Public Records Sought on EPA, Beef Lobby Collusion to Weaken Water Protections

Press Release from: Biological Diversity.org

Livestock operations have polluted 35,000 miles of U.S. rivers and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. Each year American beef production creates 489 billion pounds of manure.

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a Freedom of Information Act request today seeking communications between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and beef-lobbying groups. The filing seeks information about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s participation in a promotional video for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in which he urges ranchers to flood the agency with comments in favor of repealing the Clean Water Rule.

“It’s bizarre and appalling that our nation’s chief environmental official starred in a beef-industry infomercial attacking protections for our water supplies,” said Jennifer Molidor, a Center senior food campaigner. “Americans deserve to know why Pruitt would support the private interests of this incredibly polluting industry.”

Livestock operations have polluted 35,000 miles of U.S. rivers and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. Each year American beef production creates 489 billion pounds of manure. Improperly stored manure creates toxic byproducts that frequently leak into rivers, lakes and streams. In addition 167 million pounds of pesticides and 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow animal feed leak into waterways.

The Clean Water Rule, a clarification of the Clean Water Act ordered by the Obama administration, prohibited the dumping of waste in “navigable waters” without a permit. The rule exempts most agricultural drainage ditches.

As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued to halt the rule. Industry groups filed similar lawsuits. In all cases the rule was ultimately upheld.

“Pruitt took office already determined to slash Obama-era safeguards like the Clean Water Rule without concern for the dangerous fallout of losing these protections,” said Molidor. “It’s the EPA’s job to protect our environment from big polluters, not the other way around.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/beef-lobby-09-14-2017.php

The Big Win in Wyoming

Source: Western Watersheds Project

Welfare Ranchers Get a Boot in the Butt!!!

Western Watersheds Project is not primarily known for its defense of the U.S. Constitution. We tend to focus on federal laws and policies relating to the environment and public lands. But now, thanks to a Tenth Circuit Court win and a successful but protracted battle in Wyoming, you can count us among the defenders of free speech!

It all started when Jonathan Ratner, our dedicated Wyoming Director, started gathering evidence of livestock-caused water pollution on public lands and submitting his data to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). His results of significant fecal coliform contamination were so threatening to the political establishment of the “Cowboy State” that rather than clean up the water, Wyoming ranchers started to seek ways to shut us up.

In 2014, anti-environmental attorney (and potential Trump pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management) Karen Budd-Falen and a group of ranchers claimed Jonathan must have trespassed on their private property in order to gather water quality samples from public lands grazing allotments. She wound up the loser. This frivolous lawsuit was resolved in 2016 through a settlement agreement that ultimately penalized the ranchers through their legal fees, and WWP agreeing to follow the same laws it always follows regarding private lands.

Then, in 2015, the Wyoming DEQ decided not to accept any of WWP’s data: “Any submission submitted by such organizations should not be accepted due to their inherent bias towards one of Wyoming’s leading economic industries.” If an organization cares about water quality and native fish habitat more than cows, the data be damned.

Also that year, the DEQ decided to change the rules about E.coli in 76 percent of the waterways in the state – effectively legalizing the extreme pollution levels that Jonathan had been documenting. The rule change, requested by the livestock industry, went into effect in February 2017 despite broad opposition by non-ranchers, recreational users, and federal land management agencies.

In addition to working against WWP and the public’s interest in healthy waterways, the Wyoming State Legislature decided to take special interests’ right to wreck the environment to another level by passing legislation making it illegal to cross “open land for the purpose of collecting resource data.” WWP and our allies were alarmed by the fact that the laws – dubbed “Jonathan’s Laws” by our staff – would seek specifically to punish people who intend to communicate data to the government; this is a restriction on free speech and targets a specific class of citizens (data collectors) in a way that the U.S. Constitution prohibits.

After the Wyoming legislature modified the laws in 2016, Wyoming had our case in District Court dismissed. But WWP and our co-plaintiffs weren’t fooled by the tweaks in language, and we appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s dismissal and concluded that plain reading of the statute demonstrated that Wyoming was seeking to regulate an activity that occurred on public land and that resource data collection is within the definition of the creation of speech – protected under the First Amendment and essential to public participation in numerous federal environmental statutes. The case now goes back to district court.

