. Domenici Mr. Ford \1\
Mr. Nickles Mr. Bingaman
Mr. Craig Mr. Akaka
Mr. Campbell \1\ Mr. Dorgan \1\
Mr. Thomas Mr. Graham \1\
Mr. Kyl \1\ Mr. Wyden \1\
Mr. Grams Mr. Johnson
Mr. Smith Ms. Landrieu
\1\ Indicates vote by Proxy
Section 1. Short title, table of contents
The Forage Improvement Act of 1997.
Sec. 2. Rules of construction
States that the Act does not apply to lands administered as
part of the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge
System, or to Indian trust lands. Clarifies that the Act will
not limit or restrict the use of any affected Federal lands for
purposes of hunting, fishing, recreation, or any other multiple
use currently permitted under Federal and State law. Nor will
the Act affect any valid existing rights, reservations,
authorizations, or agreement under Federal and State law.
Sec. 3. Coordination and administration
To promote uniform direction in administration of these
Federal lands and their forage resource, the Act requires that
the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture
provide for consistent and coordinated administration of
livestock grazing and applicable Federal land management
TITLE I. MANAGEMENT OF GRAZING ON FEDERAL LANDS
Sec. 101. Application of title
The provisions of the Forage Improvement Act apply to
National Forest System lands administered by the Secretary of
Agriculture under eight primary statutes, and to lands
administered by the Secretary of the Interior under four
significant statutes. It also applies to lands managed by
either Secretary for grazing purposes on behalf of the head of
any other agency.
Sec. 102. Definitions
Establishes and defines key terms used in the legislation.
Sec. 103. Monitoring
States that the monitoring of resource conditions and
trends shall be performed by qualified persons from Federal,
State, and local governments; grazing permittees and lessees,
and/or professional consultants retained by the United States
or a permittee or lessee. This monitoring is to be conducted
according to regional or state criteria and protocols. The
criteria must be site specific, scientifically valid, and
subject to peer review. Data collected in the monitoring phase
shall be used to evaluate the effects of ecological changes and
management actions, the effectiveness of actions in meeting
management objectives contained in applicable land use plans,
and the appropriateness of resource management objectives. This
requirement is not designed to preclude agencies from using
other data collection methods as long as the information
gathered is scientifically-valid, verifiable, and reproducible.
Sec. 104. Subleasing
This section specifies that a person issued a grazing
permit or lease may not enter into an agreement with another
person to allow grazing on the Federal lands covered by the
grazing permit by livestock that are neither owned nor
controlled by the person issued the grazing permit.
Sec. 105. Cooperative management plans
Specifies that allotment management plans authorized under
existing law (section 402 (d) of FLMPA) may include a written
agreement with a qualified grazing permittee, (as described in
this Act), that provides for outcome-based standards for
managing grazing activities. Activities authorized under this
section shall be exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee
Sec. 106. Fees and charges
Section 106(a). Grazing Fees.--Directs that the grazing fee
formula shall be calculated as a fee per Animal Unit Month
which shall be equal to the 12 year average of the total gross
annual value of production of beef cattle multiplied by the 12
year average of 6 month Treasury bills divided by 12. In
addition, this section establishes a separate fee for foreign-
owned or controlled grazing permits. In this new foreign-owned
fee is to be either; the average grazing fee charged by the
State during the previous grazing year, or, the average grazing
fee charged for grazing on private lands in the particular
State, whichever is higher.
Section 106(b). Definition of Animal Unit Month.--Directs
that for the purposes of billing only, an animal unit month
shall be one month's use of range by one cow, bull, steer,
horse, burro, or mule, seven sheep, or seven goats.
TITLE II. MISCELLANEOUS
Section 201. Effective Date.--Specifies that this Act and
the amendments made by this Act shall take effect on the first
day of the first grazing season beginning after the date of the
enactment of this Act.
Section 202. Issuance of New Regulations.--Directs the
Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to
coordinate in promulgating new regulations, that the new
regulations need to be published simultaneously, and that they
be put into effect not later than 180 days after the date of
enactment of this Act.
cost and budgetary considerations
The following estimate of the costs of this measure has
been provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, August 5, 1998.
Hon. Frank H. Murkowski,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate,
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2493, the Forage
Improvement Act of 1997.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Victoria V.
Heid (for federal costs), and Marjorie Miller (for the state
and local impact).
