National Grazing Buyout Program - Proposal By California Rep and Enviro Coalition?
By Toni Thayer
Here we go again, only on a grander scale. According to a recent article in the San Bernardino County Sun, U.S. House of Representative Christopher Shays, R-Conn, Vice Chairman House Budget Committee, is contemplating introduction of legislation this spring that would set up a national livestock grazing buyout program.
The proposed program is eerily similar to the Grand Canyon Trust’s buyout scheme on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and was written by a consortium of non-profit groups calling themselves the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign (NPLGC).
In all, the coalition has endorsements from 145 regional and national environmental, wildlands, sports, vegetarian, animal welfare groups and churches, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Forest Guardians, Wild Utah Project, Sky Island Alliance and American Lands Alliance. Andy Kerr, who their webpage (www.publiclandsranching.org) labels as an environmental agitator, is directing the campaign.
Funding for the grazing elimination program is provided to the NPLGC by the Foundation for Deep Ecology, Wilfurforce Foundation and Lazar Foundation, that also fund the United Nations’ Wildlands Project of biosphere reserves with connecting wildlife corridors through various non-profits.
The NPLGC website says the program is “A Great Deal for Public Lands Grazing Permittees”, because it’s voluntary and lucrative, paying four times the market value of the permit. The group goes so far as to offer ranchers suggestions how they might spend their newly acquired money.
Most of these groups are authorized to operate by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3) public charity with the ostensible purpose of environmental education, research and stewardship. NPLGC fulfills an educational requirement by promoting and distributing “Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West,” a seven-pound book featuring 346 pages of articles and photographs by expert authors and photographers on the severe negative impacts of livestock grazing in western public lands.” Their warning is, “The Future is Not Bright for Public Lands Grazing Permittees.”
Their actions of financial buyouts to assist ranchers and meddling in local economies seem more in line with the IRS category of a social welfare or business organization, and outside their IRS approved focus. At any rate, the economic effects, on the local residents, towns and counties from decreased cattle jobs, related industries and revenue have not been addressed by any of the proponents of the grazing permit buyout scheme.
Typically, their documentation falls back on tourism as a viable alternative to resource production. While tourism is a valid segment of any economy, it cannot solely support the combined population base of 11,000 citizens in Garfield and Kane Counties.
At the very least, the program, if established, would allow unidentified individuals or corporate entities, disguised as private donors funding the buyouts, to change U.S. public land use policy. These incremental allotment sales would bypass a Congressional Hearing, one of the U.S. checks and balances on land managers eliminating a major use from more than 100,000 acres of public lands.
Perhaps the proposed national legislation would finally bring the livestock grazing buyout program out of the closet where it’s been hiding for the past ten years and into the arena of public comment and action. Then, it will be up to the American public, through their voices to elected representatives, to decide whether grazing is an appropriate use of public lands, along with recreation and tourism.
Grazing series and related articles online at: http://www.spirithelps.com/grazing.htm
Toni Thayer firstname.lastname@example.org
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