Wyoming counties have also taken up the charge to block public access in public lands. In Lincoln County, for years the public used a county road to reach the Raymond Mountain Wilderness Study Area on public lands. In 2013, the county sold a strip of land along the road to an Idaho rancher and subsequently made the private portion of the road impassable. According to emails revealed in litigation, this was done specifically to block WWP’s access to a long-troubled grazing allotment.

WWP is enormously grateful to our attorneys at Public Justice and our co-plaintiffs National Press Photographers Association and Natural Resource Defense Council for standing with us on this appeal. We’re also enormously proud of Jonathan Ratner’s work to expose and address the harmful impacts of public lands livestock grazing in the “Cowboy State.”

While we wait for this next round of litigation, we hope that Wyoming’s next move is simply to clean up its act and stop letting the livestock industry foul the state’s precious waters with impunity. 

https://www.westernwatersheds.org/

The High Cost of Cheap Grazing on Public Land

 

Private “Welfare Cattle” being herded onto BLM Antelope Complex in Nevada, while Wild Horse roundup was being conducted ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

by Andy Kerr, Public Lands Blog

“Bovine bulldozers have caused more harm to the public lands than mining or logging…”

It costs more to feed a domestic house cat than to graze domestic livestock on federal public lands.

This has generally been the case since the early 1900s, when the federal government first required ranchers to pay a fee for grazing their livestock on millions of acres of federal land, primarily in western states.

Each January the USDA Forest Service and the USDI Bureau of Land Management calculate what the federal grazing fee will be for that year. For 2017, it’s $1.87/animal unit month (AUM), down from $2.11/AUM in 2016. An AUM is the amount of forage that a cow and calf can eat in one month. This below-market subsidized federal grazing fee applies only to the eleven western states. Fees for grazing on National Forest System lands in the Midwest and East are closer to market value.

The federal land management agencies calculate the fee based on an arcane formula that favors the federal grazing permittee at the expense of the federal taxpayer. The formula was in the Public Rangelands Improvement (sic) Act of 1978 (PRIA). That statute expired in 1985, but on Valentines Day in 1986 President Reagan issued an executive order that made the formula live on. The PRIA formula considers current private land grazing lease rates (though obviously not that much, as we shall see), beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production, all indexes compiled by the USDA. Because these indexes as used in the grazing fee formula could result in the grazing fee approaching $0/AUM, a floor of $1.35/AUM was included to prevent such an acute embarrassment.

While some argue that grazing uses federal land productively and that the grazing fee is fair, others argue that grazing damages public resources and that grazing fees are too low. When the Government Accountability Office looked into the matter in 2005, it found that the federal government recovered in fees less than one-sixth of what it expended on public lands grazing. And the Center for Biological Diversity estimated that in 2013 on average, the federal grazing fee was 6.72 percent of the price of non-irrigated forage from private lands.

In every state, the gap between the federal grazing fee and market prices for private land forage is stark and getting worse each year. We know this because each January, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) publishes its estimate of private non-irrigated grazing fees for the previous year (see Figure 1). For instance, in Oregon in 2015, the private grazing fee was estimated to be $16.50/AUM, and in 2016, $17.00/AUM.

Welfare Cows eat more of your wallet and Wild Horse & Burro Habitat

Welfare ranchers (a.k.a. federal grazing permittees) argue that it’s unfair to compare the federal grazing fee with the NASS fees and assert that the PRIA formula does approximate fair market value. They argue that on private lands, certain bovine amenities such as trough water and fences are routinely provided by the private landowner. In contrast, they say, they may have to haul their own water to federal lands, and livestock on the federal lands are more at risk of being eaten by wolves, bears, cougars, coyotes, and the like. (Hell, predators have to eat, don’t they?).

Does the PRIA formula in fact approximate fair market value? According to Wikipedia, fair market value (FMV) is “an estimate of the market value of a property, based on what a knowledgeable, willing, and unpressured buyer would probably pay to a knowledgeable, willing, and unpressured seller in the market.” Grazing fees don’t represent the fair market value of the forage because the federal land management agencies are pressured sellers—Congress requires the federal government to lose money on the endeavor.

The best way to determine the fair market value of federal grazing permits would be to auction them in a fair market. However, federal law limits federal grazing permits and leases to those in the livestock business, and there is no bidding among them. Once federal grazing permittees obtain their federal permit, either by inheritance or purchase, it’s generally theirs until they die or sell it.