June E. O'Neill, Director.
congressional budget office cost estimate
H.R. 2493--Forage Improvement Act of 1997
Summary: H.R. 2493 would modify how the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM), within the Department of the Interior, and
the Forest Service, within the Department of Agriculture,
administer livestock grazing on public lands.
H.R. 2493 would change the formula for computing grazing
fees. The act also would redefine ``animal unit month'' (AUM)
by increasing the number of sheep and goats allowed per AUM
from five to seven. These changes would apply to grazing on
federal land administered by BLM and the Forest Service
(excluding the National Grasslands). CBO expects that these
changes would increase the government's net income from grazing
fees by about $10 million over the 1999-2003 period. Because
H.R. 2493 would affect direct spending, pay-as-you-go
procedures would apply.
This legislation also would make several other changes to
the management of grazing on public lands that would increase
discretionary spending by an estimated $10 million over the
next five years, subject to appropriation of the necessary
H.R. 2493 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA)
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal
Estimated cost to the Federal Government: CBO estimates
that enacting H.R. 2493 would increase gross income from
grazing fees by about $12 million over the 1999-2003 period.
Because a portion of that income is shared with states, CBO
estimates that enacting H.R. 2493 would result in a net
decrease in direct spending of about $10 million over the 1999-
2003 period. In addition, discretionaryspending totaling about
$10 million over the next five years would result from this act,
assuming appropriation of the estimated amounts. The estimated
budgetary impact of H.R. 2493 is shown in the following table. The
costs of this legislation fall within budget functions 300 (natural
resources and the environment) and 800 (general government).
By fiscal years, in millions of
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
CHANGES IN DIRECT SPENDING
Change in Offsetting Receipts:
Estimated Budget Authority.. -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Estimated Outlays........... -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Change in Direct Spending:
Estimated Budget Authority.. 0 (\1\) (\1\) (\1\) (\1\)
Estimated Outlays........... 0 (\1\) (\1\) (\1\) (\1\)
Estimated Budget Authority.. -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Estimated Outlays........... -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
Level...................... 6 1 1 1 1
Estimated Outlays........... 6 1 1 1 1
\1\ Less than $500,000.
Basis of estimate: The act states that its provisions would
become effective on the date of enactment. For purposes of this
estimate, CBO assumes that H.R. 2493 would be enacted in time
to implement the new fee for the 1999 grazing year, which
begins March 1, 1999.
CBO estimates that the new formula would increase the
amount of grazing fee receipts that would be collected over the
next five years compared to current law. The increase in the
amount charged per AUM would be partially offset by the act's
revised definition of AUM. Overall, CBO estimates that
offsetting receipts would increase by a little more than 2
million annually beginning in fiscal year 1999 and by total of
about $12 million over the 1999-2003 period.
Grazing fees.--Section 106 would base the new grazing fee
on two factors: the value of beef cattle and the interest rate.
Specifically, in all 16 western states, the act would set the
basic grazing fee for each animal unit month at the average of
the total gross value of production for beef cattle (as
complied by the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the
Department of Agriculture) for 12 years preceding the grazing
fee year, multiplied by the average of the ``new issue'' rate
for six-month Treasury bills for the 12 years preceding the
grazing fee year, and divided by 12.
H.R. 2493 does not define total gross value of production
but refers to data published annually be ERS in ``Economic
Indicators of the Farm Sector: Cost of Production.'' (ERS has
discontinued that publication but provides data on cow-calf
production costs in other publications.) The total gross value
of production, as defined by ERS, is equal to the price of
cattle multiplied by the quantity produced (number of pounds).
Therefore, the new formula would yield a grazing fee that
increases or decreases over time, depending largely on changes
in the price of cattle. In contrast, the current fee varies in
response not only to changes in the price of cattle, but also
to changes in the private lease rate for grazing land and the
cost to produce beef. In addition, the current fee formula sets
a minimum of $1.35 per AUM and limit the annual change in the
fee to 25 percent. Both formulas are likely to result in
varying fees from year to year.
The fee for each of the last three grazing fee years (1996-
1998) has been $1.35 per AUM on most public rangelands. Using
ERS's most recent data for the total gross value of production
and projecting changes in cattle prices and interest rates, CBO
estimates that the proposed new formula would result in a
grazing fee averaging about 25 cents more per AUM over the
1999-2003 period in the western states than the grazing fee
under current law.
Under current law, CBO projects grazing fee receipts of $22
million a year over the next five years. We estimate that
implementing the formula contained in H.R. 2493 would yield an
average increase in offsetting receipts of almost $3 million
annually beginning in fiscal year 1999, taking into account the
reduced volume of grazing that would result from the higher
fee. This figure excludes the reduction in offsetting receipts
attributable to the act's change in the definition of animal
unit month discussed below.
