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Federal Lands

Casper – New Director of the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) Bridget Hill presented updates for grazing lessees and landowners during the 2013 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup. 

Hill, who was appointed by Governor Matt Mead to serve as OSLI director after Ryan Lance stepped down, has an extensive background with public lands and noted she is excited for the new endeavor and is learning more about OSLI operations every day.

Improvements

For updates, Hill mentioned that any and all improvements on a piece of property or grazing lease need to be registered with the OSLI office before June 14,2014. 

“From the 1920s to 1940s, nobody was actually following the language of the statutes for registering improvements. Lessees would go ahead and put improvements on the land and then get them approved,” said Hill. 

This practice resulted in those improvements being installed before OSLI approval having no contributory value. The legislature has recognized the issue, and they have put into the statute a grace period to allow lessees time to register all their improvements.  

“A grace period that will allow lessees to register their improvements, even if they were put on the land before they were approved. As long as they are registered they will be eligible to receive contributory value of those improvements,” replied Hill. 

There is a form on the OSLI’s website along with an explanation describing how to register improvements. 

“Even if you think your improvements are already approved, go ahead and list those all on that sheet,” Hill said. 

If landowners and grazing lessees are unsure about the improvements on the OSLI list, call the OSLI office with lease information, and they will be able to verify if improvements are on the list or not. 

Total program compliance 

There is also a new program with the OSLI called the Total Program Compliance. 

This program is an internal communication mechanism within OSLI that allows individual divisions to communicate with each other and know if private industry companies are complying with the OSLI’s rules and requirements. 

Generally the private industry companies requesting or applying for permit at OSLI will be mineral companies. 

“Mineral companies need various things to get their mineral work done. They need easements and temporary use permits. When they apply for those our office now has a way to see if they are in compliance with all of our rules before we process their application,” explained Hill. 

OSLI can also find out if the mineral companies have been making their impact surface payments to the grazing lessees. 

“We are able to flag that and get it taken care of before we grant any other applications that they are seeking. That is a good thing, not only for our office, but for our grazing lessees that have experienced some trouble receiving their surface impact payments,” said Hill. 

Resource damage

Another new legislative initiative put into place within OSLI is that authorized enforcement officers are now able to cite people for violations on state lands. 

If there is resource damage OSLI can now ask for restitution related to the damage as well. 

“Now we have the authority to close state parcels for public access if we noticed resource damage or if there is a public health and safety issue. If somebody violates that closure, it is now a misdemeanor,” warned Hill. 

Surface impact payments 

Hill also stated there has been a lot of discussion lately with mineral companies that want to develop minerals on state lands. 

“The first thing to know about anybody seeking entry onto state land that is leased under a grazing lease is the company or person has to contact and negotiate with grazing lessee for surface impact payments,” said Hill. 

There are a few exceptions for people that do not have to negotiate surface impact payments with the grazing lessee. Those exceptions are any employee from OSLI, a member of the public who has been granted the right to be on the property for general recreation purposes or people who have already been granted a valid easement or temporary easement. 

“Anybody else seeking entry on a parcel that is under a grazing lessee has to negotiate,” said Hill. 

Negotiations

The agreement amount for the surface impact payments should be consistent with other surface impact payments that are adjacent to state lands. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, OSLI rules state the director is in charge of setting the surface impact payments. Both parties submit evidence to the OSLI office and what they believe the surface impact payments should be. 

The OSLI director will look at the evidence both parties submitted and at anything else they find relevant in past files to set the payment. 

Gaining access

“Not many people are aware of this, but while mineral companies are negotiating their surface impact payments to grazing lessee, OSLI rules do allow for them to have immediate entry onto the land as long as they are negotiating and have paid a deposit set by OSLI,” said Hill. 

The process of gaining entry onto a grazing lease for mineral companies also applies to any seismic and geophysical processes. 

“If lessees experience anyone trying to gain entry onto their property or grazing lease can call OSLI, and they can help look at any rules related to processes. If anyone is on private land looking for entry, they should contact the landowner first and negotiating with them privately,” stated Hill. 