Ensuring that the federal government received fair market value for the grazing of livestock would help defray the federal deficit, but do little to help public lands. Alas, most permittees would pay the higher fee (though griping a lot), as the cost of federal forage isn’t a particularly large portion of the cost of a ranch operation.

Bovine bulldozers have caused more harm to the public lands than mining or logging. The damage is harder for the public to see, as livestock grazing has been a chronic assault on the environment since the mid-1800s, rather than the acute assault of a clear-cut or a strip mine.

My honest opinion? The only proper grazing fee for federal public lands is actually $0/AUM, since there should be no grazing on federal public lands.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service estimate of private non-irrigated grazing fees for 2015 and 2016.

[To learn more, see Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues by the Congressional Research Service. To learn way more, see Cost and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands by the Center for Biological Diversity.]

http://www.andykerr.net/kerr-public-lands-blog/2017/5/26/the-high-cost-of-cheap-grazing

In Support of Welfare Ranchers WDFW Spent $119,500 to Shoot Seven Wolves

By Don Jenkins as published in The North West News

“Government, be it state or federal, hard at work spending tax dollars to defend welfare ranchers while skewing natural predator numbers to the point that mother nature cannot take care of her own.  We have seen actual geological damage to National Parks, such as Yellowstone, due to these strong-arm tactics and as wild equine advocates we understand that natural selection and predation work far better in herd management than do helicopters and drugs.  When will man learn that nature was well balanced and functioned perfectly fine long before two legged predators ever walked onto the playing field?” ~ R.T.


“Washington Fish and Wildlife had planned to eliminate the entire Profanity Peak pack, which was preying on welfare cattle in the Colville National Forest.”

wolf-packWashington spent more than $119,500 to kill seven wolves, according to Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello, who said the agency will look at culling wolfpacks in the future in “the most frugal way we can.”

“We know that lethal removal is part of wolf management. It’s something that will occur again in Washington,” he said. “I do think that as an agency we have to think about cost-savings.”

Fish and Wildlife spent the money during an operation that began in August and ended Oct. 19 in northeastern Washington. Expenses included renting a helicopter, hiring a trapper, and paying the salaries and benefits of WDFW employees.

Public disclosure

A preliminary figure, $119,577.92, was tallied in response to public disclosure requests and was posted by an advocacy group, Protect the Wolves. Martorello said a final figure may be higher.

Fish and Wildlife had planned to eliminate the entire Profanity Peak pack, which was preying on cattle in the Colville National Forest. The department suspended the operation with four wolves surviving.

WDFW said the chances of attacks on livestock continuing were low because the grazing season was ending.

The department did enter the operation with a spending limit, Martorello said. “It’s something we think about, but money wasn’t a factor in suspending it,” he said.

The cost exceeded the roughly $26,000 spent to shoot one wolf in 2014 and the $76,000 spent to shoot seven wolves in 2012.

Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said lethal-removal costs will continue to be an issue.

“You have to remove the problem wolves if you ever want public acceptance in this area,” said Nielsen, a Stevens County rancher. “To say, ‘never kill a wolf,’ that is not a reasonable position.”

The state could authorize ranchers to remove wolves that are attacking livestock, he said.

“We would work collectively,” Nielsen said. “It would cost the state nothing.”

Martorello said he did not have any proposals for cutting the cost of killing wolves. He noted that Fish and Wildlife spends more on non-lethal measures to prevent wolf attacks on livestock, an expense ranchers are expected to share.

Non-lethal measures

The department’s two-year budget adopted last year included $750,000 for non-lethal measures.

Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity said the money spent shooting wolves would have been better used to move cattle off grazing allotments and paying for supplemental feed.

“I think the vast majority of the public would be very supportive of doing something like that, instead of killing wolves,” she said.

Wolves are not federally protected in the eastern one-third of Washington. The state’s policy calls for shooting wolves when measures such as putting more people on horseback around herds fail to stop depredations.

Ranchers are eligible for compensation for livestock attacked by wolves. Ranchers say many attacks go unconfirmed by the department and that compensation doesn’t address all the problems that have been created by wolves returning to Washington.

