"It really at a fundamental level provides some stability for the grazing industry by assuring that our permits will be renewed in a timely fashion," said Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.The legislation allows agencies to approve permits in the face of environmental lawsuits against permit renewals.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials reported a permitting backlog of more than 5,600 permits nationwide in September. At the time, Congress was required to renew these permits annually.
"The agencies didn't have the resources to meet that requirement, (which) basically put people in a position where they couldn't get their permits renewed in a timely manner," Magagna said. "In some cases, they couldn't graze their livestock for extended periods of time."
Under current law, permitting is subject to environmental analysis prior to renewal of a permit. The new legislation allows federal agencies to approve permits without requiring environmental analysis. Agency range managers will still conduct environmental reviews at their discretion. Magagna said the new law focuses range management on the health of allotments.
"Environmental analysis has been tied to permit renewal, and really that analysis isn't about the permit. It's about the actual range condition," he said. Sen. John Barrasso, the author of the bill, said it will provide added protections for Wyoming ranchers seeking consistency in their operations.
"For too long, our ranching families have been the target of anti-grazing litigation that puts their grazing permits in jeopardy,” Barrasso said.
The legislation passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Source: Billings Gazette, by Trevor Graff
Wyoming public lands grazers could see shorter permitting times after Congress passed a bill seeking to streamline grazing permit renewals. The Grazing Improvement Act, approved last week, allows the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to speed the renewal of the agency's 10-year grazing permits.
A federal appeals court yesterday denied a bid by wild horse advocates to block the Bureau of Land Management's removal of roughly 800 wild horses from a checkerboard of public and private rangelands in southwest Wyoming in a win for ranchers and the state government.
The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest in a long-running battle between ranchers and mustang advocates over how to contain hundreds of wild horses that have strayed onto private lands owned by the Rock Springs Grazing Association.
The 2-million-acre checkerboard was created in 1862 when Congress awarded the Union Pacific Railroad Co. odd-numbered tracts of public lands along a railbed right of way as the company completed a transcontinental railroad. Much of the private lands are now owned by the grazing association.
BLM plans to begin rounding up horses Sunday or Monday from checkerboard lands within the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas, as required under a March 2013 settlement it signed with the grazing association.
Under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, BLM must remove wild horses that stray onto private lands.
Horses will be removed from the roughly 1.2 million acres of the herd management areas that fall within the checkerboard, out of total HMA areas of about 2.4 million acres. Removed horses will be offered for adoption or held in long-term pastures, said BLM's Rock Springs Field Office Manager Kimberlee Foster.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) yesterday cheered the court's ruling, arguing that removing horses would protect ranchers and the native elk, deer and pronghorn that roam alongside the horses. [Click Here to read Governor Mead's Press Release]
"Wyoming is not against wild horses on public lands, but they must be managed appropriately," Mead said in a statement.
But wild horse advocates claimed BLM has flouted its legal mandate to protect wild mustangs. Plaintiffs trying to block the roundup included the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), the Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.
"This ruling allows BLM to blatantly violate multiple federal laws and essentially turns over our public lands to private livestock interests," said Suzanne Roy, director of AWHPC. "It sets a terrible precedent not only for wild horses but also for the responsible management of our public lands by elevating commercial livestock interests over the public interest and federal law."
While both the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming and the 10th Circuit denied emergency motions to stop the roundup, the case will still proceed to the merits after the operation, the groups said. A key issue in the case was what section of the wild horse act BLM should apply in pursuing the roundup.
BLM claimed that Section 4 requires the agency to swiftly remove horses that stray onto private lands when requested by a landowner. BLM authorized the removal under a categorical exclusion, bypassing a lengthier National Environmental Policy Act review. But wild horse advocates say BLM should have followed Section 3 of the act, which allows horses to be removed in order to maintain "a thriving natural ecological balance" with other wildlife. They also argued BLM needed to perform a full NEPA review.
But the district court noted that without fences, it is all but impossible for BLM to keep horses from wandering onto private lands in the checkerboard without intensive management. "All parties agree that the ownership pattern of the checkerboard makes it impossible to manage either the public lands or the private lands independently of the other," the court said this summer.
The 1971 law requires BLM to both protect wild horses and contain them to where they roamed in 1971. But that mandate has proved challenging as wild horse herds can double in size every four years, and removing them has been both a fiscal and political burden for BLM.
For more than three decades, the Rock Springs Grazing Association had agreed to allow up to 500 wild horses to roam free among herds of cattle it grazes on the checkerboard. But as numbers swelled into the thousands, the horses degraded the rangelands and left less forage and water for cattle and big game.
The grazing association, the nation's largest, sued BLM in July 2011, claiming the agency had failed to hold up its end of the agreement.
Source: Greenwire, by Phil Taylor
A state judge has extended for another 10 days his order blocking the planned opening of a horse slaughterhouse in Roswell.
State District Judge Matthew Wilson on Friday ordered that the ban remain in place and scheduled a Jan. 13 hearing in the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Gary King, who claims that Valley Meat Co. is poised to violate state laws on water quality and food and consumer safety.
Dunn also called it a “politically driven issue,” noting that King, a Democrat running for governor, is promoting his opposition to the slaughterhouse on his campaign website.
Valley Meat’s operation would be the only horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico, although Dunn told the judge it wouldn’t be the first: He said the Mescalero Apache tribe had a commercial horse slaughter operation until the 1980s and that a slaughterhouse is not “some new, horrible environmental threat.”
But Biernoff said that provided little comfort because “Valley Meat is a serial violator of environmental laws.” The plant was a beef slaughterhouse before it closed in March 2012. Biernoff also argued that horses are widely administered drugs that are not approved for use by humans and are specifically banned for human consumption, making Valley Meat’s product – from horses of unknown origin – potentially unsafe.
“The meat is safe. It’s not going to harm anyone,” De Los Santos said after the hearing. He said horse meat is routinely eaten in some other countries and there had been no reports of deaths from it.
Wilson acknowledged the arguments on both sides: that the slaughterhouse could result in harm to the food supply and the environment, and that preventing its opening could create economic hardship. He said the matter should be “properly vetted” and set aside an entire day for testimony on Jan. 13.
Source: Albuquerque Journal by Deborah Baker