Section 106 would establish a new grazing fee for foreign-
owned or foreign-controlled permits or leases. The fee would be
equal to the average annual grazing fee charged by the state
for grazing on state lands, or the average charged on private
lands within that state, whichever is higher. CBO expects that
enacting this provision could increase receipts, butbecause BLM
does not track whether permits are foreign-owned or controlled, we
cannot estimate the magnitude of any increase based on current permits.
Animal unit month redefined.--Section 106 also would revise
the definition of animal unit month (AUM) by increasing the
number of sheep and goats per AUM from five to seven. That
change would effectively decrease the cost of grazing sheep and
goats by almost one-third. Owners of sheep and goats could
purchase fewer AUMs to support the same number of animals under
the new definition. Some producers might increase the size of
their sheep and goat herds in response to lower effective costs
for grazing on public land. Because grazing fees are only a
fraction of the total cost to raise sheep and goats, however,
we expect a net drop in the number of AUMs and an associated
decrease in offsetting receipts of roughly $500,000 a year
beginning in 1999.
Other direct spending
Current law (7 U.S.C. 1012, 16 U.S.C. 500, and 43 U.S.C.
315) requires the Forest Service and BLM to distribute a
portion of the offsetting receipts from grazing on public lands
to the states. Payments are made in the fiscal year following
the year that grazing fees are received by the federal
government, and are currently projected to total roughly $5
million a year. CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2493 would
increase payments to states by approximately $500,000 a year
beginning in fiscal year 2000 and by about $2 million over the
Spending subject to appropriation
CBO estimates that additional discretionary spending would
be about $6 million in fiscal year 1999 and a total of about
$10 million during the 1999-2003 period, assuming appropriation
of the estimated amounts. Specific provisions are discussed
New rulemaking.--Section 202 would direct the Secretaries
of Agriculture and the Interior to coordinate the promulgation
of new regulations to carry out H.R. 2493 and to publish such
regulations simultaneously within 180 days after enactment of
the act. Based on information from BLM and the Forest Service,
CBO estimates that completing this new rulemaking and modifying
existing grazing permits would cost about $6 million in fiscal
Range improvements.--The Federal Land Policy and Management
Act of 1976 authorizes appropriations for range improvement of
50 percent of the income from grazing fees received during the
prior fiscal year. If H.R. 2493 were enacted and the Congress
appropriated 50 percent of grazing fee receipts for range
improvements, then appropriations for range improvements would
increase by about $5 million over the 2000-2003 period.
Other potential changes in discretionary spending.--Section
106 would require the Economic Research Service to continue to
compile and report the total gross production value for beef
cattle for the purpose of calculating the grazing fee. ERS has
conducted a survey on which to base total gross value of
production about every five years and has indexed the data
based on changes in cattle prices for annual updates. If
section 106 is interpreted to mean that ERS must conduct annual
surveys, CBO estimates that each year's survey costs could be
as high as $500,000. However, because it is unclear whether
surveys would have to be conducted more often, we have not
included any additional discretionary spending for such surveys
in this estimate.
Pay-as-you-go considerations: The Balanced Budget and
Emergency Deficit Control Act sets up pay-as-you-go procedures
for legislation affecting direct spending or receipts. As shown
in the following table, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2493
would decrease direct spending by about $2 million in fiscal
year 1999 and by about $20 million over the 1999-2008 period.
For the purposes of enforcing pay-as-you-go procedures, only
the effects in the current year, budget year, and the
subsequent four years are counted.
By fiscal years, in millions of dollars--
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Changes in outlays........................ 0 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Changes in receipts....................... Not applicable
Estimated impact on State, local, and tribal governments:
H.R. 2493 contains on intergovernmental mandates as defined in
UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal
governments. The act would increase payments to states by
almost $500,000 per year beginning in fiscal year 2000, because
they receive a portion of receipts from grazing on public
lands. For the 1999-2003 period, payments to states would
increase by a total of almost $2 million compared to payments
under current law.
Estimated impact on the private sector: The act would
impose no new private-sector mandates as defined in UMRA.