“I do not raise cows to feed to the department’s predators,” Nielsen said. “That is not responsible husbandry,”

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Northwest/20161107/wdfw-spent-119500-to-shoot-seven-wolves

Public Lands Livestock Grazing Got You Down? TAKE ACTION

Source: Wilderness Watch

Urge Congress to support the Rural Economic Vitalization Act!

Most Americans are shocked when they find out that ranchers are allowed to graze their private livestock on our public lands – including deep within protected Wilderness areas – for literally pennies on the dollar.

Welfare Ranching StatsSTOP WELFARE RANCHING!

In fact, the federal public lands grazing program is among the most wasteful, environmentally damaging and economically inefficient uses of our public lands, costing U.S. taxpayer a whopping $120 million annually! When you consider additional direct and indirect costs, it’s estimated that the federal public lands grazing program on just national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands may costs as much as $500 million to $1 billion annually – all to provide only 3% of all the beef in the country.

One potential solution to this problem a piece of legislation called the (Rural Economic Vitalization Act (H.R. 3410). This bill would allow federal grazing permit users to waive their grazing permit back to the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management in exchange for compensation by a third party. The associated grazing allotments would then be permanently retired from livestock grazing use.

Retiring grazing permits on America’s public lands protects Wilderness, eliminates negative impacts to watersheds, native fish, wildlife (Wild Horses & Burros), plants, and saves tax dollars.

Stop Welfare Ranching!  Click (HERE) to Help

https://wildernesswatch.salsalabs.org/reva/index.html

(Disclaimer: SFTHH is not endorsing nor soliciting donations for Wilderness Watch.)

BLM PATS WELFARE RANCHERS ON THE HEAD IN ADDITION TO THEIR FEDERAL $UBSIDIES

Story by Grandma Gregg

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat DURING a BLM roundup at Antelope Complex, NV. ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat DURING a BLM roundup at Antelope Complex, NV. ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation


The Bureau of Land Management announced its Rangeland Stewardship Awards for 2016 and gave the awards to welfare ranchers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the federal government spends at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, but collects only $21 million in grazing fees—for a net loss of at least $123 million per year.

The Rangeland Stewardship-Permittee Award went to the Mori Ranch in Tuscarora, Nevada

USDA subsidy information for Mori Ranches LLC

Mori Ranches LLC received payments totaling $464,477 from 1995 through 2014

PLUS

USDA subsidy information for Mori Ranches LLC

Mori Ranches LLC received payments totaling $140,486 from 1995 through 2014

The Sage-Grouse Habitat Stewardship-Permittee Award went to the Drewsey Ranch in Burns, Oregon

USDA subsidy information for Drewsey Field Ranch Company

Drewsey Field Ranch Company received payments totaling $243,900 from 1995 through 2014

https://farm.ewg.org/

http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2016/september/nr_09_09_2016.html

LIVESTOCK GRAZING ON THE PUBLIC LANDS: LESSONS FROM THE FAILURE OF OFFICIAL CONSERVATION

by George Cameron Coggins

A MUST read: http://www.law.gonzaga.edu/law-review/files/2013/11/Coggins.pdf

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Article reviewed by Grandma Gregg with favorite quotes listed below:

“As the title of my speech implies, the story of the law of public rangeland management is dismal. In 1979, I was invited to serve on a National Academy of Sciences committee that was set up to study and recommend reform of public rangeland management. I thought this would be an excellent experience, but the study was a disaster. It started back-asswards, and, after two years, just when the committee was getting ready to make detailed recommendations, the Bureau of Land Management refused to continue the study. Perhaps coincidentally, the BLM Director knew the recommendations would be unfavorable to the agency’s way of doing things.”

“Those who hold grazing permits are a far more diverse group than the simple description of “rancher” would suggest. Only one in every twenty-two livestock raisers enjoys this peculiar status,” a fact that occasionally prompts some resentment from non-western ranchers. Public land grazing is dominated by big operations. Approximately fifteen percent of the 22,000 permittees control more than 80 percent of the grazing lands, while at the other end of the spectrum, more than 4,000 permittees each have fewer than 28 AUM’s under permit.”

“The range wars and other politics of those bad old days only served to foster the belief among the ranchers that they had some sort of right to denude the land if they so desired. Cowboy movies would have us believe that the nineteenth century West was a lawless place. Whether or not generally accurate, that impression is certainly true in the case of public land grazing. The United States Congress refused to take any effective action to protect this federal property, and the states were only interested in keeping the peace and discriminating against sheepherders.35 The cattlemen had their own primitive legal code, sometimes enforced at gunpoint.” SOUND FAMILIAR???