Madeline Robinson is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Evanston – On Aug. 7, Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) heard testimony from Nevada, Utah and Wyoming citizens on concerns with the federal government’s regulatory approach on federal lands management.

The purpose of the hearing, as stated by the committee, was “to examine the various regulatory burdens placed on the grazing industry by the federal government.”

Wyoming sheep producers Shaun Sims of Evanston and Pat O’Toole of Savery were joined by Cheyenne Attorney Karen Budd-Falen, Utah Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker and Elko County, Nev. Commission Demar Dahl as they discussed the impacts of federal land management, ranging from the H-2A program to Bighorn sheep and water.

“The hearing went very well,” commented Sims following the hearing. “It was held locally, and there were close to 80 people there. The committee was very receptive to our comments, and I think this hearing will have a positive effect.”
Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna added, “The comments from this hearing create a record for these concerns. That is important. If we have to ask Congress to weigh in to stop Department of Labor regulations going forward, for example, there will be a record on it.”

Inside testimony

Sims and O’Toole, both sheep producers, provided the Congressional committee with insight into their operations and how the Department of Proposed Rule for Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Foreign Workers will affect their businesses.

In his testimony, Sims noted that a series of special procedures have allowed for monthly wage rates, mobile housing and longer contracts since the 1950s to facilitate the unique nature of the livestock herding industry.

Following a 2011 lawsuit by four former herders, Sims says, “The case was dismissed in 2013 for lack of standing but was subsequently appealed. The appeals court reversed the decision and directed the Department of Labor to proceed with rulemaking for these special procedures.”

He further added that the two most egregious changes in the rules are the wage rate and definition of open range.

“I talked about the H-2A issue. We don’t have the demand economics in the proposed rule, specifically for the wages, or the definitions of open range. We feel the rule is not representative of what is on the ground,” Sims explained. “We feel that they need to scrap the entire rule. It is too vague and too open for interpretation.”

O’Toole agreed with Sims, saying, “The Department of Labor proposes to take away the platform that underpins current resource management in the West and to override or make impossible the current regulatory matrix set forth by other federal agencies. This power grab has no basis in improving workers’ situations and is done without input from employers, workers or legislative oversight.”

Litigation threats

As another concern for producers, Sims explained to the committee that threats of litigation have changed management of public lands to the detriment of producers.

“Decisions by our public lands managers are based on the threat of litigation,” Sims testified. “As a result, we increasingly see the agencies enter into settlement agreements. This is having a profound and demoralizing effect on our public lands managers and the professionals that manage the range resource we use.”

The threat of litigation too often results in animal unit month (AUM) reductions or additional restrictions on grazing, Sims added.

Budd-Falen also addressed litigation, including the use of the Equal Access to Justice Act by environmental groups.

“Since 1995, there has been no accounting or transparency of how the American tax money is being paid to environmental groups to sue the federal government,” Budd-Falen wrote in prepared comments.

“Karen also talked about the litigation and how groups are affecting BLM and Forest Service decisions,” Sims explained. “She looked at how agencies are settling agreements with no oversight because they don’t want to be sued. Agencies are managing under fear of litigation.”

More topics

The panel of witnesses also looked at other issues, ranging from Bighorn sheep conflicts, to the Endangered Species Act, waters of the U.S. rule, wild horses and other topics – all of which have profound impacts on public lands grazers.

“With the insecurity that looming decisions have made, it is almost impossible to plan any long-term management for our ranches,” Sims said. “I take pride in the fact that my family has been in agriculture production since 1865. My biggest fear is that, due to these upcoming decisions and the litigious attacks on grazing, our ranch and others will come to an end on my watch.”

O’Toole also mentioned that he is optimistic moving forward, and he credited Rep. Lummis for her hard work on bringing light to the issues.

“It’s important to keep the pedal to the metal on these issues,” he commented. “There are people who have a lot of respect for our industry. It’s easy to be worried about our opposition, but we have friends, too.”

