Two beef industry representatives testified before multiple U.S. House of Representatives committees regarding the need to alleviate the regulatory burden faced by ranchers working on public lands. Arizona rancher David Cook gave his testimony on the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the Wilderness Act before the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Darcy Helmick, Land Manager for Simplot Land & Livestock, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs and Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment.
Helmick’s testimony addressed the way environmental advocacy groups and federal agencies regulate through consent decrees using citizen lawsuit provisions in environmental laws, a practice known as “sue and settle.”
“In my extensive experience dealing with the federal grazing system and western land use in general, offensive litigation tactics by outside activist groups have served to totally derail business operations,” said Helmick. “While it is critical that we maintain the right of citizens to litigate when necessary, reform is needed to prevent that right from being abused or exploited.”
In his testimony on FLPMA, Cook explained that, while FLPMA and the Wilderness Act were enacted with the intent to provide direction for the management of public lands, the delegation of authority from Congress to the land management agencies has resulted in unchecked, abused authority over land-use planning by administrators.
“I do not believe it was the intent of Congress to disenfranchise communities like mine when laws like FLPMA and the Wilderness Act were originally enacted, but that is certainly where we have ended up,” explained Cook. “The burden of compliance with these processes – not to mention the struggle to have our voice as a stakeholder heard and respected has become the dominant consumer of time and resources for anyone or any entity interacting with federally-managed lands.”