SD cattle producer says proposed rule could affect grazing

The president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association says a proposed rule from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management challenges grazing land access for livestock producers.

The proposed rule allows the BLM to identify lands and waters that require habitat restoration. Time-limited conservation leases would allow interested organizations to restore or mitigate lands that are traditionally used for multiple uses: to graze livestock, cut timber or hunt.

Eric Jennings says under the proposed rule, conservation uses would be elevated to the same level as grazing.

“We have some concerns about the effects that could have on public land management.”

He says grazing is a tool to manage public lands and it’s beneficial for wildlife.

“The lack of management is what’s really bad for land. We’ve seen that with the fires they’ve had out west where the forests weren’t logged for many years and now, suddenly they’re burning, trees are being wasted and carbon is escaping into the atmosphere,” he says. “Rangelands can be the same way.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council aren’t supportive of the rule and say it violates the multiple use mandate of the BLM and gives the agency too much power on land oversight. They say the BLM failed to work with stakeholders in crafting the rule or give ranchers advanced notice and the three briefings on the updates held were done in major urban areas. The PLC launched a grassroots campaign on June 20 in opposition of the rule.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has not taken a stance, but say the issue will be addressed during a townhall at their summer business meeting in July. R-Calf USA has not taken a stance on the issue.

In mid-June, the South Dakota Congressional delegation sent a letter to the secretaries of the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management asking them to withdraw the rule, noting the framework for conservation leases could limit any use of leased land deemed “inconsistent” with the framework.

U.S. Representative John Curtis from Utah is sponsoring a bill to withdraw the rule, which was heard by the House Committee on Natural Resources last week.

The comment period for the proposed rule is open through early July. 

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