O’Toole concluded his testimony saying, “I can only hope that leaders in the Obama Administration seriously reconsider the cumulative impacts of the resulting regulatory measures before adding additional chapters to what farmers and ranchers already see as a very large rulebook.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The ranching industry is witnessing a big change in Washington, D.C. – and one of Wyoming’s own is on point to oversee it. The Public Lands Council (PLC) is vamping up its outreach on Capitol Hill, and Marci Schlup, a Douglas native, will be guiding the campaign in her new position as associate director of PLC. 

Whether it’s about fixing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), preventing sweeping new special designations on federal lands, or promoting grazing’s role in controlling wildfires, PLC is of an aim to “influence the influencers” at our nation’s capital. 

Taking the reins

“It’s an exciting time to be taking the reins,” Schlup told us in an interview. 

Schlup, whose family runs cows and grows hay, took on the role of associate director of PLC this month after Executive Director Dustin Van Liew took a new job with the oil and gas industry in Texas. 

A new public relations (PR) campaign started last year under Van Liew’s directorship, but much of the first year consisted of behind-the-scenes work with a PR firm, including message testing and developing a new website. Now, much of that groundwork is about to be unveiled.

“PLC has been around a long time – since 1968,” said Schlup, “but this is the first time in the organization’s history that we’ve had the resources to dramatically expand awareness of public land ranching issues on Capitol Hill.” 

Public relations

Thanks to a $15 million trust that was endowed to the public lands ranching industry by an energy pipeline company in 2012, PLC’s board of directors was able to approve funding for the new public relations campaign in the fall of 2014. 

Last month, PLC’s board approved the second year of funding for the campaign.

PR firm Rubin Meyer Communications is carrying out the campaign. A committee of PLC members is overseeing the effort, along with Schlup. 

“We have struck a balance between guiding Rubin Meyer’s team as to what messages we feel are important for influencers in Washington to get,” Schlup explained, “while at the same time allowing the firm’s message-testing and PR experience to help chart the path forward. It’s a constant balancing act, and it’s very eye-opening to see what messages resonate – or don’t – with the people we are trying to reach.”

The audience

Whom is PLC trying to reach?

“Our ultimate goal is to influence the influencers – that is, get the ear of policy makers in D.C.,” Schlup told us. “To do that, we have to take a multi-pronged approach. It means educating not just members of Congress and their staff, but also educating voters in key districts.”

Schlup explained that an uneducated public and electorate lead to policies that are completely unworkable for producers, which ultimately harms consumers and even national security. 

“We have to be able to keep feeding ourselves as a nation,” she said. “So this campaign, in my eyes, is beyond important.”

Eventually, PLC, with the help of Rubin Meyer Communications, will be developing pitches and conducting outreach in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston. 

The first step

But the first order of business is outreach right on Capitol Hill. Schlup told us that, within the month, the first of a quarterly electronic newsletter will be blasted out to House and Senate offices. 

Also, PLC will hold a Hill staffer briefing next month, where a few key issues – including the ESA, national monuments and wildfire – will be brought to light. For many staffers, Schlup said, it may be their first encounter with PLC or public lands ranching issues.

“We have always been a two-man lobbying team at PLC,” she explained. “That is not to say we haven’t been able to achieve some important policy victories, but it does mean that we’ve had to be highly targeted in how we spend our time. With Rubin Meyer’s help, we are going to reach Hill staffers who work on ag and natural resources issues but who may have absolutely zero knowledge of our issues.”

Schlup acknowledged that there are certain congressional offices that won’t be receptive to PLC’s agenda but added that a great number of congressional members and their staff simply need to be told the truth about who and what the public land ranching industry is.

The message

While the new outreach effort will provide the audience with PLC’s policy positions, concrete statistics and facts, an underlying messaging plan will also be put into play that should help encourage receptiveness amongst policy influencers.