Previous CBO estimates: On October 1, 1997, CBO prepared a
cost estimate for H.R. 2493, as ordered reported by the House
Committee on Agriculture on September 24, 1997. On October 15,
1997, CBO prepared a cost estimate for H.R. 2493, as ordered
reported by the House Committee on Resources on October 8,
1997. The version approved by the Senate Committee on Energy
and Natural Resources includes a number of changes to both
previous versions of H.R. 2493 and this cost estimate differs
accordingly. Furthermore, both previous cost estimates assumed
that H.R. 2493 would be enacted before the start of the 1998
grazing year, which began March 1, 1998. In contrast, this
estimate assumes that H.R. 2493 will be enacted before the
start of the 1999 grazing year. This estimate also reflects
more recent baseline assumptions and data from ERS.
Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Victoria V. Heid.
Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Marjorie
Estimate approved by: Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
regulatory impact evaluation
In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in
carrying out H.R. 2493.
The bill is not a regulatory measure in the sense of
imposing Government established standards or significant
economic responsibilities on private individuals and
businesses. No personal information would be collected in
administering the program. Therefore, there would be no impact
on personal privacy. Little if any additional paperwork would
result from the enactment of H.R. 2493.
On July 28, 1998, the Secretary of the Interior and the
Secretary of Agriculture sent the following letter to the
Committee expressing the Administration's views on H.R. 2493:
The Secretary of the Interior,
Washington, DC, July 28, 1998.
Hon. Frank Murkowski,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate,
Dear Mr. Chairman: It is our understanding that the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States
Senate plans to consider H.R. 2493, the Forage Improvement Act,
on July 29. We would like to take this opportunity to raise a
number of serious concerns we have with the bill. Based on the
significant problems described below, we both would recommend
that the President veto the bill as it is currently drafted.
Monitoring (section 103)
Section 103 has not improved substantially from the
original draft and continues to raise serious concerns. The
underlying concept of who may monitor, and how, continues to be
too limiting. For example, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
occasionally contracts with land grant and other State
universities to inventory and monitor the public lands.
Universities often use their own students to conduct the actual
work. Under this provision, the Department believes this
practice might not be permitted.
The monitoring provision could be extraordinarily costly,
resulting in scarce dollars spent on paperwork, not on the
resource. For example, BLM's monitoring methods are selected
based on resource condition according to bureau-wide standards.
Forest Service monitoring is based on direction in individual
Forest Plans and aims for consistency nationwide. Although the
methodologies are resource-condition specific, they are not
site specific. Adding a site specific requirement, as your bill
would require, would add a costly administrative layer.
The potential for litigation is also increased. The
Departments believe more money would be spent on legal costs
than on the lands, debating issues such as who is qualified and
not qualified to conduct monitoring studies, and when the 48-
hour notice requirement is triggered. The 48-hour requirement,
likewise, could prohibit local managers from combining related
tasks and add to the burden of red tape and paperwork.
Overall, Section 103 introduces rigidity into monitoring,
takes away the flexibility of the local manager, and may delay
the agencies' ability to act quickly and respond to resource
Cooperative allotment management plans (section 105)
Section 105 is not consistent with the Federal Land Policy
and Management Act and the Taylor Grazing Act. Both the BLM and
the Forest Service currently offer flexibility in daily
operations of the permit or lease to the most responsible
operators (determined at the local level). These arrangements
are such that they still allow rapid response to changing
However, the agencies do not allow grazing use over and
above mandatory terms and conditions of the permit or lease as
allowed by Section 105 of H.R. 2493. The bill could allow
livestock to graze unsupervised, uncontrolled, and in numbers
and seasons beyond those allowed by the permit or lease (i.e.,
above recognized grazing capacity). Under such a scenario, the
agencies could be restricted from taking corrective action
until after serious damage was inflicted on the resource.
As with the monitoring provision, implementation of this
section could lead to additional scarce resources being tied up
in legal disputes, rather than in assuring progress towards
healthy public rangelands. The description of a ``qualified
grazing permittee'' is so broad that the BLM and the Forest
Service could not separate the exceptional permittee from the
marginal or average permittee. The result would be to allow the
vast majority of permittees to qualify for Cooperative
Allotment Management Plans, or would be so restrictive the
agencies would find themselves in litigation deciding who is
qualified and who is not. The consequence of allowing marginal
permittees or lessees to graze under this scenario could lead
to serious degradation of the public rangelands. Likewise, the
performance goals are so vague they could prevent the agencies
from using any realistic qualitative or useful measurement and
Fees and charges (section 106)
The Departments continue to have concerns about the
administration of the grazing fee and its ultimate fairness to
the American taxpayer. While the proposed formula could result
in marginal increases in current grazing fees, it would not
achieve an equitable return to the U.S. Treasury for grazing
privileges. However, the cumbersome fee formula will result in
nearly impossible deadlines for billing and would use two-year
old data to determine the fee.
