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                                                       Calendar No. 589
105th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE

 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

                             together with

                             MINORITY VIEWS

                        [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.

                          Legislative History

    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 
without amendment.
    The rollcall vote on reporting the measure was 11 yeas, 9 
nays as follows:
        YEAS                          NAYS
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
Mr. Gorton
Mr. Burns

    \1\ Indicates vote by Proxy

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

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 
activities.

            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 
Act.

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:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                    Washington, DC, August 5, 1998.
Hon. Frank H. Murkowski,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate, 
        Washington, DC.
    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).
            Sincerely,
                                         June E. O'Neill, Director.
    Enclosure.

               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 
amounts.
    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 
governments.
    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
                                                 dollars--
                                 ---------------------------------------
                                   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\)
Net Change:
    Estimated Budget Authority..      -2      -2      -2      -2      -2
    Estimated Outlays...........      -2      -2      -2      -2      -2
              CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
    Estimated Authorization
     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.

Offsetting receipts

    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 
1999-2003 period.

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 
below.
    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 
year 1999.
    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 
Miller.
    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.

                        executive communications

    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, 
        Washington, DC.
    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 
degradation.

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 
conditions.
    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 
realistic predictors.

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.
            Sincerely,
                                   Bruce Babbitt,
                                           Secretary of the Interior.
                                   Dan Glickman,
                                           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 
everything again.
    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 
revenues.
    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.

                                                      Dale Bumpers.

                        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 
ordered reported.