Opinion by Lois Herbst
Members of Wyoming Ag Industry Travel to Washington, D.C.
By Lois Herbst, Wyoming State Grazing Board representative
Wyoming cattlemen recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for the spring legislative meeting of the Public Lands Council (PLC) on April 16-17, and some stayed for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) spring legislative meeting April 18 – 19.
Representing the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) was Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President, Mark Eisele, President, and Rob Hellyer. Kaitlynn Glover of Casper, a student at UW, was the Scholar Intern on this trip. Representing the Wyoming State Grazing Board was Board Consultant Dick Loper, Niels Hansen and myself. While in D.C., other than visits to our Congressional delegation as a group, we dispersed for various arranged visits to have greater impact.
This was one of the most productive visits I have made to the nation’s capitol in terms of meeting with agency representatives. Joan Guilfoyle, Division Chief for the BLM’s Wild Horses and Burro Division, spoke to the group, and also met with Dick Loper and others separately to hear input from those who actually have to deal with the damage to allotments caused by wild horses.
Director Guilfoyle also met with PLC President John Falen and others from Nevada, along with BLM Director Bob Abbey, to further discussed the problems with Herd Management Areas that are grossly over Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs). These folks discussed the areas that endanger horses due to a lack of water, and the emergency steps that can be taken. The horse ecosanctuary west of Laramie, and the plan of Mrs. Pickens to provide for horses on her ranch, and be paid to do so, was also discussed.
Dick Loper also arranged a meeting with Idaho permittees to discuss the trailing/crossing permits that now require National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis when trailing livestock across public land. This new requirement for NEPA is a result of another lawsuit by an environmental group, and it impacts cattlemen right now.
John Falen let me accompany his group to the meeting with Director Abbey, and I was able to discuss the sage grouse core area plan that is being used on my allotment in Natrona County. Director Abbey said he started his BLM career in the Casper district, and was familiar with my property in Ervay Basin. As I explained to Bob Bolton, Senior Rangeland Management Specialist, who has attended the PLC meetings for years, it is our state government that is impacting the management of private lands with the sage grouse core area strategy. While I recognize this plan was developed to prevent listing of sage grouse on the Endangered Species List, it is hard to understand why hunters are still allowed by Wyoming Game and Fish to shoot sage grouse.
I was very impressed with Mike DeArmond, who is BLM’s Acting Division Chief for Forest, Rangeland, Riparian and Plant Conservation. Mike has experience in managing forest lands in an exemplary manner prior to serving his country in the military until retiring and working for a federal land management agency, the BLM. I visited with Mike at the NCBA reception and he reinforced my first positive impression that he is a competent manager.
Professional staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources gave a natural resources legislative outlook, and in speaking to them in the hall, I learned that Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah is working to correct legislatively the phrase “in so far as possible” in the requirement in FLPMA and the National Forest Management Act that requires the BLM and the Forest Service to coordinate planning with local government. In speaking to Forest Service and BLM agency persons, there was no hesitation when they agreed that the agencies are to coordinate planning with local government. I told them that, in Fremont County, agencies are not agreeable to discuss planning and to see that agency planning is in agreement with our county land use plan.
NCBA had made arrangements with various agencies and departments for specific visiting times, and I signed up to attend a meeting with Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget to discuss environmental issues. Cass Sunstein was not present, and the discussion centered on Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) regulations and the Clean Water Act.
There was very good input from feedyard operators, especially John Hitch of Oklahoma, and also Rick Stott of Agri-Beef. After listening for an hour to cattlemen discussing how the two issues affect them, I spoke in a nice manner, but made it clear that, on my allotment, the BLM, and many state agencies, supervise the activities, and that water is controlled by the state of Wyoming, and we don’t need further management under the Clean Water Act that could make any draw an area requiring a permit from EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers. The Clean Water Act is a prime example of overreaching regulation designed to manage all water and lands in the United States.
Another scheduled session I attended was with the Forest Service and Charles Richmond, Director of Rangelands Management. During this session I was able to question why the Forest Service employees in our state do not recognize that they are to coordinate with local government. I also discussed the Dubois Forest Service District Manager, who insists on using a 70-year-old easement through a subdivision on Union Pass, and that the private property owners in this subdivision have been told their homes are to be removed, at their expense.
An interesting visit was made to Senator Mark Rubio’s office. Dallas Horton of Colorado had arranged to visit Senator Mark Rubio’s office with the Florida Cattlemen because he wanted to encourage Senator Rubio to accept, if he is asked, to be the vice presidential candidate by GOP Candidate Mitt Romney. The senator was not present for the meeting, but I did take the opportunity to discuss federal lands and the fact that 44 percent of all beef produced in the United States spends some part of its production on federal grazing permits.
PLC and NCBA had prepared several updates for us on the most pertinent issues to be discussing with our congressional delegations and agencies. I can’t list them all, but if anyone is interested, email me at email@example.com, and I will send you a scanned document of all the updates we used. As usual, Senator Enzi, Senator Barrasso and Representative Lummis welcomed us to their offices to discuss issues. Each of our group members visited different offices and were pleased with the reception they received, even when Mark Eisele visited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss his opposition to black-footed ferrets and the relocation of prairie dogs.
Our PLC Youth Scholar, Kaitlynn Glover, impressed everyone who met her. She is an exceptionally good speaker, and well-versed on many issues. She appreciated the learning opportunity and we appreciated the opportunity to be associated with such an outstanding youth.
Lois Herbst is a rancher in central Wyoming near Shoshoni.