2000 Scorecard Vote
Livestock grazing can have devastating ecological impacts on the riparian areas along rivers and streams. Throughout the western United States, poor grazing management has promoted widespread erosion and water pollution, destroying vital habitat for fish and wildlife.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees grazing permits for some 17,000 livestock operators in 11 western states. These 10-year permits affect 164 million acres of public lands managed by BLM, much of it degraded by decades of overgrazing. In 1995, BLM established a new program that would, if properly implemented, lead to improvements and restoration of overgrazed areas.
Because a large number of grazing permits expired in 1999, this new policy threatened to exacerbate a backlog of permits awaiting review. Seizing on this backlog, livestock industry advocates in Congress secured riders in the Fiscal Year 1999 and Fiscal Year 2000 Interior appropriations bills that allowed expiring permits to be re-issued for up to 10 years with no environmental reviews or safeguards and with none of the standards and guidelines that would assure the restoration of damaged public range lands. Again this year a similar provision was attached to the Senate version of H.R. 4578, the Fiscal Year 2001 Interior appropriations bill.
Environmentalists and the Clinton administration argued that the provision, by providing for automatic renewal, gave livestock permittees an unmerited opportunity to delay the implementation of the new standards and guidelines. The rider could encourage grazing operators with poor environmental records to obstruct BLM's review of their permits, dragging out the review until the permit automatically renews under the terms of the rider. Moreover, BLM has largely worked through its backlog of expired and expiring permits, thereby negating any rationale for this rider.
During floor consideration of the Interior appropriations bill, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) offered a compromise amendment that, instead of making permit renewal automatic, would have given the Interior Secretary the discretion to extend expiring permits if additional time was warranted. On July 12, 2000, the Senate rejected the Durbin amendment 38–62 (Senate roll call vote 175). YES is the pro-environment vote. The House/Senate conference report on the Interior appropriations bill retained the Senate's harmful grazing language and was passed by both Houses in October and signed by the President.