Cheney defends ag industry in opposing recreation bill
Washington, D.C. – On April 18, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3400, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, which is touted to “promotes increased access to outdoor recreation opportunities on federal lands and boosts rural economies across the country.”
Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) praised passage of the act, calling the bill a bipartisan, bicameral effort that is a “win for outdoor recreation.”
“We want to make it easier for all Americans, and the people in my home state of Utah, to enjoy recreation on federal lands and this bipartisan legislation does just that. I’d like to thank Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and my colleagues on the committee for recognizing outdoor recreation’s important role in our economy and for coming together to support reforms that will make valuable recreation improvements a reality,”
Wyden, who serves as Bishop’s counterpart in the Senate, added, “Our bipartisan Recreation Not Red Tape Act removes roadblocks that make it harder to grow rural economies and more difficult for Americans to get outdoors and enjoy all our public lands have to offer in Oregon and nationwide.”
While the act seems harmless at face value, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) expressed reservations about the bill.
“We strongly support the principle of multiple use of public lands,” said Ethan Lane, PLC executive director. “That said, the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of favoring one use over another, and that’s what this legislation does as it’s currently written.”
Lane explained multiple use of public lands is the crux of the issue, citing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976, which requires multiple use.
“This means that every American has a place on public lands – whether a hiker, camper, cattle rancher or energy producer,” he said.
The Bureau of Land Management’s definition supports “a variety of uses, as well.”
Lane added ranching is essential on public land as one arm of the multiple use mission because it coexists with other activities and does not preclude them from happening concurrently.
“Recreation should absolutely continue to be part of the multiple use of our public lands, but Washington shouldn’t go out of its way to promote it at the expense of other uses – like ranching,” Lane said.
Lane also marked Wyoming’s Congressman Liz Cheney (R) as a key supporter of the ag industry in markup of the bill.
“Rep. Cheney deserves enormous gratitude from our industry,” Lane commented. “Not only did she fight this battle for ranchers across the West, but she showed herself to be a true advocate for responsible land management.”
During markup of the bill, Cheney offered amendments, submitted statements of support from NCBA and Farm Bureau expressing concern with the language in the bill.
“While we certainly all support many of the good things in this bill and in particular the Go Act and other things that help to encourage recreation, we’ve seen for decades now – and particularly over the last eight years – the damage that’s caused by misguided efforts to impose special land use designations and in particularly when inventories are taken,” Cheney said.
As an example, Cheney offered the inventory of lands with wilderness characteristics and the challenges that the pseudo-designation has caused.
“Even though we haven’t appropriated funds for those lands, the fact that we are doing something that steps away from support for multiple use of our public lands I feel will just perpetuate the mistakes we’ve seen in the past,” she said.
While she appreciated efforts to protect grazing in the bill, she cited language only protects current grazing, with no mention of the importance of protecting energy development, as well.
“I’ve heard from farmers, ranchers, energy and even recreation groups that they are concerned the designation states that we should value recreation use above all others,” Cheney continued. “We need to, I think, do everything we can to support multiple use, as the law is currently stated, not to come up with ways that we can have new designations or value one use over the other.”
She added, “I think that will send us down a dangerous path.”
Despite Cheney’s fervent attempts to amend the bill in favor of the agriculture industry and a multiple use mission, the bill was passed out of committee.
“What we are doing is creating a new national recreation that will value that above all the other uses of our land,” Cheney said. “I think it’s very important that Congress be in the position to be in the driver’s seat on land designation, but we are instructing agencies to value recreation above other purposes. We should do everything we can to protect all uses of our public lands and not repeat our mistakes from the past.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.