1997 Scorecard Vote
Privately owned domestic livestock graze on approximately 250 million acres of public land. Excessive grazing by domestic cattle and sheep damages fish and wildlife habitat on our federal lands and is contributing to declines in wildlife populations, including desert tortoise, Sonoran pronghorn antelope, and numerous bird species. In addition, overgrazing destroys native vegetation, and the livestock pollute streams, cause erosion, and interfere with recreation activities.
Grazing regulation is currently administered by land managing agencies (primarily the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service) under broad statutory authority. Fees are limited by law and are adjusted by the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior. When President Clinton and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt attempted to reform grazing practices and fees in 1993, their efforts provoked a bitter fight with Congress, where they were blocked. Secretary Babbitt then attempted more modest reforms over the next two years. The legislation before the 105th Congress, H.R. 2493, prevents Secretary Babbitt, or future administrations, from achieving needed reforms by locking in current practices and fees by statute.
H.R. 2493, the so-called "Forage Improvement Act," sponsored by Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), includes several changes to benefit ranching interests, but fails to improve rangeland management to protect federal fish, wildlife, and water resources. The bill revises the formula for calculating grazing fees each year, but fails to raise them to a level even close to market value -- or even to a level to cover grazing administration costs. Under the formula in H.R. 2493, fees would be raised from the current $1.35 per adult cow per month to approximately $1.55 -- far below the government's administrative costs of $5.81 for permitting, monitoring, inspection, and enforcement. In addition, the bill would make it more difficult for federal agencies to monitor the condition of rangelands and to alter grazing practices where necessary to limit damage to the !and, and would lock in grazing at existing levels, even if it causes environmental damage.
On October 30, 1997, the House passed H.R. 2493, 242 - 182. NO is the pro-environment vote.