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New legislation could improve grazing on Forest Service lands


U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) recently introduced legislation to improve grazing rights for the U.S. Forest Service national grasslands permit holders. Under current Federal Land Policy and Management Act rules, ranchers with permits on national grasslands do not have the same rights as those with grazing permits on Bureau of Land Management and national forest land.

According to Thune, his proposed legislation would fix this disparity from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and ensure that ranchers with grazing agreements on national grasslands are treated the same as permittees on other federal lands.

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“Unfortunately, national grasslands permittees do not have the same due process rights that Bureau of Land Management and national forest permittees currently enjoy,” said Ross Nielson, president of the Association of National Grasslands. “The Association of National Grasslands appreciates Senator Thune’s efforts in sponsoring legislation to address this long-standing inequity for national grasslands permit holders.” 

If adopted, these policy updates would provide improvements for permittees across the country. This legislation would allow national grassland permittees the right to ten-year permits with the priority for receipt of a new permit. Permittees will also have entitlement to written notice of any permit violations and an opportunity to achieve compliance before cancellation or suspension proceedings related to the permit occur. In cases of an emergency, there will be no permit cancellation without a two-year notification.  

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“South Dakota is home to three national grasslands, and ranchers who choose to graze livestock on them deserve the same rights as permit holders on other federal lands,” said Thune. “This common-sense legislation would streamline permittee rights at Buffalo Gap, Fort Pierre, and Grand River, along with other national grasslands and federal lands across the country.”

This bill is supported by the Association of National Grasslands, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, and South Dakota Sheep Growers Association.


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