National grasslands (sections 2 and 102)
We also strongly oppose how the bill deals with the
national grasslands. The definition of ``National Forest
System'' lends itself to conflicting interpretations regarding
national forest system management. If the definition is
intended to exclude four million acres of national grasslands
from the rest of the national forest system, it would force
duplicative range management regulations and directives.
The Forest Service recently made several changes to
national grassland management that address many resource
management concerns while balancing multiple use principles and
taxpayer interests. The Forest Service has put in place
administrative actions to increase national leadership and
emphasis on national grasslands, including establishing a new
national grasslands supervisor's office in North Dakota. The
treatment of the grasslands in this bill is unnecessary,
unbalanced, unclear and contributes to our overall objections
to the bill.
Finally, we want to point out that the BLM's new
regulations have now been in place for nearly three years and
the program is working well. To ensure that the 1995
regulations are being consistently applied, did not create
unintended adverse effects and to assess their effectiveness,
the BLM is performing a review of how the regulations are being
implemented and what their impact has been. The information
gathered in this review will be used to identify existing or
potential problems and aid in the search for effective
solutions. The review will occur throughout this fiscal year.
The BLM will be more than happy to share the results of this
review with you when they are available.
In summary, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture
believe that, aside from the need to address the grazing fee,
legislation in this area is unnecessary.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this bill.
Secretary of the Interior.
Secretary of Agriculture.
MINORITY VIEWS OF SENATOR BUMPERS
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2493 on October
31, 1997. Between that date and the Committee's vote to report
the bill on July 29, 1998, the Committee held over 50 hearings
on various measures. However, the committee held no hearings on
H.R. 2493, despite the significance of the bill and the
controversy associated with it.
In my opinion, there is no need for this legislation. When
Secretary Babbitt first put out his Rangeland Reform
regulations four years ago, we were told by many Western
Senators that if the regulations were implemented, it would be
the end of public land ranching operations. These regulations
have now been in place for a few years, and they have not been
the disaster that some predicted. We should not now disrupt
My primary objection to this bill is its excessively low
grazing fee. H.R. 2493 establishes a new Federal grazing fee
formula which, in my opinion, has little or no relevance in
determining the fair market value of Federal grazing
privileges. While the bill's proponents will claim that the new
formula represents a modest increase over the current fee, the
fact is that this bill will perpetuate the below-market
valuation of grazing privileges on public land.
While the Federal grazing fee has remained at the statutory
minimum of $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) for the past few
years--a decrease of 32 percent from the fee in the early 1990s
and a decrease of over 40 percent from the fee in the early
1980s--the fees for grazing on State and private lands have
steadily increased. It should be noted that if the 1966 base
fee of $1.23/AUM (which is used in the existing PRIA formula
for calculating the Federal grazing fee) was simply adjusted
for inflation, the fee would now be over $6.00.
By comparison, the fee formula in H.R. 2493 will ensure
that the fee will remain below $2.00 for the foreseeable
future. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that over
the next few years, this fee will result in an average increase
of only about 25 cents per AUM over the current PRIA formula.
In fact, over the past 20 years, the fee in this bill would
have been as low as $1.18 per AUM, and would have never been
higher than $2.29. In three of those years, the fee in this
bill would have actually been lower than the PRIA fee. Since
H.R. 2493 removes the statutory floor of $1.35, this bill could
actually reduce grazing fees even further than the absurdly low
fees that the United States now receives.
Furthermore, this bill has retained a provision from the
bill last Congress which changes the definition of an animal
unit month for sheep. Currently, five sheep comprise one animal
unit month. Under this bill, seven sheep will now equal one
AUM, which means that the effective fee for grazing by sheep
will decrease by 28 percent.
Furthermore, the bill's prohibition against the BLM and
Forest Service from using monitoring information gathered by
members of the public about grazing activities on public land
is unnecessary and contrary to sound public policy. The bill
will mandate expensive new management requirements whose cost
will likely exceed any nominal increase in grazing fee
As was the case with previous unsuccessful attempts to
legislate new grazing policies during the 104th Congress, this
bill does not have the broad bipartisan support that is
necessary if it is to be successful. If legislation is to
enacted this year, it must provide for the consideration and
protection not only of ranching interests, but also of
rangeland resources and the American taxpayer.
changes in existing law
In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no
changes in existing law are made by the Act H.R. 2493, as