WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Chris Stewart and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee introduced the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act Thursday in their respective chambers of Congress, companion bills aiming to protect traditional and existing grazing access on the monument. Among other things, the bills propose that the Secretary of the Interior restore livestock grazing to the level of usage in those areas that existed as of Sept. 17, 1996.
Read full text of the House bill: HR 743 Bill to pass Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act.
“Having grown up working with cattle and with my wife’s family as ranchers, I understand the importance of grazing rights,” Stewart said. “Grazing is critical to communities all over rural Utah, which is why I’m doing all I can in Congress to protect those rights.”
When President Clinton designated 1.7 million acres of land in Garfield and Kane counties as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 – a move Hatch called the ‘mother of all land grabs’ – he included grazing language in the proclamation.
Unfortunately, to the congressmen’s viewpoint, the BLM is in the process of amending the management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante, which may include decreasing or even eliminating grazing rights.
“Severely restricting grazing – or eliminating it altogether – goes against the historical use of the land in and around the monument and is directly at odds with the original proclamation designating the monument,” Stewart said.
“Grazing is a critical component of Utah’s rural economy,” Lee said in January upon joining Hatch in introducing a proposed amendment to the Keystone pipeline legislation that, he said, if adopted, would preserve the grazing rights that Utah families have used for generations. The Utah senators at that time also indicated they’d bring the stand-alone bill described in this report.
To fix the potential problem the BLM’s amended management plan would create, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act does the following:
This bill directs the BLM to continue any grazing that has been established either before or after the designation of the monument, according to reasonable regulations, policies and practices, on the condition that grazing levels continue at current levels to the maximum extent practicable.
This bill also grants the Secretary of Interior clear authority to issue new or renew grazing permits on the monument.
Stewart’s bill was assigned to the House Natural Resources committee Wednesday for consideration preliminary to being presented to the House for vote. Hatch and Lee’s bill was assigned to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee Wednesday for like consideration.
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