“…the ranching beneficiaries have usually controlled the weak agency responsible for regulating the public land grazing. 0 The results of allowing the western livestock industry to police itself have been about what one would expect.”

“…any real improvement program must start by reducing the permitted levels of grazing. Some range scientists argue that grazing reductions alone will not repair the damage of a century, but nearly all concede that physical changes alone, whether by chaining, reseeding, brush eradication, water developments, or rest-rotation grazing schemes,” cannot restore productivity if heavy grazing pressures continues. All these expensive measures have as a common denominator the forlorn hope that somehow the grass can be brought back without antagonizing or discommoding the permittees.”

“Again, a relevant question is why the ranchers would oppose improvement even if it means temporary loss of what may merely be paper privileges? The answer is that the subsidy of the reduced grazing fee has been capitalized, falsely, into the sale or mortgage value of the private base ranches. Any loss in the number of permit AUM’s thus means proportionate loss in the rancher’s private property values. The courts, including the United States Supreme Court in 1973, have firmly rejected the notion that the permittees have any legally recognized property interests in the public lands. However, the ranchers, their ranch purchasers, and their bankers have persisted in treating these permits as legitimate, vested property interests.”

“The Bureau of Land Management was formed out of an inappropriate merger of two other agencies in 1946 and was almost destroyed by Senator McCarren in the process. The agency did make some good faith efforts in the 1950’s and 1960’s to control the worst grazing abuses, but most of these efforts came to very little, and many of the reform advocates within the agency found themselves prematurely retired or contemplating the view in Nome, Alaska. The latter technique remains popular with the present Administration.”

Read the entire article: http://www.law.gonzaga.edu/law-review/files/2013/11/Coggins.pdf

Study: Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion Over Past Decade

Information supplied by The Center for Biological Diversity

BLM’s Welfare Ranching Bedfellows come with a huge price tag…

WASHINGTON— A new analysis  finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land. Last year alone taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land. Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss, the analysis finds.

Click Image to Download Full Report

Click Image to Download Full Report

The study, Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, comes as the Obama administration prepares Friday to announce grazing fees for the upcoming year on 229 million acres of publicly owned land, most of it in the West. The report was prepared by economists on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Public lands grazing has been a billion-dollar boondoggle over the past decade and hasn’t come close to paying for itself,” said Randi Spivak with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Livestock owners pay less to graze their animals on publically owned land in 2014 than they did in 1981. Today the monthly cost of allowing a cow and calf to graze on federal lands is about the equivalent of a can of dog food. This damaging and expensive grazing program has been broken for years and needs to be fixed. Taxpayers, and the land we all own, deserve better.”

The gap between federal grazing fees and non-irrigated private land rates has widened considerably, according to the study. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service grazing fees are $1.35 per month per animal unit (a cow and a calf), just 6.72 percent of what it would cost to graze livestock on private grazing lands. This is a marked decline from the federal fee being 23.79 percent of non-irrigated private rates when the federal fee first went into effect in 1981.

“The fees for grazing on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands needs to be seriously reevaluated,” said Christine Glaser, an economist with GreenFire Consulting and author of the report. “Over the past three decades the fee formula has clearly decoupled public grazing fees from the development of private, state and other federal agencies grazing fees. Bottom line, this formula shields public lands ranchers from grazing rate increases that every other livestock operator has to live with.”

There are about 800,000 livestock operators and cattle producers in the United States. Of those, fewer than 21,000 — or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators — benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West.

“The Public Rangeland Improvement Act subsidizes a small segment of the livestock industry,” said the study’s co-author and former Interior Department economist Chuck Romaniello. “There needs to be a discussion as to what the appropriate level of that subsidy should be, including if there should be a subsidy at all.”

The federal subsidy of the grazing program goes beyond the direct costs and fees. There are vast indirect costs to grazing on federal lands, including the government killing of native carnivores perceived as threats to wildlife, wildfire suppression caused by invasive cheat grass facilitated by cattle grazing, and expenditure of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds from protecting other species threatened by livestock grazing. “The full cost of the federal grazing program is long overdue for a complete analysis,” the study said.