Pork, beef, and mutton in the federal budget

Online Messenger #264

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By now, everyone has heard about yesterday’s passage of a $1.1 trillion budget bill. But its unlikely that many people have heard about anti-wildlife, pro-grazing devils that are hiding in the details.

As usual, Congress has exempted the public lands management agencies from various kinds of National Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. Though many potentially terrible provisions were stripped from the House version of the bill, the version on Obama’s desk today contains the following handouts to the livestock industry:

Sec. 122 requires the “exhaustion of administrative review” prior to initiation of federal lawsuits
Sec. 125 provides for agency discretion in conducting environmental analysis for the trailing of livestock on public lands, in 2014 and 2015.
Sec. 411 allows for expiring grazing permits to be exempted from environmental review prior to their renewal through 2015.
Sec. 420 prohibits the use of funds for any rulemaking relating to carbon dioxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from livestock production.
Sec. 431 eliminates the requirement to provide notice and accept comments or consider administrative appeals on projects that are categorically excluded from NEPA review.
The budget allocates $52,338,000 for wildlife management, including $15 million for sage-grouse, but specifies that Congress supports state sage-grouse plans to prevent Endangered Species Act designation and protection. It also provides $1 million to compensate livestock operators for livestock losses due to wolf predation.

The bill also contains a direction to the agencies to make vacant allotments available as grassbanks “to the greatest extent possible,” and a direction for the BLM to collaborate with other federal agencies on research involving the risk of disease transmission between domestic and bighorn sheep. And finally, the bill directs BLM to convene a meeting with ranchers in the California Desert Conservation Area to work out the details of a grazing mitigation program.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if federal legislation directed the agencies to pay as much attention to wildlife issues and conservationists as it does for ranchers?

WWP is working hard out West and in Washington to give a voice to the important but non-commercial values of our public lands. Thank you for your support in these efforts.

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