Last year, Rubin Meyer conducted focus-group testing, bringing in “federal policy influencers who professionally focus on land use issues.” They tested both images and language for what was most appealing. 

“Respondents reacted best to the concept of stewardship and supporting evidence about the impact on the food supply, the economy, and the local communities that thrive through ranching on public lands,” the firm wrote in a memo.

The image that tested strongest was a photo of two cowboys horseback, Border collie at heel, looking out over a herd of cows on a mountain meadow.

“That’s just an example of some of the testing we’re doing with Rubin Meyer,” Schlup told us. “Of course, there’s a lot more to their results, and there will be different focus groups depending on the project we’re working on.”

The vehicle

Rubin Meyer is in the process of finalizing PLC’s website redesign, Schlup told us. PLC will also boast a new logo, a new “e-newsletter” and attractive new issue-briefs for distribution on Capitol Hill. 

“As much as we might not like to acknowledge it, how we present our material is half the battle,” Schlup said. “We may have all the facts and all the science on our side. But if we don’t speak or visually present ourselves in a way that wins the hearts of our audience, what have we gained?”

Other projects are on the horizon, including building rancher “hero” stories, conducting PLC spokesman training and initiating social media engagement and expanded press outreach. 

“It’s unchartered territory, which makes it all the more exciting,” Schlup said, “and this is just the beginning.” 

