Q. Is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) following proper procedures in confiscating cattle grazing on federal lands in Nevada?”
Impoundment is Supported by Law
By: Bob Abbey
Impoundment is an authorized administrative action fully supported by federal laws and regulations that have been tested in the courts. The Taylor Grazing Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1934 at the request of the ranching industry, to “…stop injury to the public lands…provide for the orderly use of the public lands…and stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range…” Grazing regulations, including impoundment, are listed in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 43, Chapter II, subpart 4100.
While the federal courts have upheld the BLM’s authority to impound livestock, the BLM considers impoundment an action of last resort. The BLM makes every effort possible to reach agreement with livestock operators. Before it takes action to impound livestock, the BLM sends the livestock owner a Notice of Trespass and a Notice of Intent to Impound and Order to Remove the livestock, along with adequate time to take corrective action.
Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 700 livestock permittees in Nevada manage their operations in accordance with their permits. Only a few in the ranching industry willfully ignore the laws and regulations governing grazing on public lands. Typically, a public land rancher in Nevada owns a base property that is used in conjunction with public land owned by the American people and managed by the BLM on their behalf. The operator enters into an agreement with the BLM to graze livestock on the public lands in certain numbers and seasons of the year, and pays for the use of the public land based on the number of livestock. The numbers and seasons of use are determined through an evaluation of the land’s ability to support livestock, wildlife and wild horses. Ranchers and other interested parties participate in the evaluation process.
Last year, federal collections for grazing fees on BLM-managed lands in Nevada were nearly $2 million. A portion of that, about $257,000, was returned to the state. The BLM invested nearly $1.2 million in range improvements in the state and additional improvements were funded by permittees. Ranching is important to the history, culture and economy of Nevada. Over the years, ranchers have proven themselves to be valuable partners in the stewardship of the public lands.
Don’t Break the Law to Change the Law
By: Steve Boies
Nevada Cattlemen’s Association (NCA) has served as the state’s industry voice for over 60 years. Those 60 years have seen dramatic changes within the industry, rural Nevada and the state as a whole. In 1994, the BLM implemented Range Reform. With Range Reform came regulatory obstacles that frustrate and impede the industry. The business of raising cattle in Nevada is very different than in the past because of water rights issues, restrictions on handing down “on-the-ground” improvements with permits, and the ability of one letter by the “interested public” to shut down water developments, fences, and in extreme cases, the right to turn out cattle.
The health of the resource is the issue, for ranchers as well as proclaimed “environmentalists”, state and federal agencies. The resource is the common ground, whether we are talking cattle, wild horses, wildlife, forage or water issues. The majority of livestock operators pay their grazing fees, work hard to comply with the terms and conditions of their permits and strive to be good stewards of the land.
The NCA board of directors is made up of 45 cattle producers who represent Nevada’s beef industry. As president of NCA, I supported the creation of its position statement regarding the recent cattle impoundments, which supports legal practices by permit holders on federal land:
“Nevada Cattlemen’s Association is opposed to resource abuse by any individual, entity, or agency, be it through mismanagement of cattle, feral horses, wildlife or off-road use. However, we recognize recent statutes and regulations have caused high levels of frustration and can be used to unjustly and illegally impact the rights of ranchers who hold federal grazing permits. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association urges all permittees to protect their rights through the legal and political process. Efforts by agencies to enforce the law or by permittees to change the law should not be based on actions which break the law, including infringement upon civil rights. Any enforcement action must be uniformly applied.”
NCA does not believe in breaking the law to change the law. In much of rural Nevada, the ranching industry is the bulwark of the economy. The cattle industry has been a major part of Nevada’s economy and cultural identity since the 1870s, and Nevada Cattlemen’s Association strives to preserve that legacy.