June 25, 2003
12:00 AM
Washington, D.C. –Senate Energy Chairman Pete Domenici today chided the Forest Service for its slow and disorganized efforts to reduce an apparent backlog of 3,666 permits and for failing to provide the committee with clear, reliable data regarding the estimated 9,500 grazing permits under its management. After seven years, the Forest Service has made little progress in whittling its grazing permit backlog. An agency official testified today that the Forest Service is completing work on 150 to 200 permits a year At that rate, it will take the Forest Service 50 years to address the current backlog. By contrast, the BLM has reduced its own grazing permit backlog by 85 percent the last three years. Of the approximate 10,500 BLM permits that have expired in the past three years, nearly 8,900 of them have been renewed. The BLM has approximately 18,500 permits under its jurisdiction with a current backlog of just 1,653. BLM and Forest Service representatives testified at the grazing backlog today at the Energy Committee’s Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee hearing held at 2:30 p.m. in SD-366. Domenici’s statement: I want to congratulate the Bureau of Land Management on its swift work in renewing expired grazing permits. The agency’s results are impressive. Three years ago, I was very troubled by the BLM backlog in my state and elsewhere. I passed legislation to protect ranchers from any harm due to federal delays and urged the BLM to remedy the problem. The agency has certainly done so. I congratulate BLM Director Kathleen Clarke on the agency’s excellent work. By contrast, the Forest Service’s performance is deeply disappointing and an inexcusable disservice to its ranching constituency. From the evidence provided, the Forest Service is renewing permits so slowly that it appears inert. It can’t even provide this committee with accurate numbers on the size of its grazing backlog. More than a fourth of its permits seem to have gone AWOL. The Forest Service has approximately 9,500 permits under its jurisdiction; yet, it’s schedule for renewing permits in the foreseeable future only addresses 6,886 permits. The remaining 2, 600 appear to have fallen off the agency’s radar. At its current rate of work, the Forest Service will require half a century to tackle the backlog it does know about. That means some ranchers could live a full life and die of old age before the permits that are expired today get renewed. “This bureaucratic malaise is unacceptable. While Forest Service bureaucrats founder in their own red tape, our ranchers and their livestock remain in frustrated limbo. I urge Dale Bosworth to make this problem a top priority. We’ve increased the agency’s funding and sought to free it from unnecessary congressional mandates. It’s time for results. Frankly, it’s past time.” Domenici has led the charge on Capitol Hill to protect livestock producers from harm caused by federal delays in renewing grazing permits. In 1999, he authored grazing permit renewal language prohibiting federal agencies from penalizing ranchers for the agencies’ delays in completing NEPA assessments on grazing permit applications. ###