Theodora Johnson writes for Public Lands Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit representing ranchers with public land grazing rights. Email comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – In a lecture given the week after the BLM issued guidance to field managers describing how the agency is to use Secretarial Order 3310, commonly referred to as the Wild Lands project, Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman labeled the intent of the order, and its accompanying “rewilding” projects, as a taking of private property rights.
Hageman, the 2010 Casper College Distinguished Alum, spoke at Casper College on March 1 for the 10th Annual Doornbos Lecture Series. Along with private property, Hageman addressed wolves in Wyoming, Wyoming water law and the effect of federal regulations on natural resource industries.
Regarding the Wild Lands project, Hageman specifically mentioned an article titled “The Rewilding of North America,” published in a 2005 edition of Nature magazine.
“The idea is, because we have vast open spaces in the Rocky Mountain West, i.e. Wyoming, they will bring in all the endangered species from all over the world and release them here,” she explained. “They will simply move the people off and bring in lions, elephants and cheetahs.”
She pointed out the article’s statement that “large tracts of private land hold the best immediate potential for studies.”
“They’re targeting private property for this idea,” she said. “When I first read it, I thought it was insane, but it isn’t. You should hear the number of people who are talking about bringing animals from Africa and releasing them in the western United States.”
Hageman said the Wild Lands project shows a plan to take property throughout the country and return it to “wildlife corridors.”
“What the map shows is huge swaths of Wyoming and the western United States with a simulated reserve and corridor system to protect biodiversity,” she noted, adding, “The word ‘biodiversity’ is about taking away private property rights.”
She pointed out that the map says the corridors were drawn “as mandated by the Convention on Biological Diversity, The Wildlands Project, UN and U.S. Man and Biosphere Program and various UN, U.S. heritage programs and NAFTA.”
“There are people paying massive sums of money to figure out how to make the United States look like this to protect biodiversity ‘as mandated’ by the Convention on Biological Diversity,” she noted of the lines drawn on the map.
Hageman added that vast swaths of the land for the project are private lands, and that the UN can have a hand in projects like this through treaties with the U.S. that can trump the U.S. Constitution, even though they shouldn’t.
“We don’t have a federal government that fights back and says this isn’t even a discussion we’re going to have,” she said. “The project is foundational to the UN Biodiversity Treaty, which was never ratified by the U.S. Senate, and it calls for approximately 50 percent of United States to be set aside as Wild Lands, where no human can enter.”
In a public relations release from the UN, it was said of Wild Lands that “step by step, and piece by piece, the Wild Lands project is coming to fruition, and much has been accomplished over the last 10 years toward that goal, and the pace is stepping up.”
Although Hageman said the information and planning hasn’t been as public in the Obama administration, at least so far, she said it was really stepped up under the Clinton/Gore administration.
“Keep in mind that whenever there are decisions that affect public lands, they also affect private lands, especially the private lands nearby,” she said. “When multiple use is taken out of the equation on federal lands the pressure on private lands is increased, in terms of what we need to produce.”
“A society that cannot feed itself cannot survive,” she said of the increased pressure on private lands. “The most extreme example of that is Sudan, which imports 90 percent of its foodstuffs, and has over the last two generations. They’ve been in civil war for 40 years, and the primary cause of the fight in that country has to do with the fact that they can’t feed themselves.”
Hageman mentioned a proposal by The Wilderness Society that would like to turn five to six million acres of federal land in California into wilderness. California already has 14 million acres of designated wilderness, which is 13.78 percent of the state. Six million more acres would make that 19 percent, and Hageman said if parks, monuments and wildlife reserves are added that figure jumps to 27.5 percent of the state that’s been taken out of production.
In addition to the UN and the environmental groups, Hageman said another threat to private property rights are the reports and papers published non-stop, such as one entitled Are Wyoming range practices working across purposes with wildlife habitat goals, published by the Environmental Defense Fund.
“These organizations have massive amounts of money, both private and federal, that they get to study ways to take your private property away,” she stated. “They publish beautiful reports that describe how bad grazing is, and they don’t limit the discussion to federal property or state lands. The purpose of these documents, which are funded by the federal government and your tax dollars, is to stop grazing in the western United States.”
Hageman also talked about a woman who has written extensively about the “myth of the Western cowboy” and the “myth of agricultural production.” Her most recent report is titled Western Grazing: The Capture of Grass, Ground and Government.
Debra Donahue, a University of Wyoming law professor since 1992, believes it’s a myth that “ranchers are cowboys,” that “cowboys are independent, self-reliant, honest and hard-working” and that “public land ranching is crucial to the local rural western economies.”
She also writes that it’s untrue that public land ranching is crucial to maintaining a valuable culture and way of life, and that keeping public land ranchers in business maintains open space.
“She says it’s another myth that ranchers are good stewards of the land and all it’s creatures, and she says it’s a myth that grazing improves the land, and that ranching provides clean air, water and wildlife habitat,” noted Hageman.
Another article by Donahue is entitled Trampling the Public Trust and is summarized with the statement: “Livestock production is a chief contributor to many significant and intractable environmental problems.”
“Interesting about this writing is that for almost every reference she relies upon her own previous writings. The article is well-documented with footnotes, but the myths are substantiated because she’s said it before,” said Hageman of the Western Grazing article. “This is the kind of publication we’re getting from people who are paid at the University of Wyoming.”
“I don’t believe in censorship – she can write what she wants – but I have the right to bring it to everyone’s attention,” continued Hageman. “She teaches in the law school, and this is what she teaches the kids coming out of law school.”
Hageman told the Casper College students in attendance at the lecture series that she has a hard time finding attorneys who want to do what she does.
“We need people who are willing to go out and work for our ranchers, irrigation districts, land managers and farmers,” she said. “I see myself as someone who’s in the ag industry, as an ag attorney, and I take great pride in the fact. We need other people like me. I need you to get an education, go on to law school and push back and tell them we won’t take this anymore. Our liberties are too important to allow someone from Washington, D.C. to dictate how our property will be managed, and our liberties are too important to even allow someone from Washington, D.C. to say how our federal lands will be managed. Those decisions need to be made at the local level.”
She said she’d be happy to help any student go on to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree with the intent of becoming an ag attorney.
Find another article on the Wild Lands project on Page 10 of this edition of the Roundup. Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA) and others provide constant challenges for public lands ranchers, says Public Lands Council (PLC) Executive Director Ethan Lane, who adds that these tools require ranchers to consider far beyond the score of their operation in implementing management actions of public land.

“Imagine that we’re watching a football game,” he says. “The game is going really badly, so we want to switch to something else, but what if we can’t change the channel? What if we have to identify, evaluate and dismiss every single possibility for the impacts to our surrounding before we push that button?”

Lane adds that, if people watching TV had to consider impacts like the noise differential of the football game compared to other shows, the consumption of snacks or their neighbor watching the game through their window prior to making a decision to change the channel, they would like call the action ridiculous or crazy.

“Unfortunately, this is the reality for ranchers who have to deal with NEPA on a regular basis,” he says.

NEPA impacts

Lane continues, “Because of NEPA, grass management practices that are accepted around the world must be looked at on a case-by-case basis – and sometimes, it even has to start with an analysis of the cattle program.”

If the evaluation goes well, it has to again be evaluated, and Lane says, “The evaluation of the evaluation may also need approval.”

The resulting process is long, drawn-out and often manipulated by opponents of grazing.

“And NEPA isn’t the only challenge standing in the way of public lands ranchers,” he adds.

ESA

ESA also creates problems for ranchers around the West.

“ESA has become a favorite weapon among citizen groups,” Lane says. “These groups file hundreds of low-bar, procedural lawsuits demanding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) make listing determinations on a species or subspecies, many of which are indistinguishable.”

Those species on the ESA have less than a two percent recovery rate, and Lane emphasizes that no resources are being channeled toward recovery efforts.

He continues that the Center for Biological Diversity and Wild Earth Guardians praise the settlements that are reached behind closed doors with FWS.

“The listing process is broken, and the agency is battered by years of political meddling,” Land comments. “Environmental groups have found a strategy that is almost flawless. They overwhelm the agencies, and the agencies are left to wade through listings.”

A never-ending stream of critical habitat, optimal conditions, population counts, voluntary conservation efforts and more roll through federal offices to avoid threat of listing species under the ESA.

“The problem with all of this – unless the goal is to shut down multiple use, is a web of conflicting, one-size-fits-all management decisions with awful results,” he adds. “More and more we are seeing years of scientific evaluation in pasture rotation, timing, water resource protection, residual matter, invasive species control and more get thrown out the window for a single species that is generating contention.”

Sage grouse example

As a recent example, Lane looks inside the sage grouse issue.

“In the case of the Greater sage grouse, the species was found to be not warranted for listing after recent reports showed a 63 percent rebound in population over the past two years,” he says. “That is great, but along with it came an almost indecipherable list of resource management plans (RMPs) and land use plan amendments that lock in the restrictions and avoid the bad press of a listing.”

For example, restrictions on habitat prove to be problematic for a variety of reasons, according to Lane.

“After all the evaluation work to determine whether to turn off the football game, it’s like telling us that we can’t change the channel because the Arizona Cardinals are a species of greater conservation concern,” he says, continuing his metaphor from earlier. “We have to watch the game after all.”

Despite that sage grouse is not listed, Lane notes that ranchers are forced to comply with restrictions in their full force.

Benefits of ranchers

On public lands, Lane continues that ranchers provide important management at low cost to the federal government. 

“It costs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) five dollars to manage every acre of un-grazed land,” he says. “Place a rancher on the land, and the cost drops to two dollars per acre.”

Across the 250 million acres in the West, the federal government saves $750 million annually as a result of livestock grazers.

“In round numbers, BLM would need a 60 percent budget increase to manage the land without grazing,” Lane comments. “Without these families, lands would fall into disrepair, be consumed by invasive species and lose the value we maintain.”

From the agencies

Lane further emphasizes that even the federal agencies agree that grazing is beneficial.

“BLM says that well-managed grazing provides numerous environmental benefits and supports healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat,” he says. “The U.S. Forest Service says grazing can replicate natural processes and keep lands healthy.”

He adds that USDA agrees proper grazing is the most ecologically sustainable  benefit from agriculture.

“Despite all that praise for grazing, the federal government can sometimes be its own worst enemy,” Lane says.

Lane spoke during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, held in late January in San Diego, Calif.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..